July 18, 2015

“Do Not Believe Moskal” or How Russia Fulfills Its International Obligations

One of the major problems in resolving the situation in the East of Ukraine is Russia's desire to impose on us its interpretations of the Minsk Agreements in terms of the conditions for the elections in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as giving them a special status within Ukraine.

For example, based on the position of Ukraine, addressing such issues is possible only after Russian troops and weapons have been withdrawn from the occupied territories and our full control over the border with Russia has been restored. But this does not suit Moscow. It demands initial elections in the so-called DPR and LPR and recognition by Ukraine of the self-proclaimed republics as the main prerequisites in resolving the conflict in the Donbas.

That is, V. Putin's regime is trying to formally return the DPR and LPR as part of our state, while maintaining Russia's control over them. And the Minsk Agreements are nothing but a cover for Russia's policy and instruments to implement its plans.

“If Ukraine does fulfill the demands of Russians, this in no way means that Russia will fulfill its promises”

If Ukraine does fulfill the demands of the Russians, (God forbid! This is what they expect!), then this will in no way mean that Russia will fulfill its promises to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories and return them under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. Moreover, Russian troops will for sure stay in the Donbas as a factor of long-term influence on Ukraine, like in Trans-Dniester in Moldova and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.

Russia will never fulfill its promise not to support terrorists in the Donbas in exchange for Ukraine's recognition of the “the Crimea's belonging to Russia” either. After all, such a decision would be considered by Russia as Ukraine's weakness, and would be used for Moscow's further expansion in the Ukrainian direction.

This is confirmed by Moscow's readiness to neglect its obligations, if they do not meet its interests. Russia has always acted like that at the present stage of its historical development, and in the past when it was the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union.

Thus, the first and second Minsk Agreements (respectively in September 2014 and February of this year) have been shamelessly violated by Moscow immediately after the negotiations. Especially cynical attitude was demonstrated by Russia in the latter case, when the offensive of the Russian-terrorist troops in Debaltseve occurred directly during the “Normandy format” meeting with the participation of the leaders of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia. At this, despite the obvious facts, Putin was persuading the negotiators that Russia “is not involved in the events in Donbas”.

Though is it worth discussing here the Minsk Agreements that are of great, but mostly tactical and situational importance for Moscow. By its armed aggression against Ukraine, Putin's regime has violated all the basic principles of international law, the Kremlin's commitments to the international community, as well as the basic principles and agreements between Russia and Ukraine.

This is especially true of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe of July 30, 1975 (the so-called “Helsinki Declaration”), securing the political and territorial results of the Second World War and defining the principles of international relations including the inadmissibility of violation of the borders and territorial integrity of internationally recognized states. The document was signed by 33 countries, including the Soviet Union, the successor of which Russia considers itself. Being entrusted with the obligations of the former Soviet Union did not stop the Kremlin from breaking the border with Ukraine and violating its territorial integrity.

Besides, the actions of the Putin regime against Ukraine are a direct violation of the Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of December 5, 1994. Based on the content of the document, the Russian Federation together with the other guarantor countries guarantees the security and sovereignty of Ukraine in exchange for its abandonment of nuclear weapons. Having occupied today Ukrainian territories, Russia has shown the worth of its “guarantees”.

Even more rudely, Russia has violated bilateral agreements and treaties with Ukraine, not considering them mandatory for compliance. Thus, in accordance with the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine of May 31, 1997 (the so-called “Basic Political Treaty”), the parties must respect the territorial integrity of each other, confirming the inviolability of established borders. But by the annexation of the Crimea, and occupation of a part of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russia has fully crossed out these obligations too.

In particular, capturing the Crimean Peninsula, Russia defied the Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Status and Conditions of Presence of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in the Territory of Ukraine of May 28, 1997. Because the Russian Armed Forces made a commitment to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine, not to interfere in its internal affairs and to respect the requirements of Ukrainian legislation. They pledged to “respect” and “not to interfere”, but such obligations are not worth a brass farthing — the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin himself acknowledged the direct participation of Russian Armed Forces in blocking Ukrainian troops and authorities in the Crimea in the spring of 2014.

Besides, the Kremlin has violated the Agreement between Ukraine and Russia on the Parameters of the Division of the Black Sea Fleet of May 28, 1998. If nothing else, the Russians spitefully captured ships and infrastructure of the Ukrainian Navy, which actually can be equated to an act of piracy, subject to the relevant provisions of international law as one of the most serious crimes.

Similarly, Russia fulfills its obligations in relation to other countries, particularly to Georgia. Back in 1992, Russia provoked the armed conflict in Abkhazia, and then brazenly sent troops into the breakaway republic, allegedly to protect Russian citizens and military facilities there.

Such Russia's intervention did not allow Georgia to resume its rightful control over Abkhazia. A protracted armed conflict began with participation of Russian-Abkhaz armed forces on the one side, and Georgia — on the other. December 15, 1992, under Russia's mediation, Georgia and Abkhazia signed a package of agreements on the cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the zone of conflict. Georgia fulfilled these agreements, unlike Abkhazia, which, supported by Russia, resumed hostilities. The sudden outbreak of hostilities made it possible to Russian-Abkhazian troops till the summer of 1993 to actually block Sukhumi and the grouping of Georgian troops in the surrounding area.

July 27, 1993, again under Russia's pressure and with its mediation, between the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz authorities once again was signed an Agreement on a Ceasefire and Demilitarization of the Conflict Zone. Moreover, unlike the previous case, this Agreement provided for this process to be monitored by international representatives. In this regard, August 24, 1993 the UN Security Council decided to establish a special UN Observer Mission in Georgia.

Unbelievable as it might seem, but the truce was violated again. Because September 16, 1993 Abkhazia's armed units, with the support of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, launched an attack on Sukhumi and Ochamchira. September 27 they captured the city of Sukhumi, and after a few days — the rest of Abkhazia and the adjacent Gali district of Georgia. Over the entire period of the conflict, more than 16 thousand people had been killed.

In 2008, Russia again resorted to such tactics in relation to Georgia, now in South Ossetia. Thus, in early August 2008 the provoked by Moscow aggravation of the situation in the breakaway republic and Tbilisi's attempts to prevent separatists' armed attacks on the local population and Georgian peacekeepers and representatives of law enforcement agencies, were used by Russia as a pretext for the intervention of its troops into Tskhinvali district of Georgia.

Despite the Georgian side's desperate resistance, and thanks to Russia's total military dominance, Russia within seven days occupied the entire territory of South Ossetia and went beyond its limits, having created a real threat to the capital of Georgia — Tbilisi. Besides, Russia seized some territories adjacent to Abkhazia in Zugdidi district of Georgia. It was only through the intervention of the US and EU that the military operations were stopped within the framework of Medvedev-Sarkozy's (the then Presidents of Russia and France) Peace Plan of 12 August 2008.

The document provides for diversion of Russian troops to the line that preceded the outbreak of hostilities. However, Russia again failed to fulfill its obligations and deployed its military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moreover, within the framework of the “creeping expansion” Russia soon pushed off the demarcation line deep into the Georgian territory. It all ended in “freezing” the conflicts on Georgian territory for a long term.

Russia also has not complied with its obligations to the OSCE during the Istanbul Summit of the Organization in 1999, on withdrawal of Russian troops from the Trans-Dniester region of the Republic of Moldova (where Russia in 1991-1992 was also provoked an armed conflict) by the end of 2002. Contrary to the OSCE and Chisinau's demands to withdraw Russian troops from Trans-Dniester, as well as to change the format of the peacekeeping operation to the civil international mission under the auspices of the UN or the OSCE, Russia maintains its military presence on the territory of the self-proclaimed Trans-Dniester region of Moldavian Republic as a factor of pressure on Moldova, and now also on Ukraine.

Thus, Russia's not fulfilling its international obligations, as well as agreements and treaties with other countries, is systemic and is its deliberate policy.

Actually, such a policy can be considered continuation of the policy of the former USSR, which openly disdained the norms of international law to suit its own interests. The most striking example of such actions is the period of expansion of the Soviet Union in the late 1930s. In particular, during the USSR's annexation of the Baltic States, as well as of Eastern territories of Poland and Finland there had been violated:

  • The Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 25 July 1932, which was extended in 1937 until 1945;
  • The Soviet Russia's Peace Agreements with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia of 1920, which had determined Russian borders with the Baltic countries. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia restored their independence only fifty years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991;
  • Finland-Soviet Russia Peace Agreement of 1920, as well as the Non-Aggression Pact between the USSR and Finland of 1932, which was extended in 1936. A part of the Finnish territory is still under Russian occupation.

Vyacheslav Molotov's signing of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939. Left to right: Joachim von Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, Friedrich W. Gauss, Gustav Hilger, Friedrich von der SchulenburgNot always Russia got away with such actions. In June 1941, Moscow's violations of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939, were used by Hitler's regime as a formal pretext to declare war on the Soviet Union.

Despite this, April 5, 1945 Moscow again violated its obligations by denouncing the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 13, 1941. In August 1945, the Soviet Union began fighting against Japan actually without declaring war. The peace agreement between Russia and Japan has not been signed up to now, and the parties still have territorial disputes over the Kuril Islands.

Russia cannot be trusted under any circumstances, especially in matters relating to national security of Ukraine

In general, all of the above-mentioned makes it possible to draw a very important conclusion — Russia should not be trusted under any circumstances and in any case, especially in matters relating to national security of Ukraine.

As once, Hetman Polubotok said: “Never, under any circumstances, believe Moskal! Believing it alone will ruin Ukraine. Moskal will certainly outwit, deceive, and enslave. That is his life, his essence. He is strong with that — cunningness and ruthlessness. Along all our borders must stand iron poles with the inscription: “Do not believe Moskal!”

By the way, in due time the same conclusion was drawn by the Chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck, according to whom (though the quote is snatched out of context): “Agreements with Russia are not worth the paper they are written on”.