Russian Aggression

Since 20 February 2014 Ukraine has been facing Russian military aggression. As a result of Russia’s hostile actions parts of the sovereign territory of Ukraine (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) (about 44 000 square km or 7% of the territory of Ukraine) are under temporary foreign occupation in violation of the United Nations Charter.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has left over 14 000 people killed and over 30 000 injured. This number also includes 298 passengers on board of MH17 flight, killed as a result of terrorist attack on 17 July 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down from BUK missile system that had been transferred to the occupied territory of Donbas from the Russian Federation. More than 1.43 million residents of Crimea and Donbas are now internally displaced persons after being forced to leave their homes.

Resorting to military aggression against Ukraine, Russia has violated fundamental norms and principles of international law, as well as the UN Charter and Helsinki Final Act (1975). It has also violated a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances related to the Ukraine’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1994); Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation (1997); Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian state border (2003) and many others. Russian temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions fall squarely under the definition of aggression according to paras а), b), c), d), e) and g) Art.3 of the Annex to UN General Assembly Resolution “Definition of Aggression” (3314 (XXIX)).

Diplomatic efforts of the Normandy Four (Ukraine, the Russian Federation (parties to the international armed conflict), France and Germany (mediators)) and the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, the Russia Federation (parties to the international armed conflict) and OSCE (mediator) resulted in signing of Minsk Agreements (Protocol of 5 September 2014, Memorandum of 19 September 2014 and Package of measures of 12 February 2015). They remain the basis for the conflict resolution in Donbas but have been breached by the Russian Federation on a regular basis. It remains a matter of utmost concern that the ceasefire in the conflict area has not been observed. This results in a heavy toll of casualties among the Ukrainian military and civilians.

Since 2014 the UN Security Council has conducted over 40 meetings discussing the issue of Russian aggression against Ukraine. In February 2015 it adopted Resolution 2202 that endorsed the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, calling on all parties (including the Russian Federation) to fully implement them, including a comprehensive ceasefire as provided for therein.

In March 2015, Ukraine requested the Security Council to deploy in its territory a peacekeeping operation under the UN auspices.

A strong voice of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is also a very important element of international pressure to make Russia implement Minsk Agreements and to start de-occupation of Ukrainian territory. On 27 March 2014, UNGA adopted the resolution 68/262 «Territorial Integrity of Ukraine» which reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The UNGA also called upon all States to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.

The same stance was confirmed by UNGA resolutions 71/205, 72/190, 73/263, 74/168, 75/192 “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” as well as 73/194, 74/17, 75/29 “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov”. Besides that, these resolutions unambiguously qualified Russia as an occupying power and urged the Russian Federation to end its temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory without delay.

In September 2018, September 2019, and September 2020 the General Assembly approved the procedural decisions to include an item “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” in the agenda of its 73-75 sessions respectfully. On 20 February 2019 and on 20 February 2020 the General Assembly held its debates on this agenda item. Majority of participating states expressed their unwavering support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. The Russian Federation was urged to abide by international law and to end its ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia was called upon to fully assume its responsibility in regard to implementation of the Minsk Agreements and to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to its proxy armed formations as well as to withdraw its military equipment and personnel from the temporary occupied territories.

Violations of international law by Russia are now being considered by the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the framework of Arbitration proceedings under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, European Court for Human Rights.

On 21 March 2014, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) was deployed, following a request to the OSCE by Ukraine’s government and a consensus decision by all 57 OSCE participating States. The SMM is an unarmed, civilian mission, present on the ground 24/7, with a mandate covering the entire territory of Ukraine. Its main tasks are to observe and report on the situation in Ukraine; and to facilitate dialogue among all parties to the conflict.

In 2014, following Russian armed aggression and massive human rights violations in the occupied areas, Ukraine invited the UN to deploy a human rights monitoring mission with a primary task to “monitor the human rights situation in the country, with particular attention to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine, and provide regular, accurate and public reports by the High Commissioner on the human rights situation and emerging concerns and risks”. HRMMU was deployed on 14 March 2014 to monitor and report on the human rights situation throughout Ukraine, with particular attention to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

Military aggression is just one element of the Russian hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Other elements include: 1) propaganda based on lies and falsifications; 2) trade and economic pressure; 3) energy blockade; 4) terror and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens; 5) cyber-attacks etc.

In response to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine political and economic sanctions were imposed on Russia. The end of Russian military aggression and restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity must remain the only reason for their termination. The joint political and diplomatic efforts of the international community constitute a crucial element in addressing these most flagrant breaches of the UN Charter since the Second World War.

Ukraine also proposes to establish a new consultation and coordination format – the Crimean Platform – to increase effectiveness of the international response to the ongoing occupation of Crimea, to address mounting security threats, to enhance international pressure on the Kremlin to make it change its behavior, to prevent further human rights violations and to protect victims, and to achieve an eventual de-occupation of Crimea and its return to Ukraine.