CoE’s Report on Ukraine!


Comment améliorer la protection des droits de l’homme !

G8 Summit in Lough Erne

© photocredit

Turkey should close the Dardanelles to Russian shipping. Ankara should close the Turkish straits not only to Russian warships, but to all commercial vessels bound for Russia’s Black Sea ports. The impact on Russia’s economy – and on Putin’s military pretensions – would be considerable. Turkey could turn Putin’s justification for seizing Crimea. And Turkey should be offered an Article 5 guarantee from NATO should Russia seek to intimidate it.

Russia-NATO Council meeting slated for Wednesday in Brussels

EU has no plans to impose sanctions against Russia

Latest news, statements and opinions follow!

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La lutte contre l’impunité et la mise en œuvre de réformes judiciaires sont nécessaires pour améliorer la protection des droits de l’homme

Strasbourg, 04/03/2014 – « Les événements dramatiques qui se produisent en Ukraine depuis novembre 2013 ont mis en évidence plusieurs problèmes graves et persistants relatifs aux droits de l’homme, que le Gouvernement doit traiter et qui concernent, en particulier, l’usage excessif de la force par la police, le manque d’indépendance et d’impartialité du système judiciaire et l’absence de cadre législatif régissant l’exercice de la liberté de réunion pacifique », a déclaré Nils_Muižnieks Nils Muižnieks, Commissaire aux droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe, en rendant public un rapport sur la visite qu’il a effectuée en Ukraine du 4 au 10 février 2014.

Le Commissaire reconnaît que la crise actuelle risque de faire oublier l’urgence de remédier aux insuffisances décrites dans son rapport. Il souligne la nécessité de désamorcer les tensions dans le pays pour que la situation des droits de l’homme s’améliore. A cet égard, il est essentiel que la souveraineté et l’intégrité territoriale de l’Ukraine soient effectivement respectées.

Au moyen d’une analyse indépendante de la situation des droits de l’homme observée jusqu’au 28 février, le rapport vise à proposer une feuille de route destinée à aider les autorités ukrainiennes à traiter les principales questions de droits de l’homme dès qu’un climat pacifique régnera de nouveau dans le pays.

« A l’époque de ma visite, on comptait au moins cinq décès liés à des événements violents et de très préoccupantes allégations d’enlèvements – y compris de personnes hospitalisées – avaient été formulées. Une nouvelle flambée de violence, plus grave encore, a débuté le 18 février 2014 et a fait plus de 80 morts et des centaines de blessés. Les autorités doivent faire toute la lumière sur ces événements et traduire les responsables en justice. Cela est nécessaire non seulement pour que l’Ukraine remplisse ses obligations internationales, mais aussi pour que soient respectées la douleur et la dignité de toutes les victimes et de leurs familles. »

Le rapport du Commissaire évoque de nombreux cas de mauvais traitements physiques de la part de membres des forces de l’ordre – dont des passages à tabac, souvent infligés par l’unité de police antiémeute (Berkut), maintenant dissoute. De plus, nombre de manifestants ont été blessés à la tête ou au visage du fait de l’utilisation de balles en caoutchouc, ce qui montre clairement que la police a fait un usage excessif de la force, qui était complètement inutile et disproportionné pour maîtriser les manifestants, même les individus violents. « Des mesures immédiates doivent être prises pour combattre la torture et les mauvais traitements infligés par des membres des forces de l’ordre ; il faudrait aussi établir des lignes directrices claires limitant l’usage de la force par la police. »

Le Commissaire a reçu des informations faisant état d’une coopération entre la police et des forces auxiliaires (essentiellement constituées de civils, armés de matraques, de battes ou d’armes à feu « traumatiques », et masqués) pour contrôler les manifestations. « Les autorités doivent cesser toute coopération avec des personnes qu’on a fait venir ponctuellement pour rétablir l’ordre lors de manifestations et pour exercer d’autres fonctions de police ; les autorités doivent se démarquer immédiatement de ces groupes. Faire appel à eux entame considérablement la confiance du public dans la police en tant qu’institution neutre dont la mission principale est de faire respecter la prééminence du droit et de protéger les droits et les libertés de toutes les personnes dans le pays. »

Le Commissaire a aussi recueilli de nombreuses allégations selon lesquelles les garanties contre les mauvais traitements ne seraient pas effectives. Des personnes détenues n’auraient pas eu la possibilité d’avertir leurs proches de leur situation et n’auraient pas pu consulter un avocat, et l’obtention d’expertises médico-légales aurait été entravée indûment. De plus, des juges et des procureurs n’auraient donné aucune suite aux plaintes de personnes qui présentaient des blessures visibles et affirmaient avoir subi des mauvais traitements. « Tout cela montre l’urgence d’améliorer l’indépendance et le professionnalisme des magistrats, ce qui permettra aussi de regagner la confiance du public. Il est nécessaire de prendre des mesures fermes et concertées pour réformer le système judiciaire et le protéger ainsi contre toute influence indue. Il est également nécessaire de réformer et de dépolitiser le parquet. Il faudrait établir des procédures claires et transparentes de sélection, de nomination et de promotion des procureurs, y compris du Procureur général, et utiliser comme seuls critères les qualifications et le mérite des candidats. »

Enfin, le Commissaire Muižnieks recommande d’améliorer le cadre applicable à la liberté de réunion. Il invite le Parlement à adopter les dispositions législatives nécessaires, en veillant à ce qu’elles soient conformes aux normes consacrées par la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme.

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Fight against impunity and judicial reforms are necessary to improve human rights protection

Strasbourg, 04/03/2014 – – “The dramatic events that have been unfolding in Ukraine since November 2013 brought to the fore a number of long-standing, core human rights challenges that the Government has to address, in particular as regards the excessive use of force by the police, the independence and impartiality of the judicial system and the lack of a legislative framework governing peaceful assembly”, said Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, releasing a report on his visit to Ukraine carried out from 4 to 10 February 2013.

The Commissioner acknowledges that the ongoing crisis may overshadow the urgency of addressing the shortcomings highlighted in his report. He stresses that, for the human rights situation to improve, it is necessary to defuse current tensions in the country. To this effect, it is crucial that its territorial integrity and sovereignty be effectively respected.
By providing an independent analysis of the primary human rights issues observed until February 28, the report intends to provide a road-map to assist the Ukrainian authorities in addressing core human rights issues as soon as a peaceful climate has regained ground in the country.

“By the time of my visit, at least 5 deaths were linked to the violent events, and there had been some reports of abductions – including from hospitals – which are of grave concern. An even more serious escalation of violence began on 18 February 2014 resulting in over 80 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The authorities must shed full light on these events and bring those responsible to justice. This is necessary not only to meet Ukraine’s international obligations, but also to respect the suffering and dignity of all victims and their families.”

The Commissioner’s report refers to many cases of physical ill-treatment by law enforcement officials – including cases of severe beatings – inflicted in many cases by the now disbanded riot police unit, Berkut. In addition, many protesters were injured in the head or face because of the use of rubber bullets, showing a clear pattern of excessive use of force by the police which was completely unnecessary and disproportionate to control the protesters, including the violent ones. “Immediate action must be taken to combat torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, and clear guidelines limiting the use of force by police should be established”.
The Commissioner received information indicative of cooperation between police and auxiliary forces – mostly ununiformed persons armed with truncheons, bats or “traumatic” firearms and wearing masks – in controlling the demonstrations. “The authorities must stop any co-operation with persons assembled on an ad hoc basis for the policing of demonstrations and other law enforcement functions, and immediately distance themselves from such groups. Reliance upon them greatly undermines public confidence in the police service as a neutral institution whose main function is to enforce the rule of law and to protect the rights and freedoms of all persons in the country.”

Numerous reports about ineffective safeguards against ill-treatment were also received. These concerned a failure to provide an opportunity for detainees to notify relatives of their custody, lack of access to a lawyer and undue obstacles for obtaining forensic medical expert opinions. Inaction of judges and prosecutors in the face of defendants’ visible injuries and allegations of ill-treatment were also reported. “All this shows the pressing need to increase the independence and professionalism of the judiciary, also with a view to regaining public trust. Solid and concerted efforts aimed at reforming the judiciary are needed to protect it from any undue influence. It is also necessary to reform and depoliticise the Prosecutor’s Office. Clear and transparent criteria and procedures for the selection, appointment and promotion of individual prosecutors, including of the Prosecutor General, should be based only on the qualifications and merits of individual candidates.”
Lastly, Commissioner Muižnieks recommends improving the framework governing freedom of assembly, calling on the Parliament to enact appropriate legislation in accordance with the standards enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Source-Nils Muižnieks.

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Latest news, statements and opinions:

Vladimir Putin on the situation in Ukraine

QUESTION: Mr President, I would like to ask (you took a lengthy pause, so we have quite a few questions by now) how you assess the events in Kiev? Do you think that the Government and the Acting President, who are currently in power in Kiev, are legitimate? Are you ready to communicate with them, and on what terms? Do you yourself think it possible now to return to the agreements of February 21, which we all talk about so often?

QUESTION: Mr President, Russia has promised financial aid to Crimea and instructions were issued to the Finance Ministry yesterday. Is there a clear understanding of how much we are giving, where the money is coming from, on what terms and when? The situation there is very difficult.

QUESTION: When, on what terms and in what scope can military force be used in Ukraine? To what extent does this comply with Russia’s international agreements? Did the military exercises that have just finished have anything to do with the possible use of force?

QUESTION: We would like to know more about Crimea. Do you think that the provocations are over or that there remains a threat to the Russian citizens who are now in Crimea and to the Russian-speaking population? What are the general dynamics there – is the situation changing for the better or for the worse? We are hearing different reports from there.

QUESTION: If you do decide to use force, have you thought through all the possible risks for yourself, for the country and for the world: economic sanctions, weakened global security, a possible visa ban or greater isolation for Russia, as western politicians are demanding?

QUESTION: Yesterday the Russian stock market fell sharply in response to the Federation Council’s vote, and the ruble exchange rates hit record lows. Did you expect such a reaction? What do you think are the possible consequences for the economy? Is there a need for any special measures now, and of what kind? For instance, do you think the Central Bank’s decision to shift to a floating ruble exchange rate may have been premature? Do you think it should be revoked?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Fine, let us stop here for now. I will begin, and then we will continue. Don’t worry; I will try to answer as many questions as possible.
First of all, my assessment of what happened in Kiev and in Ukraine in general. There can only be one assessment: this was an anti-constitutional takeover, an armed seizure of power. Does anyone question this? Nobody does. There is a question here that neither I, nor my colleagues, with whom I have been discussing the situation in Ukraine a great deal over these past days, as you know – none of us can answer. The question is why was this done?
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three European countries – Poland, Germany and France – and in the presence of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on February 21. I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr Yanukovych actually handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition’s demands: he agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the opposition. He gave a positive response to our request, the request of western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor demonstrators. Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the occupied administrative buildings, they immediately occupied the President’s residence and the Government building – all that instead of acting on the agreement.
I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the telephone these past few days. What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country? Armed and masked militants are still roaming the streets of Kiev. This is a question to which there is no answer. Did they wish to humiliate someone and show their power? I think these actions are absolutely foolish. The result is the absolute opposite of what they expected, because their actions have significantly destabilised the east and southeast of Ukraine.
Now over to how this situation came about.
In my opinion, this revolutionary situation has been brewing for a long time, since the first days of Ukraine’s independence. The ordinary Ukrainian citizen, the ordinary guy suffered during the rule of Nicholas II, during the reign of Kuchma, and Yushchenko, and Yanukovych. Nothing or almost nothing has changed for the better. Corruption has reached dimensions that are unheard of here in Russia. Accumulation of wealth and social stratification – problems that are also acute in this country – are much worse in Ukraine, radically worse. Out there, they are beyond anything we can imagine imagination. Generally, people wanted change, but one should not support illegal change.
Only use constitutional means should be used on the post-Soviet space, where political structures are still very fragile, and economies are still weak. Going beyond the constitutional field would always be a cardinal mistake in such a situation. Incidentally, I understand those people on Maidan, though I do not support this kind of turnover. I understand the people on Maidan who are calling for radical change rather than some cosmetic remodelling of power. Why are they demanding this? Because they have grown used to seeing one set of thieves being replaced by another. Moreover, the people in the regions do not even participate in forming their own regional governments. There was a period in this country when the President appointed regional leaders, but then the local Council had to approve them, while in Ukraine they are appointed directly. We have now moved on to elections, while they are nowhere near this. And they began appointing all sorts of oligarchs and billionaires to govern the eastern regions of the country. No wonder the people do not accept this, no wonder they think that as a result of dishonest privatisation (just as many people think here as well) people have become rich and now they also have all the power.
For example, Mr Kolomoisky was appointed Governor of Dnepropetrovsk. This is a unique crook. He even managed to cheat our oligarch Roman Abramovich two or three years ago. Scammed him, as our intellectuals like to say. They signed some deal, Abramovich transferred several billion dollars, while this guy never delivered and pocketed the money. When I asked him [Abramovich]: “Why did you do it?” he said: “I never thought this was possible.” I do not know, by the way, if he ever got his money back and if the deal was closed. But this really did happen a couple of years ago. And now this crook is appointed Governor of Dnepropetrovsk. No wonder the people are dissatisfied. They were dissatisfied and will remain so if those who refer to themselves the legitimate authorities continue in the same fashion.
Most importantly, people should have the right to determine their own future, that of their families and of their region, and to have equal participation in it. I would like to stress this: wherever a person lives, whatever part of the country, he or she should have the right to equal participation in determining the future of the country.
Are the current authorities legitimate? The Parliament is partially, but all the others are not. The current Acting President is definitely not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal standpoint. Clearly, he has no power. However, as I have already said, and will repeat: Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate President.
There are three ways of removing a President under Ukrainian law: one is his death, the other is when he personally stands down, and the third is impeachment. The latter is a well-deliberated constitutional norm. It has to involve the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Rada. This is a complicated and lengthy procedure. It was not carried out. Therefore, from a legal perspective this is an undisputed fact.
Moreover, I think this may be why they disbanded the Constitutional Court, which runs counter to all legal norms of both Ukraine and Europe. They not only disbanded the Constitutional Court in an illegitimate fashion, but they also – just think about it – instructed the Prosecutor General’s Office to launch criminal proceedings against members of the Constitutional Court. What is that all about? Is this what they call free justice? How can you instruct anyone to start criminal proceedings? If a crime, a criminal offence, has been committed, the law enforcement agencies see this and react. But instructing them to file criminal charges is nonsense, it’s monkey business.
Now about financial aid to Crimea. As you may know, we have decided to organise work in the Russian regions to aid Crimea, which has turned to us for humanitarian support. We will provide it, of course. I cannot say how much, when or how – the Government is working on this, by bringing together the regions bordering on Crimea, by providing additional support to our regions so they could help the people in Crimea. We will do it, of course.
Regarding the deployment of troops, the use of armed forces. So far, there is no need for it, but the possibility remains. I would like to say here that the military exercises we recently held had nothing to do with the events in Ukraine. This was pre-planned, but we did not disclose these plans, naturally, because this was a snap inspection of the forces’ combat readiness. We planned this a long time ago, the Defence Minister reported to me and I had the order ready to begin the exercise. As you may know, the exercises are over; I gave the order for the troops to return to their regular dislocations yesterday.
What can serve as a reason to use the Armed Forces? Such a measure would certainly be the very last resort. To be continued.

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Reply to the Statement of the Russian Federation on Ukraine at the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council
Remarks
Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

Because Ambassador Kelin’s remarks were intermittently addressed to us, I thought it best to respond immediately to the parallel reality that was presented here to the situation that the vast majority of the rest of the delegations here see in Ukraine.

First and foremost, the assertion that EU nations or the United States “pushed an Association Agreement on Ukraine”: Just to correct the record there, it was President Yanukovich’s own choice to seek association with the European Union. We were at the time supporting the choice of the freely elected government of Ukraine in seeking association with the European Union, but it was very much a European Union project. And it was President Yanukovich who pursued that policy for six months, including seeking some 18 conforming pieces of legislation approved in the Rada, and only one week before Vilnius stepped back from that. So I don’t know how anyone can speak of the United States or anybody else “pushing” that choice on Ukraine.

Second, we were supporters of the February 21st Agreement: We commended the work done by France, Germany and Poland to mediate and negotiate that agreement, with Russia very much in observance, and we would have been prepared to support its completion. But it was President Yanukovich who chose not to sign the first piece of action pursued in the Rada, the changing of the constitution pursuant to the agreement. Not only did he not sign it, but he left the city – he fled the city – packing himself and his family up, and left the seat of the presidency vacant for two days, during which time the democratically elected Rada nearly unanimously voted him out of office, including every single member of his own party turning against him. So, from where we’re sitting, there is no way a person who takes those decisions can be considered still the legitimate leader of his country.

Third, the notion that the current government in Kyiv is “illegitimate”: Yes, the vast majority of representatives in the government are either from a small handful of political parties or from civil society, many of them having never served in government before, and representing broad constituencies across Ukraine. But that is not because this government does not have broad political support across the spectrum and across the country – in fact, the government was voted in with a very, very broad mandate, including from the Party of Regions, from the independents, from the Communists. However, those parties chose not to accept invitations to participate in government; they’ve publicly explained that they want to distance themselves from having to clean up the mess that Yanukovich left, and they want to run on their own platforms in the May 25th election. So, it is incorrect and inaccurate to assert that either nations of the West destroyed the February 21st Agreement, or that the current government is illegitimate – it was elected into office by a very broad mandate from a democratically elected parliament and was the result of President Yanukovich fleeing the scene.

Last point – aggression, intervention, who’s responsible for violence: From where we sit, there is no way to justify a deployment of some six-to-eight thousand troops, all across the Crimean Peninsula, effectively taking operational control of all of the ground of Crimea, including ground troops, airborne troops, tanks. There was no situation on the ground anywhere in Ukraine to justify unilateral military action of this kind. Once you go down the road as an OSCE State of asking your parliament to justify military intervention in anybody else’s country, where does it end?

So, from that perspective, I would like to again reiterate our call that we end this here – that Russia roll back its occupation of Crimea and avail itself of the opportunity to have any concerns it may have with regard to the situation in Ukraine addressed through direct mediation with the government of Ukraine, which all of us would be prepared to support, and/or by taking advantage of international tools like those available in this institution and in the UN.

In my opening intervention, I neglected to mention one key tool that the OSCE has, which is the opportunity to assist Ukrainian authorities – and they have already requested this – with demobilization of irregular forces on the streets of Ukraine and the collecting of weapons. That’s an additional tool that this organization has available. Source.

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The way out of the crisis

What should be done to resolve the crisis in Ukraine? Political leaders from around Europe and the world have had crisis talks for days in order to find the best way to deal with Russia over the divided country and prevent further escalation. We discussed the situation with Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, Germany), chair of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, and Paweł Kowal (ECR, Poland), chair of the delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

How should the EU deal with Russia in order to defuse the current volatile situation?

Knut Fleckenstein

First of all, we insist that Russian troops leave Ukraine, because they are in clear breach of international laws and commitments. Secondly, we have to be prepared to help the interim government reach solutions that reflect the interests of a broad majority of citizens in their country, including people from all parts of Ukraine and of course the Russian speaking Ukrainians.

Paweł Kowal

The most important thing is to stand firmly on the ground of international law and basic facts – Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine and no-one has ever questioned that. Russian forces have breached international and bilateral commitments.

A coordinated and quick response of the EU is needed. Member states, the institutions, the USA, NATO and all other important players on the global scene, which we diplomatically trust, have to send the same message and send it fast to show there’s no place for fait accompli politics in Crimea. If we fail to do so today or tomorrow, we lose our chance.

What could stop Putin from developing the situation in Crimea? Are sanctions enough or should possible expulsion from international organisations be considered? What should Ukraine do?

Knut Fleckenstein

I wouldn’t concentrate on sanctions now. I would concentrate more on the possibilities of diplomacy and dialogue. And we expect the same from Russia. There is however nothing to discuss with Russia concerning their troops in Crimea. They have to leave. It’s now also time for the government in Kiev to show they are prepared to work on a constitutional reform that will find a broad majority. The new government’s policy must be inclusive and should duly take into account the interests of those Ukrainian citizens living in the east and the south-east of the country. There is no solution to the political crisis of the last months that you would call “the winner takes it all”. There is only a solution to the current situation in Ukraine if political decisions reflect the interests of a broad majority of people in Ukraine.

Paweł Kowal

The first step should be strong diplomatic resistance, amplified by the possible expulsion from international organisations or suspension of work of such institutions such as the NATO-Russia Council. If that’s not enough, sanctions targeted at all politicians supporting aggression on a sovereign country should follow.

Ukraine should appeal to international law and state loudly and clearly that we are dealing with a regular occupation of their territory. If they keep silent, Ukrainian authorities might be accused of idleness. Watch Debate

* * *

Ukraine’s Crimea envoy asks EU to move beyond expressing solidarity to action

Boris Tarasyuk, the Ukrainian government’s special envoy for Crimea, told the foreign affairs committee on Monday that Ukraine needed the EU to sign the association agreement as quickly as possible. He called Russia’s action “both intervention and aggression” and voiced his gratitude for MEPs’ solidarity.

“The institutions in place in Ukraine at this moment are legitimate. There is no justification for the military movement that we have seen,” said the foreign affairs committee chair, Elmar Brok (EPP, DE). “I have been in Ukraine recently. We did not see fascists in power. Instead we saw people that are standing up for democracy and civil rights. I saw no indication of discrimination in place against those of Russian ethnic origin.,” he added.

“Russia has now started to prevent the Ukrainian people from realising their dream to become an inseparable part of European society,” said Mr Tarasyuk. “What Russia is doing is both intervention and aggression. This is a special kind of political-military operation,” he continued, stressing that the Ukrainian government gave orders not to shoot and not to provide any provocation.

Association agreement

Replying to MEPs’ questions, Mr Tarasyuk stressed the importance of the European Parliament’s solidarity and the need to sign the association agreement as quickly as possible. As examples of possible EU action, he also mentioned the launch of EU police monitoring missions and the lifting of visa requirements, as well as offering the prospect of possible EU membership.

Sanctions

Responding to MEPs’ questions on sanctions, Mr Tarasyuk argued in favour of imposing them, including economic sanctions on Russia. . He added that sanctions should also target those involved in the decisions to use armed force on the territory of Ukraine.

He also pointed out that Russia pledged to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the “Budapest memorandum” signed with the US and the UK in 1994.

Protection of minorities

Mr Tarasyak told MEPs that national minorities are respected in Ukraine and that there are plans to prepare a new version of the law on minorities. He reminded them that Ukraine is a party to the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and respects its provisions. Watch Debate

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Crimea in the Crosshairs

by Alessandro Bruno – What is unfolding between Ukraine and Russia on the Crimean Peninsula? The answer is ostensibly simple: Russia is defending its interests at the behest of the mostly ethnic Russian population in Crimea. And while there are reports of an imminent Russian invasion, the fact is that Russia already has troops on the ground in Crimea, given that they have leased a major military base in Sevastopol.

The port of Sevastopol serves as the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which oversees maritime operations throughout the Mediterranean. The base is leased through 2042, and the Russian fleet stationed there consists of 380 ships, 170 aircraft, and 25,000 troops. Crimea and Sevastopol in Ukraine represent a powerful means to exert pressure against Russia considering the fact that Moscow views the region as an indispensable strategic asset. In view of the street protests that have brought Ukrainian nationalists into power (not necessarily many ‘democrats’ here), and fearing a similar action on the part of the same political party in Crimea, Russia’s President Putin ordered a general mobilization of the western military region under the guise of ‘emergency exercises’ along with two districts of the central military region. This move masked a de facto preparation for some 2,000 troops to enter Crimea along with a squadron of helicopters. These steps give Russia a rapid response capability in the event that some battalions of the Ukrainian armed forces attempt to reach Crimea – they are also deploying air defense systems already in place at the base.

The arrival and deployment (even partial) of Russian troops has not been followed by shoot-outs with police departments in Crimea, nor has the new government in Kiev issued any orders to its armed forces, which continue to maintain a ‘passive’ attitude. Russia now has effective control of Simferopol, the naval base of Sevastopol, and Balaklava – every airport on the Crimean peninsula. Russian military units also surround regional support facilities for the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as an important air defense base north of Sevastopol.

Full analysis.

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Putin’s Kampf

by Charles Tannock – BRUSSELS – Russia’s seizure of Crimea is the most naked example of peacetime aggression that Europe has witnessed since Nazi Germany invaded the Sudetenland in 1938. It may be fashionable to belittle the “lessons of Munich,” when Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier appeased Hitler, deferring to his claims on Czechoslovakia. But if the West acquiesces to Crimea’s annexation – the second time Russian President Vladimir Putin has stolen territory from a sovereign state, following Russia’s seizure of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in 2008 – today’s democratic leaders will surely regret their inaction.(…)

Putin’s many successes in his imperial project have come virtually without cost. His Eurasian Economic Community has corralled energy-rich states like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan into Russia’s camp. Georgia was dismembered in 2008. Armenia’s government was bullied into spurning the European Union’s offer of an Association Agreement.(…)

Given the scale of Putin’s adventurism, the world’s response must be commensurate. Canceled summits, trade deals, or membership in diplomatic talking shops like the G-8 are not enough. Only actions that impose tangible economic sanctions that affect Russian citizens – who, after all, have voted Putin into power time and again – offer any hope of steering the Kremlin away from its expansionist course.(…)

Which sanctions might work? First,

Turkey should close the Dardanelles to Russian shipping, as it did after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Back then, Turkey closed access to the Black Sea to prevent the US from intervening, though the US, it is now clear, had no intention of doing so. Today, it should close the Turkish straits not only to Russian warships, but to all commercial vessels bound for Russia’s Black Sea ports. The impact on Russia’s economy – and on Putin’s military pretensions – would be considerable. Turkey could turn Putin’s justification for seizing Crimea. And Turkey should be offered an Article 5 guarantee from NATO should Russia seek to intimidate it.

Turkey is permitted to close the Dardanelles under a 1982 amendment to the 1936 Montreux Convention. Indeed, Turkey could turn Putin’s justification for seizing Crimea – that he is protecting ethnic Russians there – against him, by arguing that it is protecting its Turkic Tatar kin, who, given Russia’s ill treatment of them in the past, are anxious to remain under Ukrainian rule.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu turned his plane around in mid-air this week to fly to Kyiv to offer support to the new interim government. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, no pushover himself, as Putin well knows, should follow up on that gesture of support by immediately closing the straits to Russian shipping – until Putin recalls all troops in Crimea to their Sevastopol bases or to Russia proper. And Turkey should be offered an Article 5 guarantee from NATO should Russia seek to intimidate it.

Full analysis.

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