Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 06.02.2018
Russia is invading Europe in Ukraine and in Georgia. As the de facto occupying power in parts of Ukraine and parts of Georgia, Russia has obligations under international humanitarian law which it must meet. One of these is that Russia cannot compel Ukrainian citizens or Georgian citizens to serve in the Russian army, or pressure them to volunteer. But the foreign invaders from Muscovy are doing precisely that, and they’re even stealing Ukrainian and Georgian citizenship from the captive population to get more cannon-fodder into Putin’s army.
Russian now has a law incorporating armed formations of the Russia-occupied Tskhinvali Region of Georgia into the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Russia invaded Georgia on 7 August 2008, occupied Tskhinvali Region, cut off the territory from the rest of Georgia, and called it “South Ossetia.” Georgian citizens were conscripted, contracted, and urged to volunteer for an army of South Ossetia that is entirely under Russian command and control. Coercing Georgians for military service is a violation of international humanitarian law, being committed by the foreign invader-occupiers from Muscovy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine condemned Russia’s illegal action, issuing a statement on January 29 saying Ukraine ”resolutely condemned the ratification by Russia's State Duma of the so-called agreement on the procedure of the accession of individual military units of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia (occupied Georgian territory) to the Russian Armed Forces." The Ukrainian foreign ministry went on to say: “This new provocative step is a continuation of the Kremlin's policy to destabilize the situation in the Black Sea region and undermine the architecture of European security.”
Ukraine condemned Russia’s violation of international humanitarian law because Ukrainians are the only people forcefully resisting Putin’s aggression against the West: Ukraine is saving Europe in the trenches of Donbas. Ethnic Ukrainians, Ukrainian speakers, and Crimean Tatars are subjected to horrendous abuses by the brutal Russian occupation regime in Ukraine’s southernmost region of Crimea. Crimea and Donbas in Ukraine and Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region in Georgia have the same status: they are temporarily occupied territory under the de facto control of the Russian Federation. What Russia does to the parts of Ukraine it illegally occupies it does to the parts of Georgia it illegally occupies.
The report entitled “Situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol (Ukraine)” by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), issued on 25 September 2017, states: “Since the occupation began, residents of Crimea have been subjected to conscription in the armed forces of the Russian Federation. Until 31 December 2016, military service could only take place on the territory of the Crimean peninsula. Since 2017, conscripts can also be sent to serve on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Russia is violating international humanitarian law in occupied Crimea (Ukraine) and in occupied Tskhinvali Region (Georgia). Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) of 1949 states: “The Occupying Power may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces. No pressure or propaganda which aims at securing voluntary enlistment is permitted.”
More countries than Ukraine need to condemn the wretched crimes that Putin is committing in Tskhinvali Region, Georgia. Ukraine and Georgia have proposed that a new category of sanctions against Russian individuals and entities should be created. War crimes concerning Russia’s invasion of Georgia in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region and grave violations of human rights happening during Russia’s occupation of those regions deserve the same treatment as Ukraine-related sanctions and Magnitsky-type sanctions. Georgia-related sanctions against Russian individuals and entities should stay in place until Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region are liberated.
Russia’s war against the West is total war. Defence against Russian aggression must be broad and deep if democratic peoples are to have any hope in the global war being waged: Putin’s War.