June 15, 2018

About International Law in the Light of Current Events in the East of Ukraine

The topic “Russia's Violations of the International Law: Consequences for the World”, recently offered for a discussion by the Centre for Russian Studies, is of vital importance not only because of the war on the lands of the Ukrainian East, to which the international community has finally reacted. In the opinion of the organizers of the conference and the overwhelming majority of the present there, the discussion of such a topicshould now be intensified, taking into consideration the events outside Ukraine too. Besides, the long-lasting Russian-Ukrainian confrontation can now be explained in a different way by both, representatives of different strata of the population, especially by the part that is under constant influence among other things, of the “Russian world”, and by foreign analysts who see our problems through the Kremlin's prism. Suffice to quote, as an example, the appropriate phrase that was said at the beginning of the round table: “We should now speak not about violating, but about Russia's destroying international law” in order to understand the current problem of international relations and possible challenges for Ukraine. And from my own point of view: for the sake of clarity it is also necessary to support such attempts “to destroy” with undeniable facts and to name the initiators, who are pathologically annoyed by the Ukrainian statehood.

The themes touched upon were covered by well-known analysts who, in their specialty or official duties, one way or another had to work with international law. These are the head of the Center for Russian Studies Ambassador V. Ohryzko's colleagues and associates: Ambassador S. Korsunskyi, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine, Ambassador O. Kupchyshyn, President of the Ukrainian branch of the International Law Association, Ambassador V. Khandohiy, President of the Ukrainian Foreign Policy Association, Ambassador V. Grebenyuk and others.

Here are the themes of the two panels, on which there was a meaningful discussion: I. “Russia as a Threat to the World Order: History and Present Times”; II. “Possible Ways for Restoring International Law and Order” (Ambassador V. Khandohiy, moderator of both panels).

Each speaker expressed his/her own vision of the problem and ways to resolve them, supported by meaningful examples. Dr. V. Grebenyuk had to tell the present about Russia's ignoring fundamental rules of international law after the Second World War. Such ignoring has, so to speak, its history and is a huge stratum. If just to “touch upon it”, consistently considering, in particular, its “substantiation” a-la the Kremlin, one can depict a peculiar “legal” picture that was characteristic only of the 1/6 of the world, which was the USSR, and now, with some exceptions, of the Russian Federation.

This was reasoned by Professor of International Law, Ambassador V. Vassylenko, whose professional angle of view I always consider indisputable. He proposed to analyze Russian-Ukrainian relations through historical facts. Such as wars inspired by Russia (at least six over the last few centuries); bilateral agreements, signed by Ukraine, but never observed by Russia (from 1918 to 1920 and from 1992 to 2018); the ongoing negotiations on events in the East of Ukraine or the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula (separated from Ukraine through the Crimeans' “voting”).

— We have witnessed the humanitarian destruction of the national identity of Ukrainians”, stressed V. Vassylenko in his speech, — which Russia carries out, inciting and supporting the center of the war on the territory of Ukraine… Imperial syndrome, disregard for international law is the main characteristic of Russia's current behavior. And so far the West has not realized this, nor have some of us…

Of course, I, as the author of these lines, will hardly be able to narrate in detail the Professor's speech, and therefore I advise those interested to search it in the conference materials. But I cannot help mentioning V. Vassylenko's remark that it is wrong to explain hybrid warfare to the modern society as something new in the history of wars.

And at this to confirm that the “hybridity” in wars has always been observed, but its forms differed somewhat as a result of the development of new means of warfare. For example, few today can recall the once very popular Napoleonic phrase: “Give me one newspaper and it will replace a few military units”. Two centuries ago, the French commander understood the killer power of any information (and disinformation), which was confirmed in other wars of the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries. “Ideologists'” attempts to invent such a hybridity today are nothing else but their ignorance, and the desire to say their “new word” about the forms of military confrontation is just an attempt to comfort those who stand behind the scenes and dreams of avoiding responsibility.

Let those who disagree with me, try to explain, for example, why recently (20 years ago to be exact), when there was no such hybridity, it suddenly turned out that our Armed Forces did not need mobile editorial units, typographies and television studios, whose purpose was to be at the front and close to front zones and in combat conditions to informatively and promptly counteract the enemy's “hybrid” lies? The available on warehouses equipment was withdrawn for sale, the practical experience of professionals was considered inappropriate, and therefore, to put it mildly, burdensome (“Who are we going to fight with?”). Even after Ukrainian peacekeepers had participated in combat missions in Iraq, which confirmed the need for such forms of counteraction, appropriate conclusions were not drawn and the work of the relevant units with sufficiently trained specialists was not organized. By the way, during the war in Chechnya and with Georgia, the RF actively studied the experience of such a hybridity, instructions were written for the preparation of information, the practice of spreading which “got tested in live action” at various media levels and was successfully used not only against us, but also on a global scale. The attempts to stick the name “hybrid war” to these processes can be considered as belated justifications of those who for the past two decades had been unprofessionally performing their official duties and unconditionally allowed to give away frequencies of the Ukrainian radio and television space into private hands. But then, this is just one small part of an extremely important topic that needs explanations at the highest state level…


An interesting statement was made on Panel I by the invited to Ukraine Professor of the Kobe Gakuin University Okabe Yoshiko. The guest from Japan originally presented his thoughts to the audience, having printed them in Ukrainian on paper and handing it to each participant and voicing them in Ukrainian. Needless to say, but the Japanese Professor gave a decent lesson on respecting the Ukrainian language.

Of special interest was the Japanese guest's interpretation of the events that took place at the end of the Second World War, in particular, those regarding the territorial dispute that Japan had with Russia. What did he mean? For example, Russians call the Japanese territory captured in 1945 — “Southern Kuril Islands”. To the Japanese, it remains the “Japan's Northern Territories”. If today we follow the Russian habit of such a name, says O. Yoshiko, it will mean recognition of Russian affiliation of the once captured by force Japanese territories, to which the Japanese will never agree. Why? Mr. Okabe explains this: at the end of the Second World War, the USSR violated international law in relation to Japan, having invaded its territory, and thereby ignored the Neutrality Treaty, which it had signed before. And Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RF Mr. Lavrov's all explanations of the reasons for this territory becoming part of Russia have no legal basis. This was emphasized by the Japanese visitor. By and large, this also applies to events in Ukrainian territories, where Russians are trying to create an “autonomous DPR\LPR”.

In view of all the facts set out by Mr. Okabe, we can agree that the Japanese are giving an example of how to defend their paternal land, and believe in their return even after many years, and how not to compromise with the invaders, even if at a certain point it seems logical or appropriate.


Another foreign guest at the event conducted by the Centre for Russian Studies was Doctor T. Grant — Senior Researcher at the University of Cambridge (UK). In his speech, he touched upon the changes in the West's position regarding Russia's violating international law. Such changes themselves mean that in the West, they began to think about the consequences of Russia's violating international law. But now the problem is different: how convincing are the arguments for such a violation, do all in the West support Ukraine in its desire to defend its legal territory and do we, Ukrainians, will not witness legal casualism, which will allow the Russians to escape, at least theoretically, responsibility at the international level for the annexation of the Crimea, for leashing the war in the East of Ukraine?

Examples of such a state of affairs are known even in modern times, and V. Hvozd — President of the “Borysfen Intel” Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies — reminded about this during the discussion. After all, for example, the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia over the Gulf of Piran ended without result. To be exact, after the collapse of Yugoslavia, most of the Gulf did not legally go to Slovenia because its opponent suddenly withdrew from the previously established agreement on the division of Yugoslavia's territories.

V. Hvozd's summery after discussing this issue was as follows: to work at international level on defending the interests of Ukraine and its citizens, our representatives should be prepared comprehensively and thoroughly, and if it comes to a compromise, then without significant concessions or losses. And as a must to take into consideration the legal aspects and practice of international law.

As for the speeches on the Panel II by the Head of the All-Ukrainian Public Human Rights Movement “The Power of Law” by A. Senchenko and Professor of the Kyiv National Linguistic University O. Merezhko, they, of course, also have a relation to the theme, albeit different in directions. Parliament Member of previous convocations A. Senchenko reminded that at least 10 thousand of our citizens killed during the fighting in the East of Ukraine and more than 30 thousand were injured. Ukraine's total losses from Russia's aggression are estimated at 100 billion Euros. The speaker also shared experience of Ukraine's jurisprudence in establishing Russia's international legal responsibility for its crimes against Ukraine, told about the practice of Russians' marauding in the Crimea and the task of the organization headed by him, which provides comprehensive assistance to Ukrainian IDPs. Doctor of Law O. Merezhko in English told the audience about sanctions as an instrument of coercion of Russia for the restoration of international law and order.


In the photos: during the round table of the Center for Russian Studies in the session hall of the Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine

Oleh Makhno

Photo by Volodymyr Rayevskyi