The European Council has issued new EU sanctions on Russia and extended those already in place in reflection of Russia’s violations of international law.
Three Russian shipyards are subject to new sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018, when Russian vessels blockaded, shot at and captured three Ukrainian ships between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The ships’ 24 crew members are still imprisoned in Russia for offences including “civilian border crossing”, although both the EU and the USA say the crews are prisoners of war rather than convicted criminals.
The US and Canada have both joined the EU in imposing sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in the Kerch Strait. Canadian minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland said: “Russia’s provocations in the Kerch Strait and its illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of Crimea will not go unchecked. We call on Russia to immediately release the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and return the seized vessels. Russia must allow free and unhindered passage through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”
This week marks the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, which took place between late February and March 2014. Russian president Vladimir Putin visited Simferopol, Crimea’s largest city, for a four-day celebration to mark the anniversary, which included musical performances, a pro-Kremlin rapper; and a military demonstration in Sevastopol, the second largest city in Crimea.
Further EU and international sanctions have been imposed on Russia as a result of its continued occupation of Crimea – the EU has now applied restrictive measures to 170 individuals and 44 business entities. European Parliament rapporteur Sandra Kalniete said: “The time for nice and diplomatic language is over. There is very little room for any cooperation as long as Russia continues to occupy parts of Ukraine and attacks other European countries.”