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US says Moscow used ‘sham’ NGOs at OSCE forum to promote claim Crimea belongs to Russia

Press Conference (Parliamentary Assembly/Flickr)
September 20, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has accused Moscow of using “sham organizations” to promote its “spurious claim” that Ukraine’s Crimea region is part of Russia during an annual human rights conference of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Russia attempted to “exploit civil-society registration procedures” at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw by “flooding the zone” with “government-supported ‘nongovernmental’ organizations’,” the U.S. mission to the 57-member organization said in statement on September 18.

These organizations “attempted to use their speaking slots at a session on freedom of expression and the media to promote the spurious claim that Crimea was part of Russia,” it said.

The move prompted the Ukrainian delegation to leave the hall in protest, while representatives of Britain, Canada, France, the United States, and the European Union “forcefully” rebutted the “false claim.”

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“Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine, and the United States never will recognize Russia’s purported annexation of it,” U.S. Ambassador James Gilmore said, adding that U.S. Crimea-related sanctions against Russia will remain in place “until Moscow returns full control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”

The U.S. statement said the remarks drew applause from “legitimate” nongovernmental organizations in the hall, and the Ukrainian delegation returned for the following conference session.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.

Russia’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula and Moscow’s involvement in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has prompted the EU, the United States, and other countries to impose a variety of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals.

The HDIM conference is organized by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and is taking place through September 27.