Fragile nature of Moscow’s grip on Crimea — opinion


If the war against Ukraine began with the invasion of Crimea, it must end with the peninsula’s liberation.

The second parliamentary summit of the Crimean Platform took place in Prague. When many experts and politicians gather to discuss an understandable goal, concepts for the de-occupation of the peninsula should emerge. It began with a reiteration of the principles of the founding summit of the Crimean Platform, which took place in August 2021 in Zagreb, Croatia. This year, there were 69 participants, and the most powerful European politicians, the vast majority of parliamentary leaders, arrived in person. Some who couldn't leave their countries were online. Everyone spoke about the liberation of Crimea as a prerequisite for ending the Russian-Ukrainian war. This idea took shape through speeches, proposals, and then in the resolution of this Crimean Platform.

Among the innovations I saw was that all participants supported the establishment of a special tribunal to investigate all war crimes committed by Russia against Ukraine. Parliaments called for the creation of groups to support the Crimean Platform. It was particularly moving for me when the resolution read out the paragraph that the parliaments of the countries of the world recognized the crime committed against Crimea, the Crimean Tatar people, in 1944 as genocide of the Crimean Tatar people, which means the deportation and decades of forcible confinement of Crimean Tatars outside of Crimea finally has the recognition it deserves. What we all paid attention to, because after all, our colleagues also agreed with this, is that the Crimean Platform announced its readiness to develop strategies for the reintegration of Crimea. That is, the Platform goes beyond the target set in 2021, which was the liberation of Crimea. Now, we are saying that it is expedient to unite the efforts of our international partners to restore and organize the future of Crimea.

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Regarding the international tribunal - this is more a question for international lawyers. I can only speak as far as I am aware at my level. Experts tell me that the existing international courts cannot fulfill this role. So, the concept was adopted to create a special tribunal just for these crimes in the Russian-Ukrainian war. It's like how an international tribunal was formed to investigate and punish the criminals in the Yugoslav wars. It was a separate special institution. We have a special ambassador in Ukraine, Mr. Anton Korinevich, in charge of this area. As far as I have time to follow very dynamic steps in this direction, this year, we have already agreed in principle with many specialized national judicial institutions, in particular of European countries, on the principles of creating this special tribunal. This special tribunal receives all the powers in its jurisdiction, which decisions will legitimize (I don't quite imagine what kind), supported by the international community. The legality of this special tribunal will allow focusing on investigations and punishment of criminals during the Russian-Ukrainian war.

In Crimea, the problem of changing the ethnic composition is one of the most urgent

What do the politicians and parliamentary representatives who came to this forum think about real military support for Ukraine? This topic was necessarily present, if not in every speech, then in every second one. But in one way or another, the speakers talked about the importance and ostensibly explained to each other, and by doing so, they reinforced the realization of why the world should help Ukraine win. The formula for that victory was formulated immediately. It proceeded from the fact that if the war (or Russian aggression - in different interpretations it sounded in the speeches) against Ukraine began with the invasion of Crimea, then it must end with the liberation of Crimea. Other speakers explained how important it is to support Ukraine in preserving global peace.

At the opening of the Crimean Platform meeting were the President of the Czech Parliament and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Petr Fiala. It was their speeches by the leadership of almost the entire Czech Republic (the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke online) that built the parameters of the whole conversation that took place during the day. This conversation boiled down to the fact that helping Ukraine is about saving the world, about preventing it from sliding into the abyss of the terrible greater catastrophe that we have today.

I will tell you what is happening now in occupied Crimea. I will just remind our readers that today, at least 189 citizens of Ukraine, residents of Crimea, are imprisoned in fabricated and politically motivated cases. Of those 189, there are 123 politically imprisoned Crimean Tatars. There is Nariman Dzhelyal, the first deputy chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, who has been imprisoned for 17 years. The Russians did this as revenge for his participation in the first founding summit of the Crimean Platform in 2021. He was illegally arrested just ten days after he returned from Kyiv.

The resolution of the Crimean Platform summit, adopted based on its results, says that it is necessary to deepen efforts to release political prisoners and to provide some assistance to those who are repressed in Crimea. Still, everyone realizes that these calls, which many countries are making, are not only symbolic because the only way to help these people is to liberate Crimea.

Both the day before and the day of the Crimean Platform, I received information from Crimea about Russian occupation forces carrying out brutal searches, when they break into the homes of the families of political prisoners without explanation. So far, there have been no arrests in this sweep. All the Russian occupation media in Crimea (and there are no other media) tried to compromise both the participants of the Crimean Platform and the Crimean Platform itself. However, interestingly enough, I noticed that these Crimean media representatives do not find speakers who can actually speak on behalf of locals. So they invite to their programs deputies of the State Duma, very famous propagandists such as Armen Gasparyan, and other people who go to Solovyov's programs. So, the Crimean platform, which shows the remarkable mobilization of the international community around Crimea and the liberation of Crimea, adds considerable concern for the Kremlin.

In Crimea, the problem of changing the ethnic composition is one of the most urgent, and it will become even more acute with time. According to the Geneva Convention, this is also a war crime. It is crucial for us, Ukraine, to talk about this in advance, not waiting for the moment of liberation. We consider people who settled during the occupation, that is, when Ukraine did not control its own territory, as looters who rushed to the stolen goods. For us, they are criminals. We note that there are already voices being heard somewhere in defense of these people, saying that they are also hostages of complex geopolitical processes taking place in the world. Therefore, perhaps we should leave them alone and let them go on living because they are ordinary people. That's why we sharpened the issue. We said, yes, they are human beings, but they have committed a conscious crime; they are looters. It's best if they know in advance that they have to leave this land. The emphasis, particularly in my speech on the Crimea Platform, was related to that.

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No matter what anyone says, the Kremlin already realizes that the troops and occupation structures will have to leave Crimea. The Kremlin realizes that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will liberate Crimea and that Ukraine will restore its sovereignty over the peninsula. But Russia is now making a hasty settlement of its people, and even if the Russian state leaves Crimea, it wants these people to stay. We cannot allow this to happen.

Thus, the Russians have learned to use the mechanisms of democracy to destroy this democracy, because these people will elect the Russian government in the liberated Crimea. It is already standard practice in all countries that foreign residents staying illegally can be deported, let alone participants in a military invasion. Now imagine, a million of such people will live among us, among the families who suffered. There are not only those whose children and parents are in prison, but there are hundreds of Crimean Tatar families where someone has already been killed in the war because they are also defending the Ukrainian state. At this moment, hundreds of thousands, a million of these recently-arrived Russian citizens will live next to us. They will determine the linguistic background, and they will demand their rights regarding self-government and such.

Artificial displacement and changing the demography and ethnic composition is a kind of war crime. It is described in the Geneva Convention of 1949. Now, the task in our field, in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, is to improve our legislation as soon as possible, trying to balance it as much as possible, to harmonize it with international humanitarian law, for when Crimea is liberated. Most of these colonizers remain in Crimea, and the time of their expulsion will not be as long as some people think it will be.

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On October 23-24, the occupants held another Yalta International Forum, but in Moscow. And I am watching the explanations of these Crimean gauleiters. They say: we hold it in Moscow because our guests do not feel safe in Crimea due to how the Armed Forces of Ukraine have attacked Crimea in recent months. So, there is not a single corner in Crimea today that is not vulnerable to Ukrainian weapons, and so a lot of facilities are in the crosshairs, and they will be systematically destroyed. It is impossible not to notice this. Crimea is now living in anticipation of liberation.

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