Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 26.09.2017
Crimea is Ukraine. Crimea is a peninsula of Ukraine jutting out into the Black Sea, where Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Germans, Jews, Armenians and others have lived in peace with each other for centuries. When it comes to foreign powers, that’s a different matter. The latest foreign plague to descend upon Crimea is once again Muscovy. The Russian Federation invaded this part of Ukraine in 2014 and imposed a brutal occupation regime. In Crimea, peaceful Ukrainian civilization has had to give way - temporarily - to the barbarism of “Russkiy Mir” (the Russian World), which has made Crimeans once again the subjects of a foreign occupying power.
In Resolution 68/262, “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, adopted on 27 March 2014, the United Nations General Assembly gave voice to the international community, and its outrage at what Russia had done in Crimea. The UN condemned the so-called referendum that the Muscovy invaders said had been held in Crimea, and condemned the so-called annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation that the Muscovy invaders said had occurred. On the diplomatic front, Russia failed completely to erode the principle that Crimea is Ukraine.
On 25 September 2017, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report documenting extensive “grave human rights violations” by the Russian occupation regime. The OHCHR tore apart all Russian claims to legitimacy in Crimea, and exposed the descent into barbarism that life for the captive population of Crimea has become.
The Russian invaders and occupiers stole Ukrainian citizenship from Crimeans. In 2014, Ukrainians were deprived of their right to vote in Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections, and they were made to participate in the made-for-TV propaganda spectacle of a ‘referendum’ instead. The OHCHR points out that Ukrainians in Crimea are being forced to swear allegiance to a foreign power, which is forbidden under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The illegal policy of ‘passportization’ by the Muscovy invaders is a directed attack against ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Crimean Tatars, and any Ukrainian patriot or activist in a part of Ukraine that Russia happens to control. “Education in the Ukrainian language has almost disappeared from Crimea,” notes the OHCHR. Everything Ukrainian – language, culture, history, law, citizenship, religion, symbols, national feeling, family ties – is being brutally attacked by the foreign invaders of Crimea from Muscovy.
Ukrainians in Crimea are subject to arbitrary arrests and detentions, have been abducted and ‘disappeared,’ have been ill-treated and tortured in captivity, and the Russians are again using punitive psychiatry as they did in Soviet Union times. The OHCHR documented at least one case of extra-judicial execution. Hundreds of prisoners, captives, and hostages of the Russians have been transported out of Ukraine (Crimea) to the Russian Federation. The OHCHR condemns this practice, as it is “strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law.” Ill-treatment of detainees by the Russians includes denial of medical treatment; at least three people have died as a result of this barbaric practice. Occupiers are obliged under international humanitarian law to respect the existing law of the occupied territory, but the Russians have committed another crime by replacing Ukrainian law with Russian Federation law in Crimea. Ukrainian rule of law has been replaced by Russian rule by law, and there is no longer “the right to liberty and security of the person and space for the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms” in Crimea.
There are many examples of the brutality of the Russian occupation regime. On September 22, one of their illegally constituted courts passed a two and a half year suspended sentence against journalist Mykola Semena for saying that Crimea is his home and his home is Ukraine. He was saying what the UN General Assembly said, but foreigners from Muscovy invaded and made that a crime. On August 4, the occupation regime sentenced Volodymyr Balukh to three years and seven months of captivity for flying a Ukrainian flag over his home in Ukraine, and for refusing to renounce his Ukrainian citizenship. On September 11, after a sham trial that presented no witnesses or evidence against him, Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz was sentence to eight years in a penal colony by the invader-occupiers of Ukraine’s southern peninsula. He was ‘convicted’ over a protest that took place on 26 February 2014 in Simferopol, one day before Russian special forces seized the parliament building of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. These are three cases which shock moral conscience. There are many more. In each case of abuse, Russia is brutally cracking down on any demonstration of the natural affection Ukrainians have for Ukraine. In each of them, Russia is committing a gross violation of human rights.
The OHCHR says that the “actions highlighted in the report have taken place in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.” Russia is the de facto occupying power is obliged under international law to show a duty of care to the captive population of Crimea. Russia is showing a gross and deliberate negligence of care. Russia is an outlaw.