col. (r.) Dmytro OLKHACHUK
7 year ago, the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine started, bringing numerous human losses, temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Russian Federation further tightens its grip over Crimea through attempted annexation as well as suppression of dissent and oppression of minorities on the peninsula.
Despite numerous initiatives of Ukraine aimed at the peaceful resolution of the conflict, the Russian armed aggression is ongoing and current trends of the situation in the temporary occupied territories can be generally characterized as deterioration in all areas.
RUSSIAN OCCUPATION AUTHORITIES CONDUCT OPPRESSIVE POLICY
Russian occupation authorities conduct oppressive policy against Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities in Crimea, violating political, cultural and religious rights, which amounts to racial discrimination
- Russia is brutally violating the political rights of the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea. Since 2016, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people remained banned, despite the Order of the International Court of Justice and numerous UNGA resolutions on the human rights situation in the occupied Crimea.
- Over 100 citizens of Ukraine remain illegally detained under politically motivated charges in Crimea and Russia. Most of them are Crimean Tatars. According to human rights defenders, about 200 children of illegally detained human rights activists and citizen journalists are growing up without their fathers care and 25 of them have serious stress-related medical problems.
- Russia is suppressing the religious freedoms in Crimea. After the occupation, 1,300 religious organizations in Crimea were banned. The occupation administration conducts systemic policy of forcing the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) out of the peninsula. In 2020, the OCU was evicted from its main Cathedral in Simferopol for a 2.95 UAH (0.09 EUR) debt; the occupation administration has ordered the demolition of the temple of the OCU in Yevpatoriia.
- From 2013 to 2019, the number of children who receive education in Ukrainian decreased by 54 times from 13,589 to 249. The preschool education in Ukrainian is not available at all. Formally, there is one school with Ukrainian language of instruction, but, according to local population, it is mere formality and education process is not in Ukrainian.
Only 3.1% of schoolchildren study in Crimean Tatar language and there is no school with Crimean Tatar language of instruction.
- The Russian occupation authorities are responsible for torture and other ill-treatment, inadequate conditions in prisons, illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, as well as impunity of the Russian law enforcement agencies for these crimes, criminalization of freedom of expression in social media, interfering with the work of the media and human rights organizations, including Crimean Tatar ones. This is documented in the UN GA resolutions on the situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine (71/205 of 19 December 2016, 72/190 of 19 December 2017, 73/263 of 22 December 2018, 74/168 of 18 December 2019 and 75/192 of 16 December 2020) and three reports of the UN Secretary General pursuant to these resolutions.
RUSSIA SERIOUSLY VIOLATES NORMS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
Russia seriously violates norms of International Humanitarian Law, changing the demographic composition of local population, forcibly drafting Ukrainian citizens in Crimea into its armed forces, forcing the application of its legislation
- The Russian Federation pursues the forcible demographic change. According to the official data, since 2014 over 50,000 Ukrainian citizens had to leave Crimea. According to different estimates, the number of Russian citizens that moved from Russia to the peninsula amounts up to 500,000. Only in 2020 over the course of 9 months at least 43,000 Russian citizens relocated to Crimea. The actual number is much higher.
- The Russian Federation has already conducted 11 illegal conscription campaigns on the peninsula. Since the beginning of the occupation, the number of persons conscripted into the Russian armed forces has already reached about 28,000.
- Under the pretext of the COVID-19 epidemic, Russia is artificially restricting the freedom of movement of Crimean residents and their contacts with mainland Ukraine. Crimean residents who have been forcibly issued Russian passports are allowed to leave for mainland Ukraine and return to the peninsula only once. For those citizens who have refused to obtain a Russian passport, only departure from the Crimea is possible, but return is prohibited.
- Illegal expropriation and privatization of Ukrainian state-owned assets takes place. In December 2020, the Ukrainian state enterprise Massandra Winery was acquired by affiliates of the ‘Russia’ Bank, owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, a friend and close ally of Vladimir Putin. The same happens with private property: in December 2017 the Novyi Svet Winery was acquired by mentioned Yuri Kovalchuk, while in January 2021 the Koktebel Winery was acquired by other influential Russian businessmen.
RUSSIAN FEDERATION ENDANGERS THE BLACK SEA REGION, MIDDLE EAST AND MEDITERRANEAN
Militarization of Crimea, Black and Azov Seas by the Russian Federation en-dangers the Black Sea region, Middle East and Mediterranean, destroys environment and hampers the economic development of the Black Sea littoral states
- Russia continues to transform Crimea and adjacent waters into its military outpost in the Azov – Black Sea Compared to the pre-occupation period, Russia has more than doubled personal strength of its military on the peninsula, from 12,500 to over 32,500 persons. This military contingent also includes 410 armoured vehicles, more than 195 tanks, 283 MLRS and artillery systems, 50 helicopters and 100 airplanes of different types.
- During the occupation of Crimea, the Russian Federation prepared Crimean military infrastructure on the peninsula for the deployment of nuclear weapons, including refurbishment of the infrastructure of Soviet-era nuclear warheads storage facilities. Potential carriers of nuclear weapons, such as warships, short-range missile systems and combat aircraft, have been already deployed there.
- While turning Crimea into a large military base, the Russian occupation admi-nistration is destroying the natural and cultural heritage of the peninsula. The conservation status of 40 objects of the natural reserve fund was illegally down-graded. In particular, the territory of the Crimean Nature Reserve was reduced by 89.5 hectares; the territory of the Yalta Mountain-Forest Nature Reserve was reduced by 63.5 hectares. Due to the construction of the «Tavrida» highway 110,000 trees were cut down (including protected species of Crimean pine and juniper).
- Social and economic destabilization of Ukraine`s coastal regions remains among the goals of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. According to the preliminary estimates, in the period from 2014 to 2020, companies operating in the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk lost revenues of more than 6 billion UAH due to the Russian restrictions. This amount does not include losses and additional costs related to ship downtime and reorientation of cargo transshipment flows.
MORE COORDINATED AND PERSISTENT EFFORTS OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ARE NEEDED TO REVERT THESE TRENDS
To revert these trends, more coordinated and persistent efforts of international community are needed, protecting rules-based order, and enabling de-occupation of Crimea by peaceful means
- On 14 January 2021, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled on the admissibility of interstate claims in Ukraine’s case against the Russian Federation No 20958/14 (concerning Crimea).
- Three other cases against the Russian Federation Ukraine brought before the International Court of Justice and the arbitral tribunals under the UNCLOS. The ICJ case is related to Russia’s violations of the conventions for the suppression of the financing of terrorism and elimination of all forms of racial discrimination in Crimea. Arbitral tribunals are considering violations of the rights of Ukraine as a coastal state in the Black and Azov Seas and in the Kerch Strait, as well as illegal detention of 3 Ukrainian naval vessels and 24 members of their crews.
- On 19 April 2017, ICJ by its Order obliged Russia to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis and to ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language. Russia deliberately ignores this Order of the ICJ until today.
- In order to enhance and broaden the response to the occupation of Crimea and other related breaches of international law by the Russian Federation Ukraine has initiated establishment of the Crimean platform – new consultation and coordination format.
- Platform’s final goal is to achieve an eventual de-occupation of Crimea.
The activities of the Platform will focus on 5 priority areas:
- non-recognition policy;
- security, including freedom of navigation;
- effectiveness of sanctions against the aggressor state and their extension;
- international humanitarian law and protection of human rights;
- mitigation of adverse economic and environmental impact.
The inaugural Summit of the Crimean Platform is expected to be held in Kyiv on 23 August 2021.