Video message by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock for the Summit of the Crimea Platform

23.08.2023 - Speech

Sixteen months ago, Iryna Danilovich was arrested by security agents in Russian-occupied Crimea.

Iryna had been reporting from Crimea about the realities of life under Russian occupation – for NGOs and media outlets across Ukraine.

After months in pre-trial detention, a court in Russian-occupied Feodosia sentenced Iryna to seven years in prison – in a trial that was neither free nor fair.

She has been under arrest ever since.

Iryna and her family say that she is suffering from hearing loss and severe pain due to her detention – and that prison authorities are denying her the medical assistance she needs.

Iryna Danilovich’s story is one of many.

Ever since occupying and annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia has been repressing the rights and freedoms of the children, women and men who live there.

And when Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, that repression only intensified:

Russian occupation authorities have been imprisoning activists and journalists like Iryna – for writing reports, for distributing leaflets, for criticising Russia’s invasion on social media.

And Russia has stepped up its Russification campaign:

Across Crimea, occupation authorities have banned the Ukrainian and Tatar languages from schools.

Schoolchildren are forced to sing the Russian national anthem.

They are being taught that Ukraine is an enemy country.

And we have seen disturbing reports about schools organising rifle assembly competitions and providing hand-to-hand combat training for boys and girls in classrooms.

Such Russian actions are targeting Tatars in particular, as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has pointed out:

Over the past year, occupation authorities have arrested leading representatives of the Tatar community.

And they have forcefully conscripted Tatars into the Russian military – to fight against their Ukrainian brothers and sisters.

These forced mobilisations go hand in hand with Russia turning Crimea into a launchpad for its brutal war:

Day and night, Russian missiles and drones are being launched from Crimea targeting ports, roads and churches in other parts of Ukraine.

Key supply lines for Russia’s invasion force are running though Crimea.

And since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, it is using its planes and warships based in Crimea to block Ukrainian grain exports.

That is why as German Foreign Minister I am saying loud and clear:

Russia’s illegal annexations in Ukraine are null and void.

They are a direct assault on the United Nations Charter and on international law that we will never accept – and that will not go unpunished.

Luhansk is Ukraine.

Donetsk is Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhya is Ukraine.

Kherson is Ukraine.

And Crimea is Ukraine.

From the moment Russia began its ruthless war last year, Germany has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine:

As it fights against Russia’s assault and for its territorial integrity.

Since the beginning of Russia’s war, Germany has provided more than 22 billion euro in bilateral support – for everything from tents and generators to battle tanks and the most modern air defence systems that have been protecting Ukrainian skies from Russian attacks.

Germany will continue that support for as long as it takes.

All of us here at this conference will be with you for as long as it takes.

Today’s meeting testifies to the unwavering commitment of Ukraine’s partners and friends.

We want Ukraine to win this war – and to win the peace.

We will not rest until women like Iryna Danilovich are free again – to work as journalists, to speak their mind.

We will not rest until Russia stops its brutal war.


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