[JURIST] An EU official said [press release] Monday that the EU remains committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and will stand by its policy of not recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea. The EU continues to consider Russia's "referendum" and their annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol as illegal and a threat to international security in terms of its protection of sovereignty between all states. The EU also expressed concern over the troubling human rights situation and the influx of military forces in the Crimean peninsula. The human rights issues deal with the persecution of minorities and free speech obstruction. The EU's response is to provide international human rights representatives with free and unrestricted access to "the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol."
The conflict between Russia and the Ukraine has been a heated topic for over a year now. It intensified earlier this month when Russian liberal political activist Boris Nemtsov was shot in the back four times [BBC report] in the middle of busy downtown Moscow. Nemtsov was openly politically opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea and its role in Ukraine, and many believe Vladimir Putin ordered [JURIST report] this murder. The conflict has often been labeled the biggest crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. US President Barack Obama has strongly condemned [JURIST report] Russia's military intervention in the region as a violation of international law. Others believe [JURIST op-ed] that the constitutional provisions Russia used to annex Crimea had been carefully drafted and added to the Russian Federal Constitutional Law with the obvious goal of using them to reclaim former soviet states. To show the worsening human rights conditions, in November Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] filed a 37-page report [text, PDF] detailing cases of persecution of groups opposed to Russian occupation in Crimea, the imposition of Russian citizenship on residents of Crimea, and limitations on speech. In March 2014 Putin signed legislation [JURIST report] making Crimea officially part of Russia. Despite international criticism, the bills passed the House unanimously.