Ukraine Declares Crimea ‘Occupied Territory’ Amid Growing Tensions


People raise the Crimean flag. Crimeans voted 'yes' with overwhelming numbers in a controversial referendum to join Russia. -RIA Novosti
People raise the Crimean flag. Crimeans voted ‘yes’ with overwhelming numbers in a controversial referendum to join Russia. -RIA Novosti

KIEV, Ukraine, April 15 — The Ukrainian parliament Tuesday passed a bill declaring the southern Crimea peninsula as “territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation”, the parliament’s press service said.

The new law, which establishes a special legal regime in Crimea, garnerred 228 votes in the 450-seat assembly, Xinhua reported.

The legislation said Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, and airspace and territorial waters surrounding them are considered as an integral part of Ukraine.

The law imposes travel restrictions on visiting Crimea, requiring tourists to obtain special permits for entering the peninsula.

According to the legislation, state and private properties in Crimea, including offshore oil and natural gas platforms, will stay under the proprietorship of their current owners.

Contrary to local analysts’ expectations, the law does not envisage a ban on economic and business activities in Crimea.

On March 17, the Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine, after results from a peninsula-wide referendum showed 96.77 percent of Crimean voters favoring joining Russia.

A day later, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty accepting the Crimea republic and the city of Sevastopol as part of Russian territory.

Kiev has rejected the referendum and Crimea’s integration into Russia, saying it was unconstitutional.

Meanwhile NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Tuesday said that the Ukraine crisis has amplified the need to strengthen cooperation between NATO, the European Union and other partners.

“We need to train and exercise more together — for instance, the NATO Response Force and the EU Battle groups — so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring,” Xinhua quoted Rasmussen as saying while arriving for the EU defence ministers talks in Luxembourg.

Accusing Russia’s of applying continued military pressure on Ukraine’s border, Rasmussen said, “I call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis.”

“Russia should stop being part of the problem, and start being part of the solution.”–IANS

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