THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMEA PLATFORM: ON THE WAY TO II SUMMIT

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The inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform, which took place in Kyiv on 23 August 2021 and gathered delegates from 42 countries and four international organizations, is without exaggeration a historic event for Ukraine. The summit became the largest high-level international event in the history of Ukraine and demonstrated that Ukraine is capable of shaping the agenda and acting as an engine for addressing issues of importance to the entire international community.

According to its ideologues, the Crimea Platform should become not a one-off outcome, but a full-fledged international format aimed at the de-occupation of Crimea. As we described in the article “Declaration of the Crimea Platform”, its main achievement is the attempt to create a mechanism for permanent cooperation of partner states on the de-occupation of Crimea.

The inaugural summit and the signed declaration proved to be an important achievement. Yet, the organization of the constant cooperation between the signatory states and giving the next summits of the Crimea Platform effect and substance remains a significant challenge.

At the inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform, the main work continued in the following areas:

  • the policy of non-recognition of the attempt to annex Crimea;
  • the sanctions policy;
  • security of the Azov-Black Sea region;
  • human rights and international humanitarian law;
  • economic and environmental consequences of the occupation.

At the moment, there is a question of further developing the activities of the Crimea Platform and holding the next summit. In our opinion, it is necessary to update the agenda of the Crimea Platform. For example, the security of the Azov-Black Sea region should be discussed more effectively in a format involving one or more partners who have the opportunity to change the balance of power in the Azov-Black Sea region.

Below is a list of areas in which activities under the Crimea Platform may focus in the near future. This will envisage taking proactive measures by Ukraine with the support of international partners.

The Sanctions Policy

Sanctions policy together with the policy of non-recognition are the main directions of Ukraine’s cooperation with partner states. This is understandable because these areas have an international dimension and Ukraine will not be able to achieve significant results in these areas without the active involvement of partner states. It is important to emphasize that without the renewal of domestic sanctions procedures, the issue of increasing the effectiveness of international sanctions against Russia will be significantly complicated.

Unfortunately, international and foreign experience in the application and administration of sanctions procedures have been neglected by domestic legislators in 2014, when the Law of Ukraine “On Sanctions” was adopted. In a situation where Ukrainian diplomats are trying to increase international pressure on Russia, the archaic and ineffective Ukrainian sanctions procedures and the use of sanctions lists to protect the business interests of individuals at least demonstrates the inconsistency of the Ukrainian government’s actions and their attempts to “have others pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them“. This can be confirmed by many testimonies that during meetings with representatives of foreign partners, Ukrainian officials have repeatedly heard something like: “What kind of strengthening of sanctions by Western countries can we talk about if Ukraine itself is still cooperating with Russia in many areas and tolerates the work of Ukrainian companies in occupied Crimea”.

Activities under the Crimea Platform may increase sanctions pressure on Russia for several reasons:

  • The realities of the political mentality show that “windows of opportunities” for the implementation of important initiatives in Ukraine open either under significant motivational impulses of international partners or on the threshold of important dates and events. Thus, the Crimea Platform has significant motivational potential for the long-awaited revision of Ukrainian sanctions legislation. At the moment, there are several alternative options for improving the sanctions policy, for example, the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Sanctions” on the Implementation of Sanctions; the Draft Law on National and International sanctions.
  • In addition, a separate version of the improvement of the sanctions mechanism is being developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine by Oleksiy Makeyev, Special Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Sanctions Policy. For a number of reasons, the optimal way is to create a single center responsible for Ukraine’s sanctions policy. The sanctions policy is an important element in countering the armed aggression of the Russian Federation and directly affects the national security of Ukraine. In this regard, the future single center of sanctions policy should be incorporated into the presidential vertical. It can be assumed that such a center could be set up within the National Security and Defense Council.
  • The coordination mechanism established to ensure harmonization of the actions of the signatory states of the Crimea Platform Declaration is very important for strengthening coordination between Ukraine and partner states. This is a continuation of Ukraine’s successful diplomatic efforts since 2014 to maintain and strengthen sanctions pressure on the Russian Federation. One of the platforms for these efforts could be the Crimea Platform summits, which are mostly attended by states that support at least the maintenance of sanctions pressure on the Russian Federation. And this position creates significant potential for extending the sanctions regime to other individuals and legal entities, sectors of the economy.
  • The implementation of the second point is impossible without the implementation of the first one, i.e. a complete revision of the Ukrainian sanctions mechanism. Unlike most “Western” states, the issue of maintaining and increasing sanctions pressure on Russia is of existential importance for Ukraine. This is the cornerstone of the strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea and, in the long run, the levelling of the Russian threat. That is why Ukraine should be the engine for tasks such as the search for assets of sanctioned persons, expansion of the sanctions list, monitoring of ways to circumvent sanctions restrictions and many others.

Improvement of sanctions legislation is included in the so-called package of draft laws “Crimea Platform”, which gives hope for updating sanctions legislation until the next summit of the Crimea Platform.

The Policy of Non-Recognition

The policy of non-recognition is one of the important elements of the policy of de-occupation of Crimea, but also one of those whose understanding is inadequate.

The need to adhere to the policy of non-recognition of the temporary occupation of Crimea is contained in all resolutions of the UN General Assembly, starting with the Resolution of the UN General Assembly on the territorial integrity of Ukraine № 68/262 of 27 March 2014. Therein the UN General Assembly calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the above-mentioned referendum and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.

However, for the time being there are no documents that would define the details of the policy of non-recognition: the rules of their application; the need to extend to all areas with clearly defined exceptions; liability for violating such a policy and a mechanism for determining at what point a particular action or inaction becomes an act of non-recognition. This situation leads to the fact that despite the country’s support for non-recognition policy, the country’s national companies can operate directly or indirectly in the occupied territories. Furthermore, there are dozens of such examples.

Detailed information on the goals and directions of the non-recognition policy can be found in the analytical materials of the Institute for Black Sea Strategic Studies, for example, https://https://www.blackseanews.net/en/read/161384. The authors argue that the policy of non-recognition of the attempted annexation of Crimea should be implemented, inter alia, through the adoption of decisions by international organizations and individual countries, which contain the following provisions, the list of which is not exhaustive:

  • prohibiting direct or indirect recognition of the attempted annexation in any documents or actions (including visits to Crimea or work in Crimea under the conditions of the Russian Federation);
  • prohibiting publication and any kind of presentation of geographical and navigation maps, showing the Crimean Peninsula as “part” of the Russian Federation;
  • prohibiting the travel businesses, including those providing online booking, logistical, and insurance services, from cooperating with Crimea-based tourist facilities;
  • prohibiting organizers of international scientific, educational, tourist, sports, cultural, and business events, exhibitions, festivals, advertising campaigns, and other events from granting permission to place, present, or publish information that would point to the Crimean Peninsula’s “belonging” to the Russian Federation.

One of the possible documents, which could be signed as a result of the II Summit of the Crimea Platform, could be the Declaration on the policy of non-recognition of the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The adoption of such a declaration would be an important step forward in improving the effectiveness of the policy of non-recognition of the occupation of Crimea. The declaration, in particular, should clearly detail the policy of non-recognition: state the objectives of such a policy; areas to which it applies; the algorithm of actions of the signatory states in case of revealing the facts of violation of such policy by separate legal entities; requirements for cooperation with Russian companies in order to avoid the entry of certain products into the occupied territory from the territory of the Russian Federation, etc.

Economic development of the south of Ukraine

The need to implement economic, infrastructural and other projects in the southern regions of Ukraine was discussed at the inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform. Thus, the final declaration of the Crimea Platform contains the following: (Participants decided) to consider supporting economic, infrastructure and environmental projects that would contribute to the further development of the regions of Ukraine adjacent to the temporarily occupied Crimean peninsula.

In June 2021, the First International Investment Forum “Southern Development Strategy” was held in the Kherson region. A significant list of economic and infrastructure projects was presented at the forum, the implementation of which would be a powerful impetus for the development of the south of Ukraine. You can read more about the projects following the link: https://ustrategy.org.

The issue of sustainable development of the regions adjacent to the occupied territories is strategically important because primarily on the basis of pragmatic calculations the vast majority of residents of occupied Crimea decide on the intensity of their contacts with mainland Ukraine, namely: entry to educational institutions; obtaining documents; job search; use of health-care services and much more.

It is important for Ukraine to ensure a high contrast between the level of development of the controlled territory and occupied Crimea in the social, educational, cultural, economic and other spheres. Unfortunately, so far we can state that the insufficient economic and social development of the regions of Ukraine dramatically complicates the reintegration of occupied Crimea.

That is why the issue of ensuring sustainable development of the southern regions of Ukraine, first of all, the Kherson region, should be one of the priorities in the context of the state policy of de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea.

Holding an investment forum was an important first step, but it is insufficient. Investing in the regions adjacent to the occupied territories of Ukraine always carries greater risks for investors, even compared to the less attractive business climate in other regions of Ukraine. This requires the development of additional incentives for investment in the southern regions. In this regard, Ukraine should follow a domestic investment approach with the financial support of international partners.

First, at the moment there is a State Fund for Regional Development in Ukraine, which can be used for the development of the territories adjacent to Crimea. The Funds resources are used in accordance with the State Strategy for Regional Development. Thus, the State Strategy for Regional Development for 2021-2027 in the framework of the strategic goal 1 “Formation of a cohesive state in social, humanitarian, economic, environmental, security and spatial dimensions” defines the operational goal 3 “Creating conditions for reintegration into Ukraine’s ambit of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

However, the approved Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy for 2021-2023 envisages only one task “Ensuring the protection and full realization of national, cultural, social and political rights of Ukrainian citizens living in the temporarily occupied territories or forcibly relocated from them, including indigenous peoples and national minorities” to meet operational goal 3. In this regard, it can be assumed that the resources of the State Fund are not being used for the purposes of the de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea at this time.

Taking into account that according to the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of State Regional Policy” the purpose of the State Fund for Regional Development is not the reintegration and de-occupation of Crimea, at the moment this mechanism is insufficient. One of the ways to ensure the sustainable development of the territories adjacent to Crimea is to create a separate State Fund for the Development of the Territories Adjacent to the Temporarily Occupied Territories. Another way is to amend the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of the State Regional Policy”, noting that part of the Fund resources should be used for the state policy on de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea, namely, the development of the regions adjacent to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Secondly, it is important to create stimulating conditions for doing business in the Kherson region, for example, by introducing a special legal regime of business activity (special economic zones). According to experts from the Kyiv School of Economics: “The most popular goals of creating such zones are to attract foreign investment (including in problem areas), establish international and regional cooperation, create new jobs, develop areas around the SEZ, experiment with business regulation”.

The second wing of this approach is to attract financial support from international partners in various forms: loans with low discount rates; financial assistance; foreign direct investment, etc. On 24 August 2021, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Switzerland and Sweden announced their intention to establish a joint international fund “Partnership for Strong Ukraine” and signed a relevant document that is the beginning of such activities.

It is the Crimea Platform that can be the coordination mechanism that will promote the need to invest in the southern regions in tandem “Ukraine-International Partners”. However, the involvement of international partners will be possible only if Ukraine forms new instruments for the sustainable development of its southern regions and the implementation of specific projects.

Destruction of the Ukrainian Identity

Since 2014, human rights have been the main entry point for attracting international partners to the issue of temporarily occupied Crimea. Persistent violations of human rights by the Russian Federation in Crimea are regularly condemned by the world’s leading states, as well as by international organizations. Today we can talk about a significant number of platforms where the central issue in the context of the occupation of Crimea is the issue of respect for human rights and freedoms.

Nevertheless, certain aspects of human rights violations in occupied Crimea remain on the periphery of attention of both the Ukrainian authorities and the international community. The main such issue is the systemic policy of the aggressor state aimed at destroying the Ukrainian identity in occupied Crimea.

International documents constantly mention various aspects of human rights violations in occupied Crimea. However, the issue of purposeful policy of the occupying power to destroy the Ukrainian identity is mentioned rare and rather briefly, without disclosing the basis and consequences of such actions. For example, the UN General Assembly resolution “The situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine” (16 December 2020) contains only brief mentions of this:

  • Deeply concerned about restrictions faced by Ukrainians, including Crimean Tatars, in exercising their economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to work, as well as the ability to maintain their identity and culture and to education in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages,
  • Condemns all attempts by the Russian Federation to legitimize or normalize its attempted annexation of Crimea, including the automatic imposition of Russian citizenship, illegal election campaigns and voting, change of the demographic structure of the population of Crimea and suppression of national identity;

As for the Ukrainian community, the Russian Federation does not recognize the very fact of the existence of a separate Ukrainian identity. The only relevant result for the Russian Federation is their complete assimilation and complete cleansing of cultural, political, informational and other spaces from any mention of the presence of Ukrainians on the peninsula as a separate ethnic community.

Thus, Ukrainian activists are being persecuted and forcibly deported; the Crimean eparchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is being destroyed; education in the Ukrainian language in educational institutions is being abolished; memory locations are being renamed and destructed; access to Ukrainian media is banned; the demographic composition of the population of Crimea is being completely changed. All the above examples form a picture of the systemic state policy of the Russian Federation towards Ukrainians on the territory of the Crimea peninsula, which constitutes ethnocide.

As of now, the Ukrainian government and the international community do not have a common systemic vision concerning the purposeful policy of the Russian Federation in occupied Crimea aimed at the destruction of the Ukrainian identity. The Crimea Platform can become an important forum through which the issue of systematic persecution of the Ukrainian community in Crimea will become widely known.

Ivan KRYMSKY

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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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