James S. Gilmore III said U.S. Mission to the OSCE was concerned by Russia’s militarization of occupied Crimea and mentioned ‘mass raids’, during which Crimean Muslims were arrested.

 ‘The United States remains concerned by Russia’s militarization of Crimea. So let’s say a few words about Crimea this morning. Moscow has transferred nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles, other weapons, ammunition, and military personnel to Crimea and has increased its military presence in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, including the Kerch Strait. This is widely known. It has conscripted nearly 24,000 young Crimean residents into the Russian Armed Forces. It is clear that Russia’s conscriptions of residents of Crimea into its armed forces are inconsistent with international humanitarian law applicable to belligerent occupation’, the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE said in Vienna.

James S. Gilmore III also stated that another round of ‘raids’ on the homes of Crimean Tatars in multiple cities across the peninsula was also of concern.

‘During these raids, seven Crimean Tatar activists were arrested, all apparently on the usual pretext of “terrorism” charges brought in retaliation for their opposition to Russia’s occupation’, he said.

The Ambassador stressed that Russian occupation forces continued trampling on the rights of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians on the peninsula, and condemned voting on constitutional amendments of the Russian Federation.

‘Moscow signals its contempt for Ukraine’s sovereignty under international law, most recently by orchestrating voting in Ukrainian territory for the recent Russian constitutional plebiscite. We are concerned by multiple reports of attempts to coerce Crimean Tatar political prisoners into voting in the plebiscite’, Gilmore said.

He also stressed it was time for Russia to cease its occupation of Crimea, and withdraw its forces and materiel from eastern Ukraine and Crimea.