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 Russia sanctions to stay in force until Crimea returned to Ukraine, - Department of State

The U.S. calls on Russia to give up attempts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in annexed Crimea.

Censor.NET reports citing a statement by the U.S. Department of State spokesman Mark Toner on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of Russia's "referendum" in Crimea.

See more: "Crimea is Ukraine": activists picket Russia embassy in Kyiv. PHOTOS

"Over the past three years, Russian occupation "authorities" in Crimea have engaged in a campaign to suppress dissent. In Russian-occupied Crimea, human rights monitors have documented enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and punitive psychiatric hospitalizations," the statement reads.

As noted, Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists, and independent journalists have been subjected to politically motivated prosecution and face ongoing repression.

Read more: MEPs urge Moscow to stop issuance of Russian passports for Crimeans

"Russian occupation 'authorities' have silenced and forced the closure of nongovernmental organizations and independent media and have consistently denied international observers access to the peninsula. We call on Russia to cease its attempts to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion," the Department of State stresses.

The United States does not recognize Russia's "referendum" of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and once again reaffirms its commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end," the statement says.

Read more: Crimea is Ukraine and must be returned, - UK Foreign Office

According to Toner, Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

As previously reported, the European Parliament adopted Thursday a resolution calling on Russia to release 31 Ukrainian political prisoners.
 
 
 
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