Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 09.11.2018
It has taken four and a half years, but the West’s language finally has caught up with reality. Russia is at war with Ukraine. The Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in 2014, occupying Crimea and part of Donbas. Putin’s invasion-occupation army has been attacking Ukrainian defenders and civilians in eastern Ukraine non-stop, from April 2014 to today. There is an international war raging in the heart of Europe, and Russia is to blame for it.
On November 8, the Treasury Department in the United States introduced new sanctions against Russian individuals and entities that are committing war crimes in Putin’s War. The press release announcing the new sanctions was titled: “Treasury Sanctions Officials and Targets Supporting Russia’s Occupation of Crimea and Forcible Control of Eastern Ukraine.” This language is a welcome departure from previous announcements from Western governments, which have spoken about a “conflict in Ukraine” as if the Russian Federation were not the cause and the sustaining force of that conflict.
Serious human rights abuses have been committed by these Russians and Kremlin-backed entities in Russian-invaded and occupied Ukraine:
Andriy Sushko, a Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) agent, abducted a Crimean Tatar and tortured him in 2017. Andrea Sushko is sanctioned as an individual (the FSB is already sanctioned as an entity).
Aleksandr Basov is a member of the Kremlin-created “Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR)” terrorist organization. As head of a so-called “Ministry of State Security” Basov punishes and harasses members of Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations and other members of the captive population seen as pro-Ukrainian. Aleksandr Basov and the Ministry of State Security of the so-called “LPR” are both sanctioned.
The US, to its credit, never says that Crimea has been annexed by the Russian Federation. Annexation is merely an illegitimate Russian claim. The Treasury Department refers to “Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea.”
Eight entities and one individual – the owner of Infrastructure Projects Management Company, Vladimir Zaritsky – are sanctioned under Executive Order 13685 for operating in Russian-invaded and occupied Ukrainian Crimea.
Breaking allied unity in the face of Russian aggression, for the past two years the European Union and Canada have failed to match US sanctions and failed to put meaningful pressure on the invaders of Ukraine from Muscovy.
On November 8, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress called on the Government of Canada to match US sanctions “in response to Russia’s continuing malign activity and destabilizing behaviour.” To its great shame, Canada has failed to take any action against Russian war criminals or the entities responsible for Putin’s War since November 2016. The least that Canada could do is to close loopholes in the Western sanctions regime, and match the US Treasury Department measures announced on November 8. Otherwise, Canada is a soft target for Russian war criminals, who can use Canadian appeasement to circumvent US sanctions.
Canada has failed to sanction officials responsible for the conduct of the illegal presidential election of the Russian Federation in Ukraine’s Crimea that was held on 18 March 2018. Canada has failed to implement any sanctions under its Magnitsky law for the gross abuse of human rights by Russian officials in Ukraine – not even against the abductors and torturers of Oleh Sentsov, Pavlo Hryb, and over 70 other Ukrainian prisoners of conscience.
The US deserves credit for “calling a spade a spade” and using correct language to describe Russia’s occupation of Crimea and forcible control of eastern Ukraine. There is no “conflict in Ukraine” apart from the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine.
The US deserves credit for keeping up the pressure of expanded sanctions against Russian war criminals as well as the bodies, companies, and organizations that deny Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. The EU and Canada should match US sanctions. There can be no let down of Western resolve until Putin’s War is stopped and Crimea and Donbas are liberated – until Ukraine is free.