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Russian Foreign Ministry: EU trying to punish Crimean residents with sanctions

June 20, 2015, 17:25 UTC+3

We believe any discrimination of Crimeans and Sevastopol residents for political or territorial reasons is absolutely inadmissible," the ministry said

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MOSCOW, June 20. /TASS/. Russia believes the extension by the European Union of its sanctions against the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by a year is an attempt to punish the Crimean Peninsula’s residents who voted for reunification with the Russian Federation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday.

"On June 19, the EU Council published a press release announcing the extension until June 23, 2016 of the restrictive measures against Crimea and Sevastopol," the ministry said.

"The restrictions are nothing else than the EU’s attempt to ‘punish’ the residents of the peninsula who made their free choice in favor of reunification with Russia during a referendum," it said.

"We believe any discrimination of Crimeans and Sevastopol residents for political or territorial reasons is absolutely inadmissible," it said.

The ministry said Crimea and Sevastopol are an integral part of the Russian Federation.

"It’s time to accept it as a given fact that can't be changed by methods of economic and political blackmail. The pressuring sanctions tactics against Russia has absolutely no future - it is wrong to expect that it will make us give up our national interests and principled position on key issues," it said.

The EU sanctions relate to imports of products from Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as a ban on investment in the economies of the two Russian regions. European companies or firms registered in Europe, in line with Brussels’ decision, are not entitled to buy real estate or businesses in Crimea, finance Crimean companies or provide services to them.

All types of tourism, including calls of cruise liners at the peninsula’s ports, are also banned, unless the necessity is dictated by an emergency situation. Besides, from the EU viewpoint, export to Crimea of a number of goods and technologies - from sea salt to spacecraft - is illegal.

Banned are also all deliveries of goods and technologies for the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors of the economy, as well as for prospecting and production of oil and gas.

Crimea's reunification with Russia

The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18, 2014.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Crimea had joined the Russian Empire in 1783, when it was conquered by Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine and remained in that capacity until March 2014, when it reunified with Russia after some 60 years as part of Ukraine.

According to the Crimean and Ukrainian statistics bodies, as of early 2014, Crimea had a population of 1,959,000 people; Sevastopol has a population of 384,000 people.

Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems has been actively underway since Crimea acceded to the Russian Federation.

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