Natalia Lopatina - On August 24, Ukraine celebrates its 30th anniversary. On this day in 1991, the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) adopted the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine. It is important to note here that it was actually about restoring independence as in fact Ukrainian statehood is over a thousand years old.

Since then, Ukraine has come a hard way and can boast of many achievements. Despite centuries of statelessness and the complicated legacy of the Soviet era, state institutions were created from scratch and the democratic development of the state and society was ensured.

We said goodbye to the Soviet remnants in history, ideology and culture. The archives were declassified, and this allowed Ukrainians to learn a lot about their true history.

Ukraine made not only a foreign policy choice but also a value choice, which is to become a member of the EU and NATO.

Strong Armed Forces of Ukraine were built. Developments in the defense industry were brought forward. Ukraine remains one of a few countries in the world that possess aviation and space technologies. We are also among the leaders in IT.

We have become an interesting tourist destination, since Ukraine has unique historical heritage, hospitable and creative people, picturesque and diverse nature (we have mountains, sea, rivers and even the largest desert in Europe), many cultural events and delicious food.

Today Ukraine is a democratic European country with a rich past and a dynamic present. And we continue to implement comprehensive reforms and develop our potential to further strengthen the state, improve the welfare of its citizens, attract foreign guests and investors.

At the same time, throughout our recent history, we have faced the greatest challenge: in 2014, Russia started an armed aggression against Ukraine. In violation of all norms of international law, Russia occupied and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, as well as carried out a military invasion in the east of Ukraine. The ongoing war unleashed by Russia has resulted in the occupation of 7% of the Ukrainian territories (it is more than 40,000 km2 or, for better understanding, the territory of Turkey's largest province, Konya), death of over 14,000 our compatriots, as well as forced displacement of around 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens.

There are many negative repercussions for Crimea, too: the Ukrainian peninsula, known as the homeland of the indigenous people of Ukraine - Crimean Tatars and a thriving tourist center, over past 7 years has become a powerful military base that poses a security threat from Russia not only in the Black Sea but also in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia impedes free navigation in both Ukrainian and international waters around Crimea. Another depressing consequence is the transformation of the peninsula into a center of human rights violations, which affect in particular Crimean Tatars. Not a week goes by without news of another disappearance of activists, persecutions, searches and other repressions under the disguise of fabricated cases. Contrary to international law, the occupying power is changing the demographic composition of the population in Crimea: according to available data, more than 500,000 new residents have been moved from Russia to Crimea.

The occupation of Ukrainian lands must be stopped. All available tools should be used to de-occupy them. While the issues related to ending the confrontation in the east of Ukraine is a subject of negotiations in the Normandy format, there has been no institutionalized international mechanism for resolving the issue of Crimea.

In this regard, Ukraine has initiated the establishment of the International Crimean Platform – a permanent international forum, which aims at ensuring the de-occupation of Crimea from Russian occupation and its return under the control of the Government of Ukraine by peaceful means. In the shorter run, the Crimean Platform is designed to help produce a more effective response of the world community to Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea and the above-mentioned consequences of this disgraceful fact. The Crimean Platform will work continuously and systematically at many levels – intergovernmental, parliamentary and expert – and will act in synergy with other international institutions.

On August 23, a day before the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ukraine's Independence, the inaugural summit of the Crimean Platform will take place in Kyiv. Delegations from 44 countries and international organizations take part in this important meeting. Among the participants of the summit are Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu and deputies of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey Mr. Ahmet Yıldız and Mr. Mehmet Altay.

We appreciate the strategic partnership between Ukraine and Turkey and are grateful for Ankara's unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, its non-recognition of Russia's attempted annexation of Crimea, and its consistent efforts to protect rights and interests of Crimean Tatars. I am convinced that the launching of the Crimean Platform and its further activities, with the participation of such a powerful player in the region as Turkey, will contribute to de-occupation of Ukrainian lands and restoring respect for international law.

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