It took place around a year ago. After almost 70 post-World War-II years of peace, including 23 independent, the territory of Ukraine was invaded by the Russian Federation. This time last year the Parliament of Ukraine’s Autonomous Crimean Republic was surrounded inside and out by gun-wielding masked military men without insignia and made to pass an illegal decision, which was followed by an orchestrated mock-referendum that received no recognition from a single legitimate monitoring entity, international organisation, or democratic, rule-of-law-based state.
The Russian side presented no clear excuse for the invasion of the Crimea, analysts saw no goal besides the obvious land-grab and discreditation of Ukraine’s “Euromaidan” pro-democratic, anti-corruption movement. Initially, Russia’s President Mr. Putin vehemently denied that the Russians who invaded Crimea were regular troops. Eventually, of course, he admitted it.
After the unlawful annexation of the Crimea, Russia commenced its aggression in Ukraine's east, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Today Mr. Putin cynically denies the presence of Russian regular troops in eastern Ukraine, although this presence is no longer a secret for the international community, with evidence being presented not only by the Ukrainian side, but also by monitoring organisations, such as the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
A year after the beginning of the armed aggression, we have more than 6000 killed and more than 11 thousand injured, many of whom are civilians. The areas controlled by the Russia-backed militants are deserted and ruined. Ukraine is feeding, clothing, and housing one million internally displaced persons. People who this time last year had jobs, homes, savings, plans for the future have become refugees in their own country. Their lives may have been spared but their livelihoods were destroyed with this baseless military aggression.
Today it is clear to the world that in this conflict Russia is not a mere biased observer. Russia is an aggressor. And the responsibility for the state of the implementation of the ceasefire and other elements of the Minsk agreements lies with the Kremlin.
It’s reassuring that the international community – although limited in its capacity to respond to the gross violations of international law perpetrated by Russia because of the undeclared nature of the war – has not remained indifferent. Including Indonesia, which has been supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity since the very beginning, becoming the first country in the region to explicitly, through statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, reaffirm its recognition of Ukraine’s unaltered borders, and to underscore that the illegal annexation process that took place in the Crimea is invalid.
Today Europe recognizes Ukraine as the front line of the defense of post-World War-II peace in the region. Ukraine still needs international help. We would like to see international peacekeepers (UN or EU) in the militant-held territories. We are requesting financial aid, military and humanitarian assistance, and to continue strengthening the West’s very effective sanctions against Russia.
Ukraine does its utmost to end hostilities by assuring strict adherence to the ceasefire on its side. We demand the same from the Russian side. So far, unfortunately, Russia's militant proxies seem unwilling to stop the fire. Daily shelling is still injuring and killing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. Furthermore, Russia continues to send troops and munition into the conflict zone.
We strongly believe that as soon as Russia starts fulfilling the Minsk agreements, closes its border with Ukraine, and pulls out its troops, the conflict will exhaust itself and peace will quickly return.
In the midst of this preoccupation with eastern Ukraine we must not forget about the Crimea. Not about the Crimean people, who are experiencing violations of their rights and freedoms. Not about the fact that, if ignored, the case will serve as an international precedent and undermine the concept of state sovereignty.
In the meantime, Ukraine will continue to conduct reforms to improve our economic and political situation in order to remain a stable and predictable partner for members of the international community.