First Black Sea Security Conference of the International Crimea Platform in Bucharest
April 14, 2023, 16:30

Ways of de-occupying Crimea and the future of the temporarily occupied peninsula: results of day two of Black Sea Security Conference

The event began with welcoming remarks by the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Romania. 

“Ukraine is the guarantor of the security of the European community, and the situation in the Black Sea is a reflection of our future,” Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said in his speech.

“Throughout the war waged by Russia against Ukraine, Romania has remained a reliable partner of Kyiv. After the full-scale invasion, our country has been helping Ukraine in every possible way to fight the consequences of this war. But we have to do more. It is clear that Ukraine is the guarantor of the future security of the European community,” he said. 

According to the Romanian Foreign Minister, the international community should maintain a consolidated position on the issue of assistance to Ukraine. In this regard, all allies should focus on security in the Black Sea region. 

“The Black Sea is a mirror that shows what the future of Europe and the world will look like,” the politician emphasized. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the participants of the Black Sea Security Conference and emphasized that all allies of official Kyiv are united in their position that Crimea is Ukraine, and the peninsula should return under Ukraine’s control. 

“If you suddenly hear from someone that the temporarily occupied Crimea or other occupied territories of Ukraine may not return under the control of our state, you should know that we categorically disagree with this position. There is no difference between Simferopol, Donetsk or Luhansk – they are all part of Ukraine, they must return home,” he said.

Dmytro Kuleba reminded that Russia’s first attempt to occupy a part of Ukraine was the conflict on the island of Tuzla in the Black Sea 20 years ago. He also gave an example to the participants when a young lieutenant opened fire on the Russian occupier 9 years ago. Today he is a colonel and continues to defend Ukraine. 

“I gave you these examples to remind you that the war started not a year ago, but 9 years ago. All this time we have been defending our country,” he said. 

Dmytro Kuleba also emphasized that Ukraine seeks peace, but only by returning its lands. 

“Real peace is when Ukraine regains control of its historic lands. Real peace is when Ukrainian citizens can return to their homes, including the currently occupied Crimea. Real peace means peaceful ships in the Black Sea, not military ones. This is what we are fighting for,” the Foreign Minister emphasized. 

Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov noted that the main task of the international community is to make the Black Sea a security region

“The security of the Black Sea is in the interest of every country in the region. Ukraine is open to such discussions, but we must be sure that our international partners are united in the position that the laws of law, not the laws of force, should dominate. Our common task is to make the Black Sea a security zone,” he emphasized. 

Oleksii Reznikov reminded that a year ago, on April 13, 2022, the Ukrainian military sank the Russian flagship Moskva, which was of great importance for the Black Sea region. 

“I believe that it is a good sign that the conference on Black Sea security is being held on this very day,” the Ukrainian Defense Minister said. 

Russian occupation has turned Crimea into a prison for “political” people – Emine Dzhaparova 

The First Deputy Foreign Minister said this during the Black Sea Security Conference. 

“During these 9 years, people living in Crimea have become hostages of the regime. More than 200 citizens received articles on “political” charges.  Most of them are Crimean Tatars. The accusations of the occupation authorities are absolutely groundless,” she said.  

The First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine emphasized that everyone living in Crimea has high hopes for such conferences. The Black Sea Security Conference is a signal to the residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea that the world has not forgotten about the peninsula, the world continues to fight for its freedom. 

“Putin has to lose. And victory over the evil that Russia is spreading means returning all of its territory to Ukraine, including all of Crimea,” said Peter Van Praagh, President of the Halifax International Security Forum.

In her turn, Simona Cojocaru, State Secretary of the Ministry of National Defense of Romania, emphasized that the international community must demonstrate unity and strength in the world, as the risk of Russian aggression has not disappeared. 

During the discussion, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas emphasized that it is the task of each country to explain to its citizens that the issue of rising gas prices or social problems should take a back seat when it comes to supporting Ukraine. Such support should continue in the postwar years. 

In turn, Maria Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, spoke about the steps taken by the Council of Europe together with the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to document and collect all the evidence of Russian aggression in Ukraine, violations of international law and war crimes. 

Anatolie Nosatîi, Minister of Defense of the Republic of Moldova, emphasized that the international community needs improved logistics, infrastructure and economic capacity to be able to sustain for a long time.

Simone Möller, State Secretary of Defense of Germany, emphasized that Russia wanted not only Ukraine, it wanted to destroy the world. Therefore, unity is a value:” Only by uniting can we resist aggression and provide support.”

“Sea routes and ports are of central strategic importance, and we can consider the Black Sea region as an area of high strategic security and geopolitical importance, which is a bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East,” said Tobias Bilstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. 

Quotes from the speakers of the panel discussion “The Plan for Today: Immediate Response to Current Threats and Challenges in the Wider Black Sea Region”

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria Nikolay Milkov said that Bulgaria is ready to participate in the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine

In the context of the discussion on Black Sea security, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister emphasized that in the future Ukraine should have a powerful navy. 

“Of course, Ukraine needs a powerful navy, because the country must be able to defend itself. But we will be able to talk about this in the context of Ukraine’s recovery in the post-war period. Our country is ready to participate in such post-war reconstruction,” he said. 

At the same time, he emphasized that Russian sea mines pose a threat to Bulgaria and Romania as well. 

“The countries of the Black Sea region are concerned that Russia has mined the Black Sea and the coast of Ukraine, because there is no alternative to sea transportation. This is a very important transportation route,” he said. 

Romania takes the issue of de-mining the Black Sea very seriously – Julian Fota. 

During a panel discussion at the Black Sea Security Conference on issues that require urgent response in the Black Sea region, the State Secretary of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared his vision of involving the EU maritime forces in de-mining the sea.

“Speaking about the EU, Ukraine has opportunities to continue to increase its role in security issues. In some aspects, I can already see that the EU is helping Ukraine more than NATO does. Currently, the EU is discussing its future maritime strategy and I think this topic can become a part of it,” said Mr. Fota. He also added that this is a matter of political will, because everything else is technical details for which the EU has everything it needs.  

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also emphasized that Romania is modernizing its own anti-mine countermeasures and is working closely with Bulgaria and Turkey on information exchange, as freedom and security of navigation are common goals.

Quotes from speakers at the panel discussion “The Future Configuration What is the future of regional security in the Black Sea and Azov regions. Towards a Euro-Atlantic strategy or a stable, secure and prosperous Black Sea region”

Oleksiy Reznikov, Minister of Defense of Ukraine, said that only 5 steps are necessary for Ukraine’s victory and security in the region. 

He said this during the Black Sea Security Conference. 

“First, we must change the paradigm – we should not be afraid to use force and sanctions. The aggressor must realize that it will have to pay for its actions.  The second step is that we need systemic guarantees that would make Russia’s repeated aggression impossible. There is no alternative but NATO. The third step is that without the return of Crimea, all talk of security in the region is an illusion,” he said. 

The Minister of Defense of Ukraine called the fourth step the realization that security in the region is impossible without the transformation of Russia. The aggressor must receive a clear signal – if there are no changes and no attempts to adapt to the requirements of the democratic world, there will be no trust.

“And the last thing is that Ukraine wants to win this year. To do this, we need help as soon as possible,” the Defense Minister emphasized. 

Romanian Minister of National Defense Angel Tilvar said that the Black Sea region is at risk due to the constant threat of escalation of Russian aggression.

“Moscow uses the Black Sea without any restrictions as a platform to obstruct freedom of navigation, increasing tensions in the region, including through gray areas caused by protracted conflicts, and creating favorable conditions for transnational security threats,” – The Minister emphasized and explained that Russia’s main goals are to maintain instability and influence the free will of regional partners in choosing their future, as well as to send forces to the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

“russia is determined to dominate the black sea region, undermining the internal stability, coherence and development of partners in the region,” he concluded.

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