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Washington has restated its condemnation of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, declaring its intention to continue associated restrictions until Russia restores the strategically vital peninsula to Ukraine.

In observance of the third anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea, Mark Toner, acting U.S. Department of State spokesman, said in a statement: “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. The United States again condemns the Russian occupation of Crimea and calls for its immediate end. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

ukraine-russian-troops-1In the wake of a military intervention and a hastily formed referendum that remains unrecognized by the international community, Moscow effected the occupation of the major Ukrainian land mass.

“The United States does not recognize Russia’s ‘referendum’ of March 16, 2014, nor its attempted annexation of Crimea and continued violation of international law. We once again reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement continues.

The United States also demanded in the statement for Russia to “cease its attempts to suppress freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion” among those who oppose the annexation, including journalists, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatars.

Moscow’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula destroyed the historical link between the two neighbors and reduced the relations between Russia and West to almost Cold War levels.

The affair resulted in the enforcement of economic sanctions against Russia by the United States and the European Union.