Enough to fake itselfHaving read the Russian Ambassador’s article “Totally false accusations,” published in the respectable edition Korea JoongAng Daily on April 6, 2015, I got an impression that, unfortunately, Ambassador Timonin is out of touch with reality when touching upon the current situation in relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. In this regard, I would like to offer several comments in order to help readers understand the situation in my country better.
I am surprised by the untiring rhetoric from the Russian ambassador concerning the so-called “free expression of popular will” in the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea on March 16, 2014, due to the following facts.
On the one hand, the entire civilized world does not recognize the annexation of Crimea. That was clearly confirmed by the results of the voting at the meeting of the UN General Assembly on March 27, 2014, where 100 UN member states supported the Resolution (68-262) “Territorial integrity of Ukraine” and affirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
The recent stance of the international community towards the annexation of Crimea by Russia is reflected in the decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, adopted on April 15, 2015. Forty-three European countries condemned the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
On the another hand, even Russia’s President Vladimir Putin several times informed the public that Russian armed forces “helped” local inhabitants hold “free and fair elections” in Crimea. Recently, he confessed that on Feb. 23, 2014, the authorities of the Russian Federation started a “special operation to return the Crimea to Russia.” (Please note, so called “free expression of popular will” in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea three weeks before.)
In this regard, it would be nice for the Russian ambassador to follow at least his president.
Touching upon the human rights issue in Crimea, I would like to clear up what exactly the Russian ambassador so harshly denies.
According to the observations of different international institutions such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international focused on human rights, Crimea turned into a peninsula of fear within a year of occupation. People are afraid to express their opinions, fearful for their lives and future, fear to practice their faith and communicate in their native language. The indigenous population of the peninsula - Crimean Tatars - as well as those Ukrainians who still live there after annexation have been subjected to serious human rights violations most frequently.
The recent fact of the rough human rights oppression was the stopping of broadcasting of the only Crimean Tatars TV-channel ATR on April 1, 2015, by the Russia’s authorities. The same action is planned to be done with the kids channel Lyalye, radio Meydan, the news agency QHA and others.
Thus, the Russian occupation authorities deprive the Crimean Tatars of the right to use freely their native language, receive and distribute reliable information, preserve their national identity, and educate children in the spirit of national traditions.
Numerous arrests of journalists, activists, NGO staff members, which adversely treated annexation, have been also observed in Crimea. The best examples are the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was detained in the Crimea, forcibly transferred to Russia and imprisoned on charges of terrorism, and the recent arrest of Ahtem Ciygoz, one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, on unsubstantiated charges of organizing mass disturbances.
The Joint Statement on behalf of 43 countries of the UN Human Rights Council on March 25, 2015, expresses deep worries and requirement to focus attention of the international community on the human rights violations and abuses in the Russia-occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
It is noteworthy that Crimea was once the tourist pearl and attracted several millions of tourists every year. At present, regrettably, peninsula has been transforming into the huge Russian military base. The occupation authorities failed to secure the proper social and economic state of the inhabitants, which has been getting worse since the annexation. Against this backdrop, the number of tourists, according to different sources, decreased by more than 2 times - from 6 to 1.5 million, last year. I do not believe that people in Crimea are satisfied with the current life conditions.
I would gladly visit the Crimea, but only after restoration of the civilized legal order and rule of law under international standards on the peninsula. At the moment, Crimea as well as the territory of the Russian Federation, unfortunately, are not the safe places for traveling by the Ukrainians. There are numerous facts of intolerant stance, persecution and abduction of Ukrainian citizens in Russia. In this regard, I cannot but mention Nadiya Savchenko, the Member of Parliament of Ukraine and Ukrainian delegate to the PACE, who was seized in Ukraine and illegally detained for far-fetched charge in Russia.
By the way, I would like to draw the Russian ambassador’s attention to the fact that at present Ukrainian and Russian citizens can freely travel to both countries using the passports for travel abroad without any visa formalities. I think that can be easily confirmed by the consular section of the Russian Embassy.
In his article, Russian ambassador stated that there was no “reliable proof” of illegal military activity of the Russian armed forces in the east part of Ukraine. Therefore, Ukrainian Embassy can provide the Russian Embassy with pictures and other evidences of the Russian Army’s weapons, which were captured by the Ukrainian servicemen in battles. I do not think that Russian envoy believes that all contemporary weaponry of Russian origin, used by illegal armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, was bought in the ordinary supermarket.
In its spot and daily reports, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine attests movement of significant amounts of heavy military equipment, tanks and troops without insignia into the terrorist-controlled areas of Donbas moving from Russia westwards to Ukraine.
At the same time, the number of investigations has been conducted by the leading world news agencies on this issue. For instance, Mark Urban, diplomatic and defense editor of BBC Newsnight, in the article “How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?” (March 10, 2015) provides public with the comprehensive image of the Russian military units’ activity in the East of Ukraine and the decisive role of the Russian regular units’ officers in large-scale military operations such as the capture of the transport hub of Debaltseve.
The Russian authorities silence the numerous deaths of Russian regulars in eastern Ukraine, which amounted, according to the different sources, to more than 1600 servicemen. Against this backdrop, the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, as it turned out, conducted his own investigation and declared that he would reveal persuasive evidences of the involvement of Russian armed forces in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he was killed before his investigation become public.
Touching upon the issue of the humanitarian situation in Donetsk and Luhansk region of Ukraine it is worth to note that demonstration of sympathetic attitude to the situation by the Russian ambassador looks very falsely. First of all, numerous human deaths and suffering have been caused by the Russian weaponry which is used by the Russia-backed militants and Russian regulars in the mentioned regions.
In this regard it is worth mentioning the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 on July 17, 2014, resulted in deaths of all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. In March 2015 international experts informed the public on the preliminary results of the investigation of this terrible catastrophe which indicated that MH 17 was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system under the supervision of the Russian militaries. Of course, the investigation on this issue is underway and we look forward to find out its results.
I think that it would be more effective for the Russian Federation to adhere to the Minsk Agreements in real and concrete activities but not in the way of empty statements.
As of Ukraine, it consistently performs Minsk Agreements. Ukraine has completed the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry from the line of contact to designated concentration sites. The process has been monitored by OSCE observers and journalists. The SMM revisited these sites on a number of occasions and found that weapons remained on site. At the same time the completion of the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the Russia-backed militants has not been confirmed by the OSCE SMM.
It is clear that Russia and Russia-backed militants have no intention to meet Minsk Agreements because they are preparing for further attacks on the territory of Ukraine. They are regularly redeploying weaponry, trying to confuse the OSCE mission.
In conclusion, I would like to ask the Russian ambassador whether he truly believes in words he wrote in his article and why Russian people have to bear responsibility for the imperialist policy of their current leadership. I am deeply convinced that it is high time for Russia to admit its illegal and inhuman activity towards Ukraine.
The only civilized and the most effective way to tackle problems is not to send out the tanks but to have talks with the respect of international law and in tolerance manner to each other. Let’s do it!
*The author is the Ukrainian Ambassador to South Korea.
by Vasyl Marmazov
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