by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Crimea Platform Inaugural Summit
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President Zelensky congratulations for you and your team for this remarkable event.
This is a real pleasure to be part of this exercise.
And let me start by congratulating you on the 30th anniversary of your country's independence.
You have described Ukraine, Mr President, as a nation, and I quote, “at the same time centuries old and young.”
For someone coming from a young democracy myself, I know the importance of this centuries old struggle for freedom and independence.
The Ukrainian people have chosen the path of freedom, democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration.
And as the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said, Mr Speaker, in front of the Verkhovna Rada in his speech – NATO stands firmly by your side.
NATO strongly condemns and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.
Crimea is the territory of Ukraine and we call on Russia to return control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
The security situation in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, the Black and Azov Seas affects us all.
Russia’s actions have brought untold suffering and loss to the Ukrainian people.
And they undermine international law and threaten the rules-based international order.
The subject of Crimea is not only a matter to Crimea itself. It's a matter for all of us in the free democratic world.
At our Summit in June, NATO leaders confirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We condemned Russia’s military build-up and destabilising activities.
And called on them to stop the human rights abuses and violations against all Ukrainians, including the Crimean Tatars. And I salute the leaders of this important community.
And to end restrictions on freedom of navigation in the Black Sea, including access to the Sea of Azov and Ukrainian ports.
We reiterated the decision of the Bucharest Summit that Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO.
And we commended Ukraine’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
And your efforts to defend your sovereign rights and interests – including the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea – through legal and diplomatic means.
This international Crimean Platform is an important example of this.
There are many reference to the Black Sea security, and this region is of paramount importance to NATO.
Three NATO Allies are littoral states, with their own forces in the region – Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Since Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has increased its presence in the region.
NATO ships routinely operate in the Black Sea in line with international law.
We have stepped up our cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine, with more exercises, more port visits and sharing of situational awareness.
Only last month’s Sea Breeze exercise – co-hosted by the US and Ukrainian navies, with more than 30 participating nations, 32 to be more precise – was an important example of this.
NATO continues to support Ukraine’s efforts to consolidate democracy, strengthen the rule of law, and reform your security and defence sectors.
Including through capacity-building support to the Ukrainian armed forces, and to tackle cyber and hybrid threats.
So, Mr President, thank you again for this important initiative.
NATO stands by the Ukrainian people.
We call for the return of Crimea.
And we support the freedom and independence of all Ukraine.
And, Minister Kuleba, at NATO a three minute rule functions.
Thank you so much.