Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.01.2019
Inattentive Western news media have lost interest, but the rules-based international order has not lost track of the Ukrainian Navy sailors who are prisoners of war in the Russian Federation. Both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) called for the release of the POWs.
On January 24, PACE passed a resolution called “The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security.” PACE delegates urged the “immediately release the Ukrainian servicemen and ensure they are granted the necessary medical, legal and/or consular assistance in accordance with relevant provisions of international humanitarian law such as the Geneva Conventions.”
“The Assembly condemns the use of military force by the Russian Federation against Ukrainian warships and their crews,” read the resolution.
PACE unambiguously considers the Ukrainian captives to be prisoners of war entitled to the protections of the Third Geneva Convention. PACE “calls on the international bodies which have competence in the field, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), to visit the Ukrainian servicemen in prison, pending their release, and supports any diplomatic action taken by member States aimed at their release.”
There was a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 25. It should be noted that NATO member and Russian Federation ally Hungary blocks all meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Council.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke to the press after the meeting. Like the PACE delegates, NATO members call on the Russian Federation to immediately release the Ukrainian POWs. Secretary General Stoltenberg said: “The incident in the Kerch Strait, when Russia used violence against the Ukrainian Navy ships, seized ships and sailors, was one of the main talking points at the meeting. The Allies called on Russia to release the sailors immediately as it would be the most effective way to de-escalate the situation and would allow easing the tensions in and around Ukraine, especially in the Black Sea region.”
The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine began with the invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014. Five years later, NATO categorically refuses to treat as legitimate the so-called annexation of Crimea. “Allies made clear that they do not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea. And they called on Russia to immediately release the sailors and ships seized in November,” said Secretary General Stoltenberg at the press conference.
Neither PACE nor NATO propose to take any action when the Russian Federation ignores their resolutions and continues its war against Ukraine.