People wave Russian flags during reunification anniversary of the Crimea with Russia © Max Vetrov / AFP

The US has issued a declaration denouncing Russia’s acceptance of Crimea as its new region. Moscow replied, saying US policy changes, like the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, show clearly the worth of American declarations.

The United States will never recognize Crimea as part of Russia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed, in a statement on Wednesday announcing the administration’s Crimea Declaration. Proclaiming Washington’s “refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty” over Crimea, Pompeo pledged to maintain “this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.”

Reacting to the strong-worded document, Moscow simply noted that US foreign policy seems to change quite rapidly, often with a change of leadership. “We know the worth of such momentous declarations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted on her Facebook page.

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“The JCPOA on the Iranian nuclear program and the Paris climate agreement have also recently been the official policy of the United States. Obama made the decision personally. And then Trump decided to change it,” she wrote.

The Crimea Declaration comes a week after Washington cleared the transfer of $200 million in military training, equipment and advisory assistance to Ukraine. The new policy was also finalized less than two weeks after US-Russian summit in Finland, where the Ukrainian issue was discussed between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on President Trump’s new National Security Strategy, Pompeo pointed out that sanctions against Russia over Crimea, introduced in 2014, will remain in place.

“There will be no relief of Crimea-related sanctions until Russia returns control of the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. This Crimea declaration formalizes United States policy of non-recognition,” he stated on Wednesday.

The US and its allies imposed restrictive measures against Russia in 2014 after its reunification with Crimea, in the wake of an armed coup in Ukrainian capital Kiev, which plunged the country into a political crisis and a civil war. The sanctions limit access to capital markets for various Russian banks, their subsidiaries, and defense companies. They also blacklist some government officials, businessmen, and public figures.

Crimea, formerly a Ukrainian autonomous region, voted to rejoin Russia in March 2014. The vote was called when the new authorities made it clear that they would pursue anti-Russian policies and when right-wing extremists, who helped the coup to succeed, threatened the predominantly-Russian region with violence.

Russia considers the move a legitimate exercise of the right to self-determination by Crimean residents. Washington has sided with Kiev in refusing to recognize the referendum and accuses Moscow of occupation and “annexation” of Ukrainian territory.

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