United States Explanation of Position on Item 204 EX/5, Part I.D, “Follow-up of the Situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine)”

The United States joins members of this Board in restating our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.  We once again condemn Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and call on Russia to immediately return control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

We also recall United Nations General Assembly resolutions 68/262, 71/205, and 72/190, remind all States there is no alteration in the status of the Crimean peninsula, and urge Russia to uphold all of its obligations under applicable international law as an occupying power.

The United States sees a clear role for UNESCO to address this dire situation, particularly as Russia restricts the enjoyment of freedom of expression, including for the media, and jeopardizes journalist safety through political prosecutions and denials of due process in the Crimean peninsula.

We reiterate our particular concern about the dozens of Crimeans who have been imprisoned in Crimea or Russia in retaliation for their opposition to the occupation.  In particular, we call on Russia to immediately release imprisoned Crimean filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, currently serving a 20-year sentence in a high-security prison in the Russian Far North.

Actions by the Russian occupation authorities have also resulted in an increasingly repressive environment for Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians who face the criminalization of their associations and institutions, infringement upon their exercise of freedom of religion or belief, and widespread restrictions on their freedom to peacefully assemble, especially as it has affected their ability to mark culturally significant occasions.

We therefore urge Russia not to maintain or impose limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis.

Given the ongoing grave problems caused by Russia’s actions, UNESCO should undertake adequate monitoring, both indirect and direct, of conditions on the Crimean peninsula in its areas of competence.  We wish to underscore that certain provisions of UN General Assembly resolution 71/205 also address matters within UNESCO’s areas of competence.

The United States expresses our strong support for this important resolution and we look forward to near-term implementation by UNESCO, in full and timely cooperation with Ukraine, of measures that would facilitate additional fact finding on this matter.