The United States will continue its sanction pressure on Russia until it returns control over Crimea back to Ukraine, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Wednesday.

“Four years ago this week, Russia held an illegitimate, fabricated “referendum” in Ukraine in a futile attempt to legitimize its purported annexation of Ukrainian territory. Crimean residents were compelled to vote under scrutiny by heavily armed Russian troops. Russia’s claim that Ukrainians made a free choice in that sham “referendum” has always lacked credibility,” Nauert, who also serves as the acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, said in a statement.

“Crimea is part of Ukraine and our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” she stressed.

According to the Department Spokesperson, during his Wednesday trip to Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin “reiterated Russia’s false claims to Ukrainian territory in another open admission that the Russian government disdains the international order and disrespects the territorial integrity of sovereign nations.”

The US Department of State claims that Russia’s government has “imposed” “tremendous human costs” on Crimea’s population, allegedly persecuting “anyone opposed to its attempted annexation.”

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