The humanitarian direction of the Crimean platform

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The constituent summit of the Crimean Platform was held on August 23, 2021 and gathered representatives of 42 foreign states and 4 international organizations. The summit became an important event for Ukraine and the international community, during which the topic of the temporary occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation reached a new level thanks to the signing of the declaration of the Crimean Platform.

At the founding summit of the Crimean Platform, the main work was carried out in the following areas:

  • consolidation of the international policy of non-recognition of any change in the international legal status of Crimea;
  • effectiveness of sanctions, their strengthening and prevention of circumvention;
  • protection of human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • ensuring security in the Azov-Black Sea region and beyond, protecting the principle of freedom of navigation;
  • overcoming the negative environmental and economic consequences of the occupation.

It is these areas that stand out as the main ones in the work of the Crimean Platform. In the article “Crimean Platform: On the Way to the II Summit” a proposal was formulated regarding the need to update the agenda of the Crimean Platform. Without undermining the importance of the already outlined areas of activity, this list cannot be considered exhaustive. Its significant shortcoming is the lack of a separate humanitarian direction, which would cover a wide range of issues and highlight the purposeful policy of the aggressor state aimed at destroying Ukrainian identity in Crimea.

Crimean platform and expert network

At the moment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has not presented a detailed description of issues that would relate to each of the identified areas of activity of the Crimean Platform. Quite obvious are the areas of issues following the following tracks: consolidation of the international policy of non-recognition of any change in the international legal status of Crimea; effectiveness of sanctions, their strengthening and prevention of circumvention; ensuring security in the Azov-Black Sea region and beyond, protecting the principle of freedom of navigation; overcoming the negative environmental and economic consequences of the occupation. In these cases, the name itself serves as a sufficient guide, although the need for detailing the priorities certainly remains.

However, the question is raised by the track “protection of human rights and international humanitarian law”, which is so broad that it seems almost impossible to hope to fully reveal all its individual elements. This direction may contain a significant number of issues: from the persecution of journalists to the militarization of education; from persecution of religious organizations to violation of property rights and more. In this case, it is inevitable and logical to define priorities within this track by making discretionary decisions by Ukrainian officials (which will mean bracketing many important issues).

Another point of view for assessing the activities of the Crimean Platform in general is the expert network of the Crimean Platform, which consists of several working groups. Each working group deals with a certain range of issues, which, one can logically assume, should be represented in the activities of the Crimean Platform. There are seven such groups of the expert network of the Crimean platform:

  • policy of non-recognition and sanctions;
  • human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • safety track;
  • cultural heritage;
  • humanitarian policy;
  • ecology and economy;
  • restoration of the rights of indigenous peoples as a tool for the de-occupation of Crimea.

Each of the areas of the Crimean platform currently defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is covered by the activities of the relevant working group of the expert network, namely:

  • directions of the Crimean platform “consolidation of the international policy of non-recognition of any change in the international legal status of Crimea” and the effectiveness of sanctions, their strengthening and prevention of circumvention – by the working group of the expert network “policy of non-recognition and sanctions”;
  • the direction of the Crimean platform “protection of human rights and international humanitarian law” – by the working group of the expert network “human rights and international humanitarian law”;
  • the direction of the Crimean platform “ensuring security in the Azov-Black Sea region and beyond, protecting the principle of freedom of navigation” – by the working group of the expert network “security track”;
  • the direction of the Crimean platform “overcoming the negative environmental and economic consequences of the occupation” – by the working group of the expert network “ecology and economy”.

Thus, four of the seven spheres of activity of the working groups are represented in the directions of the Crimean platform. Three remain unrepresented: humanitarian policy, cultural heritage and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples. These directions, one can assume, were designed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be constituent elements of the “protection of human rights and international humanitarian law” track. However, as noted above, this situation means that important issues such as: politically motivated persecution, violations of the right to a fair trial, the right to access to information, the persecution of lawyers and human rights defenders, and much more, are bound to be neglected in this too wide track.

It is worth noting that despite the absence of a separate issue of “respecting the rights of indigenous peoples” in the areas of activity of the Crimean Platform, this issue was present at the founding summit of the Crimean Platform on August 23, 2021. Thus, one of the four panel discussions was on the topic: “Restoration of the rights of the Crimean Tatar people.” This is evidence of a separate presentation of this topic in the activities of the Crimean Platform; probably as a priority – within the framework of the direction “protection of human rights and international humanitarian law”. In addition, significant attention is paid to the issue of restoring the rights of indigenous peoples both on the domestic Ukrainian platform (the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine”, Decree of the President of Ukraine No. 78/2021 dated 26.02.2021, which provides for the development of a strategy for the development of the Crimean Tatar language for 2022-2032 ; approval of the alphabet of the Crimean Tatar language based on Latin graphics, etc.) and the international arena.

The same cannot be said about two thematic areas that need significant updating in the domestic and international arenas, and also remain significantly underrepresented in the activities of the Crimean Platform: humanitarian policy and cultural heritage.

The sixth track of the Crimean platform

Despite the distribution of humanitarian policy and cultural heritage in the work of the expert network of the Crimean Platform, we consider it expedient to combine them and create a single track of the Crimean Platform – humanitarian policy. Combining these issues within one track of the Crimean Platform can be considered appropriate, since the sphere of culture and, accordingly, cultural heritage is an integral part of humanitarian policy. Moreover, the destruction of the cultural heritage of Ukraine in the occupied Crimea is one of the elements of the systemic policy of the aggressor state to erase the Ukrainians of Crimea from the past and present of the peninsula.

In general, the following issues can be outlined within the framework of the humanitarian direction of the Crimean Platform:

  1. Restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language in public space on the territory of the occupied Crimea, despite giving it the status of “state” on a par with Russian and Crimean Tatar.
  2. Impossibility of obtaining an education in the Ukrainian language, the study of the Ukrainian language and literature, and the history of Ukraine in the educational institutions of the occupied Crimea. Thus, according to Taras Kremin, Commissioner for the Protection of the State Language: “In 2021, there is officially only one school in Crimea with the Ukrainian language of instruction No. 20 in the city of Feodosia, where children study up to the 9th grade using the Ukrainian language. Previously, this school was named after Olena Teliga, but after the occupation it was renamed. But in essence, there is no Ukrainian language there, because there are no teachers of the Ukrainian language and literature, because services in the Ukrainian language are not provided to those seeking education. Students of grades 10-11 do not have the right to learn Ukrainian, although it is declaratively declared one of the official languages ​​in the “Republic of Crimea”[1].
  3. Changing the demographic composition of the population of the peninsula by: forcible deportation of Ukrainian citizens, creation of unacceptable conditions of stay in the territory of occupied Crimea for certain groups of society, stimulation of resettlement of civilians of the Russian Federation, placement of a significant number of Russian military personnel, law enforcement officers, officials and their family members.
  4. Persecution of the Crimean Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which actually remains the only center of Ukrainian public life in Crimea. By 2014, about 49 religious communities could be counted on the territory of the peninsula, and after 8 years of occupation, only 7 remained. Most of the clergy left the territory of the peninsula, and only four continue their activities under occupation.
  5. Persecution of Ukrainian activists and journalists, which began from the very beginning of the Russian occupation on February 26, 2014. Such actions are aimed, firstly, at depriving the Ukrainian movement in Crimea of ​​an active part capable of leading the process of self-organization of Ukrainians and resistance to the Russian occupation, and, secondly, at becoming a clear example of the consequences of expressing a pro-Ukrainian position on the peninsula.
  6. Destruction of objects of cultural heritage of Ukraine. According to Serhii Mokreniuk: “The main forms of violations of the use of cultural heritage that we recorded in the occupied Crimea are the destruction of monuments, expropriation of property or forced deprivation of property, illegal archaeological excavations, and the export of artifacts obtained as a result of archaeological excavations outside Crimea , as well as non-compliance with the requirements of international humanitarian law on the provision and protection of monuments in the occupied territory»[2]. Among the most famous examples of destruction and inappropriate restoration: Tavrian Chersonesus, Sudak Fortress, Chembalo Fortress, Khan’s Palace, Genoese defensive structures in Feodosia, almost a hundred monuments destroyed during the construction of the highway, etc.
  7. Destruction of places of memory and cultural centers of Ukrainians in Crimea, for example: preventing events near monuments to T. Shevchenko, dismantling the monument to Hetman P.K. Sahaidachny in Sevastopol, renaming the Ukrainian Academic Music and Drama Theater to the so-called “State Academic Theater of the Republic of Crimea” and liquidation of Ukrainian-language performances; closure of the Lesya Ukrainka museum in Yalta, etc.
  8. Lack of access to Ukrainian mass media in connection with the actions of the aggressor state. This is manifested both in the blocking of the signal of Ukrainian TV and radio channels, news online publications, and in the clearing of the information space of the peninsula along with the persecution of independent journalists. Thus, according to the information posted on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine: “Of the 3,000 mass media registered in Crimea before the occupation, only 232 were able to overcome the re-registration procedure. Since the beginning of the occupation, human rights defenders have recorded more than 300 violations of journalists’ rights” [3].
  9. The creation of Ukrainian national and cultural autonomies on the territory of the occupied Crimea under the control of the aggressor state, which, according to Andriy Ivanets: “are to a large extent simulacra of the civil society institutions of the ethnic Ukrainians of Crimea”[4] and an attempt to control and level any manifestations of Ukrainian cultural life on the peninsula.

All the above issues are elements of the system policy of the occupying state to destroy the Ukrainian identity on the territory of the occupied Crimea. And this should be the main theme of the humanitarian track of the Crimean Platform.

The question of the destruction of Ukrainian identity in the international arena

Various aspects of human rights violations in occupied Crimea are constantly mentioned in international documents. But the question of the purposeful policy of the occupying state regarding the destruction of Ukrainian identity is extremely rare and only anecdotal, without revealing the basis and consequences of such actions. Although, it must be emphasized that even in such documents, there is a slow, but a shift towards full recognition of one of the main goals of the aggressor state – the destruction of the Ukrainian community in Crimea. For example, the resolution of the UN General Assembly “Situation with human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (December 16, 2020) contains only brief references to this:

  1. (The General Assembly) is deeply concerned about the restrictions faced by Ukrainians, including Crimean Tatars, in the exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to work, as well as the ability to preserve their identity and culture and to be educated in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages ;
  2. (The General Assembly) condemns all attempts by the Russian Federation to legitimize or normalize the attempted annexation of Crimea, including the automatic granting of Russian citizenship, illegal election campaigns and voting, changing the demographic structure of the Crimean population, and suppressing national identity.
  3. Instead, in the resolution of the UN General Assembly “Situation with human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (December 16, 2021), in addition to the above, there is an additional statement that reveals in more detail the issue of the destruction of Ukrainian identity in Crimea:
  4. condemning reports of the destruction of cultural and natural heritage, illegal archaeological excavations, illegal transfer of cultural values ​​and persecution of religious traditions, thereby purposefully erasing Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar cultural identity from the ethno-cultural landscape of Crimea.

This can be considered one of the indicators that the international community is gradually forming a systemic vision regarding the ethnocide of Ukrainians on the territory of the peninsula. However, such changes in perception are too slow and threaten that the final point of understanding will be reached after the fact, after the occupying state has achieved most of its goals for the Ukrainian community. Such a situation requires Ukraine to take proactive measures, the goal of which will be the formation of an international consensus regarding the policy of the aggressor state aimed at the ethnocide of Ukrainians in Crimea and, accordingly, the development of steps to counter such policy. The launch of the sixth direction of the Crimean platform will serve precisely this purpose – the formation of a comprehensive vision regarding the policy of the aggressor state by analyzing the situation on the territory of the occupied Crimea in various areas, developing proposals for countering such policy and promoting the relevant agenda at the international level. Thus, the Crimean platform can become an important platform, thanks to which the issue of systematic persecution of the Ukrainian community in Crimea will gain wide publicity.

Ivan KRIMSKY

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[1] https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-crimea/3193926-pravozahisniki-na-timcasovo-okupovanih-teritoriah-znisuetsa-ukrainska-mova.html

[2] https://voicecrimea.com.ua/main/articles/kulturna-spadshhina-ukraїni-v-krimu-poshkodzhennya-ta-znishhennya.html

[3] https://mfa.gov.ua/timchasova-okupaciya-ar-krim-ta-m-sevastopol

[4] Expert-analytical report “Community of ethnic Ukrainians of Crimea under Russian occupation as of 2020: discrimination, self-preservation potential and supporting actions of Ukraine”, Andriy Ivanets, 2021.

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Implemented within the project “Information Platform” Voice of Crimea. Culture “- about Crimea honestly, qualitatively, actually” with the support of the Media Development Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the US government.

 

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