Russia’s potential for “aggression” will end when the Ukrainian flag returns to Crimea, which has been under illegal occupation since 2014, said the nation’s president on Tuesday.
"The Russian potential for aggression will be completely destroyed when the Ukrainian flag will be back in its rightful place – in the cities and villages of Crimea," Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the First Parliamentary Summit of the International Crimea Platform in Zagreb, Croatia in a video. Many observers have called the 2014 annexation a prelude to Russia’s current war on Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said that participants in the Crimea Platform are together to ensure that "the brutality and chaos brought by Russia will be temporary, like the Russian occupation of Crimea."
Crimea's return to Ukraine will mean "the restoration of true peace," he added.
“Thanks to cooperation, we will be able to ensure reintegration. We will change the situation completely. The return of the Ukrainian flag to Crimea is the return of the usual normalcy for all Europeans … The return of the Ukrainian flag is the arrival of the EU on the peninsula,” Zelenskyy argued.
Ukraine is striving for the peace they lost in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, in different formats and at different levels, he said.
“Since 2014, Crimea is the only part of Europe in which de facto purges continue on religious and ethnic grounds. If you are a Muslim, the Russian occupiers consider you guilty. If you are a Crimean, the Russian occupiers consider you guilty. If you have a Ukrainian passport, the Russian occupiers consider you guilty,” he added.
After taking it over in 2014, Moscow turned the Crimean Peninsula, which is home to around 350,000 Muslim Tatars, into a large Russian military base by deploying weapon systems as well as 150,000 soldiers.
Turkiye, the EU, and the US, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal.
Since that time, Crimea's Muslim Tartars have faced a "systematic oppression and intimidation campaign," in the words of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, including the banning of their representative body the Mejlis, raids on homes and mass detentions, and suppression of the right to assembly and protest as well as freedom of expression.
Zelenskyy’s speech came a day after he said that they continue to liberate Ukrainian lands step by step – including the regions illegally annexed in September – noting that eight months have passed since Russia launched its war on Feb. 24.
"Donbas, Kharkiv, and Kherson (are being liberated). But Zaporizhzhia and Crimea will be as well. The time will come and all of Ukraine will be free," he said in a video address on Telegram.
The Crimea Platform is a consultative and coordination format initiated by Zelenskyy in August 2021 for the de-occupation of Crimea and to increase political pressure on Russia. It parliamentary summit is meeting in Croatia due to the war in Ukraine.
In addition to Türkiye, over 45 countries are taking part in the summit, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Montenegro, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Sweden, and Switzerland, as well as NATO and European Union officials.