Zelenskiy Declares Feb. 26 Memorial Day to Mark Russia’s Seizure of Crimea

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has issued a decree designating February 26 a memorial day to mark the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region by Russia in 2014.Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by at least 100 countries. In April that year, Russia threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.Zelenskiy designated Feb. 26 Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, as on that day in 2014 Ukrainians held the largest protest in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol, against Russia’s intervention in the peninsula following the toppling of Ukraine’s Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, Zelenskiy’s office said in a statement.Zelenskiy also said the return of Crimea to Ukraine was not only his goal as the country’s leader, but also his personal standpoint as a Ukrainian citizen.Zelenskiy said Ukraine had the backing of the international community in its fight to bring Crimea back.”And we know that this day is sure to come,” he was quoted as saying.FILE – A child poses for a picture with Russian servicemen during a military equipment and hardware show, on Defender of the Fatherland Day, in Sevastopol, Crimea, Feb. 23, 2020.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Zelenskiy’s move “does not correspond to the real situation around Crimea,” adding that Moscow “categorically” disagrees with the wording of Zelenskiy’s decree.The previous day, U.S. President Donald Trump extended for one year a series of previously imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, in particular, forcibly annexing Crimea and further destabilizing the country.Trump’s executive order was signed on Feb. 25 and includes a package of sanctions that have expanded in scope over time since March 6, 2014.They were first introduced by the administration of former President Barack Obama and broadened three more times in 2014 as well as in 2018.Trump’s order says Russia’s actions, including its “purported annexation of Crimea and use of force in Ukraine … undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of assets.”To “deal with that emergency,” the sanctions “must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2020,” the executive order says. 

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