The European Union will continue to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the bloc's foreign policy chief said on Monday.
“The EU reiterates that it does not recognize and continues to condemn this violation of international law,” Federica Mogherini said in a speech in Brussels on the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s illegal annexation.
Mogherini also decried the “systematic human rights violations” against Crimean Tatars and the rising Russian militarization at Crimea’s port of Sevastopol, saying it continues to negatively affect security in the Black Sea.
Mogherini stressed that Russia’s violations of international law have led to “a dangerous increase in tensions” at the Kerch Strait -- which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov -- and mentioned new EU sanctions on eight Russian officials.
She said Crimea continues to be a priority for the EU.
In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after an illegal referendum, which drew international condemnation as Russian soldiers occupied the region during the voting process.
Along with the UN general assembly, the U.S., EU, and Turkey do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
Protesting Russia detaining 24 Ukrainian soldiers in the Kerch Strait last November, as well as separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, on Friday the EU, U.S., and Canada sanctioned eight more Russian officials.
Turkey reaffirmed its support for Ukraine's sovereignty in a Foreign Ministry statement on Saturday.
In Sevastopol, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the port to mark the occasion, which was treated as a celebration throughout Russia.
"This is a very important date for all Russians," Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters before Putin's visit to the peninsula.
By Serife Cetin in Brussels