War in Ukraine

The letter of the Russian artists in support of President Putin’s actions in Ukraine appeared right after the Russia’s parliament authorized deploying troops in Ukraine, and Russia began its invasion of Crimea. Russian vehicles blocked Crimean roads, the Russian fleet trapped Ukrainian warships, Russian military surrounded every Ukrainian base and seized regional government buildings.

On March 16, 2014, under the supervision of the armed invaders, the new Crimean government held a so-called “referendum”.  The ballot included only two choices:  A) Join Russia or B) Return to the Crimean Constitution of 1992, giving Crimea a sovereign status.  Voters were not given the choice to vote for status quo. With no international election monitors or observers present, official results stated that 97% of participating voters were in favor of joining Russia.

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Russian soldiers at a surrounded Ukrainian military base in Crimea. March, 2014

 

Most of the world’s countries have not recognized the results and condemn the so-called “referendum” as a breach of the international law. The UN General Assembly “calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea …and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”

The situation with human rights in Crimea has severely deteriorated since Russia began its occupation. In particular the authorities targeted the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea who openly oppose Russia’s occupation. The world’s only Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR was shut down by the Russian authorities. Libraries were cleared of books written in the Ukrainian language; some of those books were publicly burned. Russian authorities have arrested a number of pro-Ukrainian activists after a series of raids on their homes. One of the arrested, a famous film director Oleg Sentsov helped to deliver food and supplies to Ukrainian servicemen trapped in their Crimean bases. Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison and sent to Siberia.

After the invasion of Crimea, Russia tried to apply the same scenario in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. However, this time the Ukrainian army was ready to fight back. The standoff continues today. According to the UN, the death toll of this war exceeded 9,000 people.

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Destruction in eastern Ukraine

 

Among the victims of this war were 298 passengers of the Malaysia Airlines Fligh 17 that was shot down over the Donetsk region of Ukraine on June 17, 2014. Investigation recently confirmed that the airliner was shot down by a BUK missile, a sophisticated anti-aircraft weapon that was brought from Russia.

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Pro-Russian militants posing at the MH17 crash site