December 11, 2017

The Hague Tribunal will not be idling…

December 6, 2017, “by popular demand”, the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin made an official statement regarding his participation in the country's presidential elections in March of the next year. Thus, the recent date's “most exciting intrigue” about the main candidate for the position of the head of the Russian state was resolved.

Against this background, quite illustrative was Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague F. Bensauda's annual report on the results of the preliminary investigation into the events in Ukraine during the Revolution of Dignity, annexation of the Crimea and the beginning of Russia's aggression in the Donbas. The report confirms the participation of regular Russian troops in the occupation of the Crimean peninsula in February–March 2014, and also for the first time recognizes the fact of direct military confrontation between the armed forces of Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas since July of that year. From this it is concluded that simultaneously with the internal conflict in the East of Ukraine there is an international armed conflict.

The conclusion is of a fundamental nature and means a decisive step forward in revealing the crimes of the Putin regime compared with the previous report of December 4, 2016, which only indicated the consideration by the Office of the Prosecutor of Ukraine's statement that the Russian Federation exercised and exercises general control over armed groups in the Donbas. This confirms the tendency towards the world community's more complete and adequate understanding of Russia's real role in provoking and maintaining the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine.

An evidence of such a tendency was also the support by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on November 14, 2017 to the draft resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine”. The document calls on Russia to fully and immediately comply with the ruling of the International Court of Justice of April 19, 2017 on interim measures in the case concerning the application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (in the suit of Ukraine against the Russian Federation in January of this year).

In particular, the resolution of the International Court includes demands for Russia to immediately put an end to violations and harassment of human rights in the Crimea, including to cancel the decision on considering the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people an extremist organization and prohibiting its activities, and to ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages. Besides, the draft resolution of the UN General Assembly condemns Russia's illegal establishment of laws, jurisdiction and governance in the occupied Crimea, and also demands to release Ukrainian political prisoners and let international human rights monitoring missions unhindered access to the Crimean peninsula.

The UN General Assembly draft resolution on the Crimean issue is the development of the document under a similar title, adopted by the General Assembly on December 19 last year, where for the first time at the level of the United Nations has recognized Russia as the occupant.

All this creates additional grounds for the International Court of Justice to recognize the fact of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine and its direct military intervention in the conflict in the Donbas. In turn, the International Court's positive decision on this issue will enable introduction of the United Nations' international sanctions against Russia (including its exclusion from the Security Council), as well as bringing to the International Court of the leadership of the Russian Federation, including Putin, as war criminals.

Taking into consideration the above-mentioned circumstances, the recognition by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of the fact of the invasion of Russian troops in the Donbas is another demonstration of the firmness of the West's intentions to punish the ruling elite of Russia for the attack on Ukraine and other war crimes, including in Syria. At this, while earlier demonstrative blows were inflicted on individual representatives of the Russian authorities (the arrest in France of Russian senator S. Kerimov for tax fraud and the inclusion of Chechnya's leader R. Kadyrov in a criminal case concerning the attempt of the coup in Montenegro in autumn of 2016), now such a blow is actually inflicted on Putin himself.

Incidentally, the United States, through its representatives in the UN — Samantha Power and Nikki Haley, in the OSCE — Kate Byrnes and Special Representative of the US Department of State for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, have repeatedly expressed their having no doubts about the Russian troops' participation in the armed conflict in the Donbas. At this, the areas occupied by Russia in Donetsk and Luhansk regions were called “the only territories of Ukraine where the rights of the Russian-speaking population are violated”.

By the way, the United States, Europe and their partners do not limit their attention to the RF leadership alone, but apply a wide range of pressure measures to the Russian Federation in many spheres. In particular, last week the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspend the Russian team from participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018. “Clean” athletes will be able to compete under a neutral flag. All the officials of the Russian Ministry of Sport have also been denied accreditation at the Games.

Just think how great the beginning of all that was at the Olympics in Sochi in February 2014 on the eve of the Putin regime's armed aggression against Ukraine, when Russia was still perceived in the world as a civilized state capable of constructive international relations.