Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reiterated Russia’s position on its annexation of Crimea, saying that Moscow considers the matter “closed.”
“The Crimea issue - and I think everyone understands this, including those who cannot stop talking about it - is closed,” Lavrov said, speaking Thursday at a news conference on the sidelines of a regional summit in the Russian city of Ufa, according to a transcript of his remarks published by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
“It was closed by the people of Crimea and through the decisions made by the Russian Federation in response to the will clearly expressed by the Crimean people,” Lavrov said, referring to a controversial referendum, which Russia says justified its March 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
“None of our partners are saying that they don’t recognize the results of the referendum, which became the basis for Crimea’s return into the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said at the BRICS-Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit which brought together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The referendum, security for which, Moscow subsequently admitted, was provided by Russian troops, was harshly condemned by Kyiv and the West as a gross violation of international law and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Over 100 countries condemned the move in a United Nations General Assembly resolution passed days after the annexation. Eleven countries, including Russia, voted against the resolution. None of the BRICS-SCO countries were in the latter group, which included Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Ukraine fired back at Lavrov’s comments, accusing Russia of having “closed off” Crimea from the world in a move that “no country… will ever recognize.”
“Russia closed off Crimea from the world. Russia has also closed off Crimea for those on the peninsula who want to live in freedom and prosperity on their native land,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Thursday told Interfax-Ukraine.
Klimkin said that “no country for which human rights, international law and global security are not hollow concepts, will ever recognize Russia’s occupation of Crimea or the criminal decisions adopted by the Russian Federation."
Klimkin also offered a counter-proposal for an initiative put forth by Lavrov Thursday on the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. Speaking at the summit in Ufa, Lavrov suggested the creation of new contact group of lawmakers from Europe, the Unites States, Ukraine and Russia to further efforts toward a peaceful settlement.
Klimkin said Ukraine would welcome such an initiative under one condition.
“The dialogue, as suggested by my colleague, is possible, if, as part of it, Russian parliamentarians will be willing to talk about the withdrawal of regular Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, ending the supply of weapons to terrorists (a term Kyiv commonly uses when referring to pro-Russia separatists), [and] allowing Ukraine to resume control over its borders with Russia,” Klimkin said.
Moscow has consistently denied supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine with troops or weapons.
In Kyiv and the West Russia is widely seen as having instigated the conflict as part efforts to destabilize Ukraine in retribution for its toppling of a Moscow-backed president and its new pro-Europe course.
To date, the conflict has claimed more than 6,500 lives.