Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 25.04.2018
No more “pro-Russian separatists.” Russia is invading Ukraine, and Crimea and Donbas are territories temporarily under the effective control of the Russian authorities.
Europeans are finally waking up to the true nature of the war in Ukraine: it is Putin’s war; it is Russia’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas. On April 24, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution to describe territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are not government-controlled territories as “territories temporarily under the effective control of the Russian authorities.” Until now, diplomatic language made a distinction between Russian aggression in Crimea and Russian aggression in Donbas. But PACE is now using the same language to describe both campaigns of Putin’s War. Territories not under Ukrainian government control in Crimea and part of Donbas are integral parts of Ukraine that are improperly under Russian administration.
Until now, Russia has been effective in getting its propaganda across. Russian propaganda claims a so-called ‘annexation’ took place in Crimea and it claims that there is a ‘pro-Russian separatist rebellion’ in Donbas. Some Western media and politicians have picked up on the Kremlin’s “Big Lie” language, and speak about a ‘crisis in Ukraine.’ Russia also has been effective in disconnecting sanctions that were imposed on individuals and entities from their cause, which was the participation of those individuals and entities in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea and Donbas.
Ukraine has consistently demonstrated the falsehood of Russian propaganda. Whether it is happening in Crimea or in Donbas, Russian aggression against Ukraine is a violation of international humanitarian law. This is what Ukraine told PACE, when its delegation notified the Secretary-General of “ongoing armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, together with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed both by regular Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and by the illegal armed groups guided, controlled and financed by the Russian Federation.”
PACE dropped the vague formulation “uncontrolled by government territories” and adopted the accurate “territories temporarily under the effective control of the Russian authorities.” This is support and vindication for Ukraine. On January 19, Ukraine passed a “Donbas reintegration law” which recognized Russia as an aggressor. The legal status of territories outside the control of the central government in Kyiv is defined as “occupation administration of the Russian Federation.” Russia is the occupying power. Ukraine said it; now the Council of Europe’s legislative body is saying it.
It is maddening almost beyond endurance that some of the Western media still uses the phrases “pro-Russian separatists” and “crisis in Ukraine” to describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the temporary occupation of Crimea and Donbas by Russian authorities. In the early stages of Putin’s War it may have been excused by ignorance and weakness in the face of forceful Russian propaganda. But its been over four years since Russian Spetsnaz seized the regional parliament building in Simferopol, Ukraine: there is no longer any excuse. Only a Kremlin propagandist says “pro-Russian separatist”; a reporter talks about Russian armed forces consisting of regular and irregular troops. Only a Kremlin propagandist says “rebel-held territories”; a reporter talks about territories temporarily under the effective control of Russian authorities.
At last Russia’s occupation of Crimea and Donbas is recognized on equal terms. With this honest perspective, the journey to liberation from foreign Russian invaders and to restoration of peace in Europe can truly begin.