Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.01.2018
On January 19, Ukraine took a solid step to assert its sovereignty and restore its territorial integrity. Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a law “On special aspects of state policy to ensure Ukraine’s state sovereignty in temporarily occupied areas in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.” Before this law, Ukraine had been calling its war of national defence against Russian invasion an “Anti-Terrorist Operation.” With this law, Ukraine is now taking “measures to ensure national security and defence, deterrence and repression of Russian armed aggression.” By calling out Russia as an aggressor state, Ukraine is bringing ‘realpolitik’ into the conduct of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which has been raging in the heart of Europe since Russia invaded Crimea on 20 February 2014. From this ‘Donbas reintegration’ law, Ukraine has put itself on the right footing and into the vanguard of European and indeed all Western democracies to defeat violent aggression from Muscovy.
The draft law describes Russia-invaded and occupied Crimea in the same context as Russia-invaded and occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This is accurate and wise ‘realpolitik.’ It is irrelevant that Russian propaganda asserts that Crimea has been ‘annexed’ to the Russian Federation or that Donetsk and Luhansk are secessionist “People’s Republics.” Those are flimsy lies and no rational policy can be based on them. All Ukrainian territory outside the control of the central government in Kyiv is now correctly recognized as falling under the “occupation administration of the Russian Federation.”
The draft law makes no mention of the Minsk Agreements. It doesn’t need to. The Minsk Agreements are not an international treaty. Minsk does not even come up to the level of being an armistice … and besides, Russia says it is not bound by it. Russia has not codified the Minsk Agreements into law, and has no plans to. Defender Ukraine will continue to respect Minsk ceasefires while aggressor Russia continues to violate them every day with shelling against Ukrainians from Russia-occupied territory. But it would be senseless to codify Minsk in Ukrainian law, while Russia pretends it has nothing to do with them. It would also contradict the accurate recognition that Russia is the aggressor state.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, called the reintegration law “a signal for Crimea and Donbas” that they are part of Ukraine. This needs to be stated in law. And it needs to be stated that Crimea and Donbas are equivalent under the law: Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.
Russia is an aggressor country. Russia is legally responsible for killing and injuring Ukrainians in Crimea and Donbas. Russia is legally responsible for theft and destruction of property of Ukrainian citizens. All acts of the occupation administration of the Russian Federation in Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk are null and void, except for birth and death certificates. Anyone involved in Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine or who supports the Russian occupation administration in Crimea or Donetsk or Luhansk will be held liable for violations of Ukrainian law and international humanitarian law.
Ukraine has not declared war on Russia because doing so would only benefit the Putin regime. Russia invaded Ukraine and occupies parts of it, but Russia hasn’t declared war. Russia is waging a ‘hybrid war’ against Ukraine. For three and a half years Ukraine has been defending itself under the name “Anti-Terrorist Operation” but this is now an unworkable legal construct. With the new reintegration law, Ukraine has found a hybrid defence to Putin’s hybrid war. Ukraine will now conduct its war of national defence by taking “measures to ensure national security and defence, deterrence and repression of Russian armed aggression.” This is perfectly in keeping with international law as it has evolved since the post-Second World War settlement and the creation of the United Nations.
I believe that the reintegration law should have had more in it to win the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign with Ukrainians who live as a captive population under Russian occupation in Crimea and Donbas, and also the ‘internally displaced persons’ from those regions who have been forced to flee their homes and live elsewhere in Ukraine. Ukraine will be whole again when people under occupation welcome liberation and people who are refugees return home. This is a spiritual battle that must be won. It is not a battle that is solely against the Russian aggressors, but also a battle for the feeling of belonging of Ukrainians who have been made victims by Russian aggression.
Ukraine has found a way to mount an active defence against Russia’s hybrid war. Every other Western country should study it. Putin’s War can be stopped, and Ukrainians have shown the world how that can done for the past three years. Now Ukraine has a law which sketches how Putin’s War can be won by the West, and how Russia can be defeated. Ukraine’s reintegration law is a foundation for the liberation of Crimea and Donbas from Russian occupation. Russia is an aggressor state. Russia’s aggression must not stand if Western civilization is to survive. The lies of Putin regime propaganda and the meaningless words of appeasing Western leaders must give way to the truthful, call-it-like-it-is language of the Ukrainians, who are the Europe’s defenders and the vanguard of the West. Ukraine is united and Ukraine will be one.