Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the U.N.’s inaction over Russia’s occupation of Crimea in a virtual speech on Wednesday at the U.N.’s 75th annual General Assembly.
“In Crimea, human rights are flagrantly violated … persecutions of Ukrainians and [ethnic] Crimean Tatars are taking place,” Zelensky alleged.
“[Russian] militarization of the peninsula is building … that violates and breeches [the] security balance of the Black Sea region,” he added.
In 2014, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and backed a separatist rebellion in the country’s east. Since then, an ongoing conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists has killed over 13,000 people. A 2015 ceasefire ended major combat between the two sides, but sporadic fighting in the east continues.
On July 27, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists agreed to the latest ceasefire in the east. At Wednesday’s virtual U.N. debate, Zelensky said the “comprehensive ceasefire … despite the attempts to disrupt it, gives hope to achieve sustainable peace.”
He referred to allegations by the Ukrainian Army that the separatists violated the terms of the ceasefire just hours after it began on July 27, which the separatists deny.
Zelensky said that the next steps in achieving peace for Ukraine “should be a withdrawal of unlawful military formations and armaments from the occupied territories [of Crimea and Donbas, in eastern Ukraine],” followed by a “reinstatement of control over the [Ukrainian] state border” as well as “restoring [the] territorial integrity of Ukraine within … internationally recognized borders.”
To achieve these aims, the president said he called for “support of the renewed resolution situation with human rights in the autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, that will be submitted to the general assembly by the end of this year.”
Sevastopol is Crimea’s largest city and a major Black Sea port. Since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the strategic city has been federally administered by Russia.
Zelensky concluded his speech by calling for “the de-occupation of Crimea and Donbas.” He said that, while the U.N. has claimed to support the de-occupation “every year” since 2014, it fails to take legitimate action on the matter.
“[T]his is exactly where the biggest problem lies,” he noted.
The president condemned the inaction, saying it sets a poor precedent allowing global “calamities” to “become a new normal.”