In the morning of 17 November 2014 the world community was shocked by the next revelation of the President of the RF Vladimir Putin who said in his exclusive interview to the German channel ARD broadcasted earlier that he considers reaction of the West to the annexation of Crimea ‘absolutely inadequate’. ‘When we hear claims over the breach of international law, it brings me nothing but astonishment’, - said the Russian leader, having referred to the Kosovo precedent. ‘Nothing else, except what has been done in Kosovo, in Crimea has not been done’, - explained Putin.
At the same time already in his next sentence V. Putin contradicts himself, recognizing that Russian troops were in Crimea during the holding of a referendum. This fact alone allows drawing the firm distinction between the situations in Crimea and Kosovo; the latter was not occupied by the armed forces of the foreign states. But the Russian leader is not the one who runs himself off his feet. Immediately he makes a remark in a peremptory tone with usual for him combination of truth and lie that Russia did not commit any violation of international law: ‘Our armed forces, let us say straight, blocked the armed forces of Ukraine located in Crimea. But it was done not to force someone to vote – it is impossible to do so, - but in order to prevent a bloodshed and to give people an opportunity to express their attitude on determining their future and future of their children’. How one would comment softly on this? Most probably the best analogy would be the following: let us imagine that the armed forces of Germany flooded Scotland in order to ‘block’ the armed forces of Great Britain and allow Scottish people to determine their future. Or what if France sends its armed forces to Catalonia to block ‘evil central government of Spain’?
It is hard to imagine even in the nightmare, but Vladimir Putin apparently finds nothing special in a way the situation develops. Moreover, it is a shame that the journalists of the German channel did not inquire Vladimir Putin about the awards given in the end of March 2014 ‘for active participation in the events in Crimea’ that led to the annexation of self-declared republic by Russia. Officially the list of awarded was not published, but instead they were published by the Russian edition of the ‘New newspaper’ on 16 June 2014. Thus, in the list of those awarded are included even odious members of a biker club ‘Night wolves’ who were involved in the numerous criminal cases at different times. Besides, the award was given to the director of Prioksko-Terrasnii Natural Reserve Andrei Ivonin who was wanted for the embezzlement of extra large funds. Normal question arises: for which exactly actions that ‘did not breach international law’ the awards could be received by the criminals? The answer is obvious: for violation of the law of a foreign state (here, Ukraine) in the interests of the RF. By the way, indirectly these violations were recently acknowledged by Crimea itself. In particular, on 03 October 2014 the State Council of the Republic of Crimea introduced to the Russian State Duma the draft law according to which ‘any actions of Crimean authorities and members of emergency volunteer corps in the time of the annexation of the peninsula by Russia are considered to be lawful and accomplished in an extreme state’ (!). Draft law suggests covering the period from 27 February 2014 until 01 January 2015. Thus, amendments offered by the State Council of Crimea to the ‘constitutional law on joining of Crimea to the RF rehabilitate people participating in the violent actions during the annexation of Crimea as far as these actions often contradicted both Russian and Ukrainian laws’, - it was stated in the interview to the newspaper ‘Vedomosty’ by the source from the federal power of the RF. Then it is not clear how one can perceive the words of Putin on the lawful actions of Russia in Crimea? But let us return to the annoying comparison of Crimea and Kosovo. As noticed by the prominent German historian and publicist, Professor Karl Schl?gel, it is possible to compare different geopolitical situation, but this should not be equivalent to identification. Every historical situation is unique. But if Vladimir Putin wants historical parallels that much, Karl Schl?gel suggests comparing situation in Ukraine with Munich politics of reconciliation with the Anschluss of Austria, Sudetska oblast and Memelskii region by Nazi Germany, but not with Kosovo. Why it is done, today is clearly obvious: Russia wants not only fix its positions in Crimea, but also accomplish one more pseudo-historical project – to create ‘Novorossiya’.
‘Of course, if looking into the historic grounds of the project ‘Novorossiya’, we can find remarks on the wars of tsar Russia with Crimean khanate, on creation of Odessa by the Russian admiral De Rybas, on ‘Petersburg’ architecture in Kharkov and Odessa. But now if we use all the historical traces of culture heritage for accomplishing the empire project, it can lead to the end of Europe. Every nation somewhere left its traces: Italians in Dalmatia, French in Algeria, British in the colonial world, Germans in the whole Eastern Europe. Justifying today’s politics of aggression is an ideology perversion’, - assures German historian.
In its turn, lawyers specializing in international law, including the leading partner of legal alliance ‘Actio’ (Kiev, Ukraine) Vladimir Yampolskiy, express confidence not only in historical, but also legal nullity of comparison of situation in Crimea and Kosovo. It should be reminded that the main argument of the Russian president is the fact that the Decision of International court on Kosovo mentions the following definition: ‘During process of self-determination, the minority living in a certain area, should not request the opinion of the central powers of its state’. Putin brought to attention the fact that unlike in Kosovo where the decision of independence was taken by the parliament, in Crimea this question was carried out by the referendum.
As emphasized by the specialists of the International Collegiums of Legal Expertise, the moment when the General Assembly unanimously approved independence of Kosovo, Russia became extremely indignant by this approach. Moscow stated that the agreement of 1999 was breached according to which the territory should have stayed under the UN administration until the peaceful reconciliation is finished. Six years passed – and official Moscow brings example of Kosovo to justify its own territorial conquests. Moreover, as noticed by Vladimir Yampolskiy, Kosovo had the number of factors that have never been the case in Crimea.
Firstly, V.Putin alleges that the ethnic Russians in Crimea faced with the threat of persecution by the ethnic Ukrainian majority. Then this became a reason why the armed forces of Russia entered Crimea. But until this time no evidence of ethnic persecution was demonstrated! Nobody even remembers it. It cannot be said the same about Kosovo. Massacre of the ethnic Albanians performed by the Yugoslav armed forces in 1999 led to the three months NATO bombing that was strongly opposed by Russia. Not having received any help from Moscow former president Slobodan Milosevic, who skillfully and mercilessly excited ethnic differences in 1990s, was forced to accept international peace plan. Negotiations on the final status of Kosovo where almost 90 % of the population are ethnic Albanians led to the deadlock because Serbia did not want to sacrifice its integrity in this region. Then, after almost 10 years of the brutal ethnic conflict democratically elected parliament of Kosovo voted for the official separation from Serbia.
And now let us compare actual actions with the paragraph 4 of the Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations: ‘All members of the UN shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations’. It should be reminded the main principle of the Declaration on Principles of International Law: ‘Every State has the duty to refrain from any actions aiming at the partial or full violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of any other state or country’.
Secondly, let us define who has a right to self-determination? In the Declaration on Principles of International Law is clearly written the following: ‘By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter’. And now let us compare Crimea with other nations in Europe: the Scottish, the Kosovars and the Catalonians are the nations recognized by the UN that do not have other territory for their compact residence. What about Crimea? If the issue of independence of Crimea would be raised by the Crimean Tatars, in this case principle of self-determination of the people would be applicable. And most probably, theoretically, the Tatars could count on international support. But this is not the case! Russians stand for joining Russia; even they do not represent the majority of population of this region! What right on self-determination and which nation exactly here could be discussed?
And finally and thirdly, Russia did not simply give time to Europe to solve all the available issues in Crimea by the political means. Between the change of the government in Kiev and the declaration of independence by Crimea and referendum on joining Russia less than one month passed (!). Referendum in Scotland became the result of consistent long-term court hearings in the presence of Scottish government and London representatives. Kosovo announced its independence almost 10 years after gaining the autonomy. In Catalonia the search for compromise has been conducted for more than five years. And only the RF decided to send its armed forces for ‘self-determination’ of unknown group of people after a few days when someone unknown started to oppress ethnic Russians…
As a conclusion, it should be marked that undoubtedly the certain similarities between Kosovo and Crimea can be found such as: in both cases the main principle of the international security system – the principle of territorial integrity was breached. In the history of mankind borders of states changed many times, mostly with the use of military force. Military force was recognized as legitimate along with contributions imposed by the winning states to the defeated party and the annexation of the part of its territory. At the same time the aim of mankind was to make the borders inviolable and incapable of changing by the military force. Following this idea the Organization of the United Nations was founded and in its Charter the principle of inviolability of frontiers was laid down. This principle was strengthened after the UN creation and it found its reflection in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 where it was clearly said that the borders of the states cannot be changed by the external military force! Also, in 1945 in the Article 1 of the UN Charter and then in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial countries and Peoples adopted by the Resolution 1514 of the XV General Assembly of the UN on 14 December 1960 and the following international agreements and the UN Declarations the principle of self-determination of people actively gained an important position. The conflict between two principles is the basis of contemporary international law. Legitimacy of the actions is dependent on their interpretation in every single case. In regard to Crimea, one should consider not the general norms of international law, but to follow its contemporary trends. They are being traced in the Resolution No.1832 on 04 October 2011 adopted at the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Thus, according to this Resolution ‘the right of ethnic minorities to self-determination (…) does not give rise to an automatic right to secession [and] first and foremost should be implemented by way of the protection of minority rights as foreseen in the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and in Assembly Resolution 1334 (2003) on positive experiences of autonomous regions as a source of inspiration for conflict resolution in Europe’. Therefore, there is nothing ‘inadequate’ (as of the Russian president) in the reaction of the West to the annexation of Crimea, but the adequacy of the actions of Putin himself is questionable.
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