27 October 2020
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968 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     960 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

23.02.2018

Four years since the coup in Kiev: Embassy Press Officer on the article by Boris Johnson on Crimea

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson published an article entitled “Four years since the illegal annexation of Crimea”. It is a pity that it is not accompanied by a piece on the fourth anniversary of the coup d’état in Kiev that was backed by the UK and the West in general, and blatantly violated not only Ukraine’s Constitution, but also the agreement between President Yanukovych and the opposition mediated by Germany, France and Poland on 21 February 2014. It was precisely the forcible removal of the lawfully elected President that paved the way to power to the self-styled “government of winners”, a bizarre mix of pro-European liberals and far-right extremists, and triggered the sequence of events that resulted in Crimea re-joining Russia.

Mr Johnson’s article contains statements that form the basis of current British policy on Ukraine and Russia and shape the logic of the sanctions imposed on our country. He puts forward at least four major allegations that we cannot accept.

1. The Foreign Secretary speaks a lot about the “sham referendum” in Crimea. Let us remind him of the principle of self-determination proclaimed in the UN Charter, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law. The latter document specifies that the right to self-determination should not be seen as running against the territorial integrity of states “possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed or colour”. The coup in Kiev brought about quite a different situation: namely, a government of extreme right radicals whose calls and actions created a direct threat to human rights and physical safety of Russians and Russian-speakers in Crimea. Faced with this situation, in which the people of Crimea was effectively deprived of its right to self-determination within the Ukrainian state, the lawfully elected local authorities decided to hold a referendum where citizens were asked whether they preferred Crimea to join Russia or remain part of Ukraine. With a 83.5% turnout, 96.8% of the voters supported joining Russia.

We believe that democratic expression of the will of the people must be the main criterion to judge political processes in any country. The British experience, be it with Brexit, Falklands, Gibraltar or Scotland, is a useful benchmark in this respect.

2. The Foreign Secretary speaks of the “first forcible redrawing of a European frontier since 1945”. We suppose that the Serb people have a different opinion. In 1999, 78 days of bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO forces effectively destroyed its statehood, forcibly (and without any referendum) removing the province of Kosovo from Serbia. Compare this with the events in Crimea where not a single shot was fired and a popular vote was held.

And that was not all: if Secretary Johnson took time to read last Saturday’s New York Times, he would have noted the piece by Scott Shane describing how “the United States funded a successful effort to defeat [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic” at the 2000 elections. The question is, did the UK take part in those efforts as well?

3. Foreign Secretary Johnson further claims that Russia violated its commitments to respect Ukraine’s borders under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Two remarks are in order here. First, the loss of Ukraine’s territorial integrity has been a result of complex internal processes and a democratic decision of Crimea’s people. Russia indeed pledged to respect Ukraine’s borders in Budapest, as indeed all countries are obliged to under the UN Charter, but we have never subscribed to forcing any region of Ukraine to remain part of that country against the will of its own people. Second, in Budapest Ukraine committed to counter the growth of aggressive nationalism and chauvinism. This commitment has clearly been violated, and, by the way, we haven’t seen much reaction to that from the United Kingdom, one of Budapest guarantors.

4. Another groundless claim by the Foreign Secretary refers to the Crimean Tatar people. As four years have obviously not been enough for the Foreign Office to report to its successive Secretaries on some of the basic facts on this issue, we have to fill the gap. Unlike under Ukrainian authority in Crimea, the Crimean Tatar language has been recognized as an official language of Crimea, alongside Russian and Ukrainian. 15 Crimean Tatar schools and 137 Crimean Tatar classes operate in the peninsula’s education system, serving 5500 pupils. 45 new Crimean Tatar textbooks have been published. 187 Crimean Tatar Muslim mosques or prayer houses are in place, and a new central mosque is under construction in Simferopol, to host up to 4000 people. There are 30 Crimean Tatar NGOs and 58 Crimean Tatar media outlets. About 10 per cent of Crimea’s police and prosecution officers, 14 per cent of Crimea’s teachers, 6 per cent of Crimea’s school headmasters come from the Crimean Tatar community. 150 Crimean Tatars have been elected as local councillors, and one MP represents the community at the Russian Parliament. In 2016 alone, 3600 Crimean Tatar land owners registered their plots, something that Ukraine had persistently refused to do, ironically citing “land grabs”. The federal programme of support for Crimean Tatars was funded at 50 million US dollars in 2017, to be compared with the 2.5 million planned by Ukraine for the same purposes in 2014.

Against this background, it is no wonder that the International Court of Justice, the top UN judicial body, has rejected Ukraine’s demands to order Russia to “cease and desist from acts of political and cultural suppression against the Crimean Tatar people”. In fact, the last four years have seen a successful resolution of Crimean Tatars’ numerous problems that were left unresolved over the 23 years of post-Soviet Ukrainian rule.

And a final remark. In line with the well-known UK policy, Mr Johnson demands that Russia implements the Minsk agreements. We have to remind the Foreign Secretary that the Minsk agreements were concluded between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk rather than Moscow. Those three parties should implement them through direct dialogue. The primary responsibility lies with the government of Ukraine that, instead of finding a solution, has sought to isolate the breakaway regions economically, refused to go ahead with the political measures agreed in Minsk, and most recently has set its obstructionist position into law by adopting the act on “re-integration” which effectively kills the agreements. We haven’t heard any reaction from London to that law. Nor did the UK condemn the recent pogrom of the Russian Cultural Centre in Kiev which, by the way, is a stark reminder of what would be happening in Crimea if its people had not been brave and resolute enough back in 2014.

We believe the time has come for the British authorities to reconsider its attitude to the processes going on in Ukraine. Otherwise, endlessly repeating the groundless accusations against Russia only sends wrong signals and encourages the Kiev regime to continue its self-defeating policy.




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