Ihor Prokopchuk, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, made a corresponding statement at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.
“One of the most serious security challenges stemming from the Russian invasion and occupation of the Crimean peninsula is its rapid transformation into a huge military base threatening security and stability in the entire Black Sea region. Its scaled-up land, air and naval components have altered the security balance in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and a wider region covering Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East,” Prokopchuk said, delivering his statement “Five years of illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.”
As he noted, comparing to the pre-occupation period, the Russian Federation has almost tripled the strength of its military personnel in the peninsula, from 12 to 32 thousand persons, accompanied with sharp increase of capabilities and fire power.
“Infrastructure for nuclear weapons has been restored and modernized, which causes serious concerns in view of Russia’s violation of obligations under the INF Treaty,” the diplomat stressed.
Prokopchuk also noted that Ukrainian citizens residing in the occupied Crimea and Sevastopol had been forced into the Russian citizenship and were subjected to compulsory military conscription by the Russian Federation, “contrary to the obligations of the occupying state under international law.”
“Under the pretext of protecting the illegally constructed Kerch bridge, Kremlin has multiplied its military presence in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and resorted to disruption of free navigation,” he added.
Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna emphasized that Russia’s readiness to use its military force in the Sea of Azov had become clear on 25 November 2018, when it again had committed an open and deliberate act of armed aggression by attacking three Ukrainian naval vessels in international waters and seizing 24 Ukrainian servicemen.
“We should not underestimate Kremlin’s unpredictable military intentions and the gravest security challenges stemming from its deliberate and continuing militarization of the occupied Crimean peninsula and the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The combination of politico-diplomatic pressure, economic and personal sanctions, and multilateral cooperation in the security field is urgently necessary to contain this threat. The OSCE, as the regional security Organisation, must play its indispensable role in this process,” Prokopchuk underscored.
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