Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 19 March 2015
On March 18, 2014 Europe’s security has been fundamentally compromised. For the first time since the Second World War a part of one participating State has been annexed by force by a neighbouring participating State. Russia’s grave breach of the UN Charter, the OSCE founding principles, namely the Helsinki Final Act, bilateral and multilateral agreements, by violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, led to grave consequences for the international peace and security.
The illegal actions of the Russian Federation, which violated all international norms and resorted to the use of force to unilaterally revise internationally recognised borders of a sovereign state by illegally occupying and annexing Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, undermine the entire system of international relations and the security architecture.
The very foundation of this Organization has been challenged. 10 founding principles of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 have been grossly violated by the Russian Federation, in particular the principle of sovereign equality and respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty; refraining from the threat or use of force; inviolability of frontiers; territorial integrity of states; peaceful settlement of disputes; non-intervention in internal affairs; fulfilment in good faith of obligations in international law. Moreover, we have witnessed a comprehensive attack by Russia on the OSCE acquis in all three dimensions.
The Russian invasion in Crimea not only breached the OSCE principles and the international law, but in effect entirely negated them.
Let me recall that one year ago on the night of February 27, 2014, the Russian Federation launched its military aggression against Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The beginning of the aggression was marked by seizing the premises of the Crimean Supreme Council by Russian servicemen and paramilitary groups. So-called “Little green men”, in full military gear and heavily armed, blocked the Ukrainian military compounds, Ukrainian Navy bases, administrative buildings and infrastructure across the peninsula.
On March 16, 2014 the world witnessed the Russia-orchestrated farce – so-called “referendum” in Crimea at the barrel of a Russian gun. This illegal and unlawful “plebiscite” violated the Ukrainian legislation, international norms and fell short of democratic standards for holding referendums, developed in the framework of the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
By recognizing the self-proclaimed “Republic of Crimea” as a “sovereign and independent state” and signing an agreement with this illegitimate entity on 18 March 2014 the Russian Federation hereby flagrantly violated its obligations and commitments, stemming from its membership in UN, OSCE and Council of Europe as well as from bilateral and multilateral agreements.
I would like to reiterate in this regard that the legal ramifications of this act under the circumstances of unprovoked armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine and Russian military occupation of the Crimean peninsula is void. International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. Ukraine denies any sovereignty of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, which is occupied by the Russian Federation.
Increasingly contradictory and inconsistent legal arguments put forward by Russia throughout the year to justify its aggression against Ukraine cannot conceal the stark reality of its actions. Russia has annexed part of the sovereign territory of an independent state through use of military force.
Russia’s actions defy the fundamental principles and norms of international law, in particular contained in:
- The Charter of the United Nations;
- Declaration on Principles of International law concerning friendly relations and cooperation among states in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations of 1970;
- The United Nations General Assembly Resolution “Definition of Aggression” of 1974;
- Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty of 1965;
- Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States of 1981;
- Declaration on the Enhancement of the Effectiveness of the Principle of Refraining from the Threat or Use of Force in International Relations of 1987.
A number of bilateral and multilateral agreements have been breached by Russia. In particular, Russia violated the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed in connection with Ukraine's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which provided assurances, including from the Russian Federation, of respect for Ukraine’s security, territorial integrity and political independence in exchange of my country’s voluntary renouncement of the world’s third largest nuclear weapons arsenal.
In a documentary film for Russian state-run television, broadcast on 15 March, 2015, the Russian President admitted for the first time that the plan to annex Crimea was launched weeks before the so-called “referendum”.
According to the Resolution of the UN General Assembly №3314 (ХХІХ) of 14 December 1974, actions undertaken by the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (as well as in the east of Ukraine) fall under the qualification of an act of aggression against Ukraine.
Any state which has violated peremptory rules of general international law incurs international responsibility under international law.
The Russian aggression resulted in systemic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Crimea, affecting mostly, but not merely, Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians.
Today, over one year since annexation, the occupied territory is described by human rights defenders as a “vacuum of law”, “information ghetto” and “military camp” of the Russian Federation, where it continues to strengthen its repressive policies. Murders, abductions, harassment, intimidation are among the most widespread crimes in the occupied Crimea.
The extremely disturbing human rights landscape was clearly presented throughout the year in the independent report of the OSCE ODIHR/HCNM Human Rights Assessment Mission (HRAM), findings of the Representative on Freedom of the Media and High Commissioner on National Minorities, as well as nine reports of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
The indigenous population of Crimean Tatars has been subjected to constant terror and physical violence, including cases of killings, abductions and torture of activists, as well as threats to all those residents of Crimea who reject the illegal occupation. The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Islamic religious schools and mosques have been exposed to surveillance and searches on the false grounds of “prevention of extremism”. Illegal and politically motivated arrests and deportation of Crimean Tatar leaders persisted, including the case of Ahtem Ciygoz. People’s Deputy of Ukraine Mustafa Dzhemilev and Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov were barred from entry to their homeland.
The occupying authorities’ crackdown on the Crimean Tatars has produced a situation comparable to the tragedy of the Stalinist deportation.
The occupying authorities seek to eradicate all manifestations of the Ukrainian identity, education and culture on the peninsula. Pro-Ukrainian activists are exposed to harassment, threats, illegal detention and torture. The space for freedom of expression in Crimea has significantly shrunk. Journalists have been threatened, assaulted, interrogated and kidnapped. All Ukrainian television channels have been switched off.
The occupying authorities continue to impose, in contravention of the UN GA resolution 68/262, the application of RF laws in Crimea, which has significant negative impact on day-to-day life and the exercise of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by Crimea’s residents.
These human rights abuses must be addressed without any delay by all available to the OSCE instruments. It is critical to continue independent monitoring of the human rights situation in Crimea, which remains the integral part of Ukraine, and provide a strong reaction to unacceptable cases of serious human rights violations and increasing repressions against the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities. We reiterate the need for the HCNM, ODIHR and RFoM visits to the occupied Crimea with a view to providing objective information regarding the situation on the ground, which should be undertaken in line with the UN GA Resolution “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Throughout the year we have witnessed strong support by the international community to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and broad international condemnation of the illegal actions by the Russian Federation.
Adoption on 27 March 2014 of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” sent a clear message by the world’s community that Russia’s aggressive actions are unacceptable.
Strong support for and solidarity with Ukraine, expressed by the overwhelming majority of states and authoritative international institutions, including the Council of Europe, the European Union, NATO, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, indicate unity in rejection and condemnation of Russian actions.
We call on the international community to continue to stand firm and united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and to further take measures in order to stimulate Russia’s return to the tenets of international law.
Aggression, invasion and annexation are not acceptable in the XXI century. We must not allow the rule of law to be substituted by the rule of force.
Settlement of a crisis requires urgent, robust and most importantly joint efforts. And these efforts should be focused on preserving the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and Charter for European Security. These principles are not negotiable. The erosion of trust we are witnessing today can only be overcome by correcting the violations and restoring respect for the basic principles of the OSCE.
We reiterate our persistent calls on the Russian Federation to halt military aggression against Ukraine, reverse illegal occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and abide fully by its international obligations and commitments.
Before I conclude I wish to bring to the attention of the Permanent Council that the Mission of Ukraine, in cooperation with the Mission of Lithuania, planned to organize today an exhibition in connection with one year since the events of the illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.
Preparation of the exhibition was carried out at the vestibule in front of the Segmentgallerie I in line with the joint letter and guidance of the Serbian Chairmanship and the Secretary General of 12 March 2015, circulated under CIO.GAL/28/15.
However, yesterday the Secretary General suspended the exhibition under pressure of the delegation of the Russian Federation.
The photographs of the exhibition captured the evidence of Russia committing the act of aggression against Ukraine which is a serious crime against peace and security under international law.
In particular, the two photographs we will show now in this hall captured the Russian soldiers and military trucks lining up a street in the Crimea and a vessel sunk by the Russian Navy to prevent the exit of Ukrainian ships into the open sea. The photographs speak for themselves.
As preparation of the exhibition was undertaken in line with the joint guidance of the Chairmanship and the Secretary General, circulated under the Chairmanship’s registration, we view it as a joint responsibility of the Chairmanship and the Secretary General to ensure that the guidelines be respected.
This Organisation is about principles and commitments, agreed by all participating States, promoting their implementation, with freedom of expression belonging to fundamental freedoms which must be safeguarded.
Pending formal clarification from the Chairmanship and the Secretary General on the reasons and grounds for the suspension, we reserve the right to return to this issue at a later stage.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.