WHEN in 1991 Ukraine gained independence, we were very glad and proud to have been able to break up with Russia in a civilised way and remaining friends. But, it turned out that our war has just been late for 23 years. The Kremlin could not imagine realisation of its provocative ambitions of restoring the Russian empire without Ukraine. Russian leader Vladimir Putin started a war by not only breaking all possible rules of international law, but also making another terrible crime of moral and geopolitical dimension – he made mischief of two countries and peoples who have always been friendly and fraternal.
Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory and its support of separatist fighters confronting government forces in eastern Ukraine threaten to revive the Cold War and destroy a world order based on the rule of law. It started when Russian soldiers – nicknamed “little green men” – first appeared in the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula back in February. Since Putin launched his so-called ‘hybrid warfare’ against Ukraine last spring, the number of Russian tanks, armoured personnel carriers and heavy artillery crossing the border has been fluid and hard to count. Ukrainians should also deal with Russian “volunteers” – hundreds of Russian soldiers who were forced to take vacations while being sent to fight – and “humanitarian convoys” that seem designed not to deliver aid, but to test the weakness of the Ukrainian border.
Together with tanks and guns in this war, the Kremlin uses another extremely poisonous weapon – false propaganda that justifies Russian aggression defining it as the struggle against “Ukrainian fascism”. Meanwhile, the opposite is true. In Ukraine, where there are no Russian invaders, there is no ethnic conflict, the Russian language is freely used along with Ukrainian all over the country, and thousands of Ukrainian soldiers defending their homeland in the east of Ukraine speak Russian.
Speaking about recent pieces of evidence, on November 22, the seventh report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine was released. The results of monitoring of the current situation give international society an impartial picture of violations by separatists backed up by the Russian army and the Minsk Protocols, as well as international human rights law.
The last report, that covers the period from September 17 to October 31, states serious human rights abuses by the armed groups, including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour and sexual violence, as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property. According to the report, during aforementioned period, civilians continued to be killed, unlawfully detained, tortured and disappeared in eastern Ukraine, and the number of internally displaced persons has risen considerably despite the announcement of a ceasefire on September 5. Almost since the day the truce was signed, it was violated. Not once, not twice, but constantly, in a grinding routine of shelling and blood.
But it’s not only the Minsk Protocols and ceasefire that have been violated. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have violated the U.N.’s founding charter of 1945, which set rules to prevent another world war, and the Paris Charter of 1990, which ended the Cold War, as well as the Helsinki Final Act, which enshrined the “respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination”.
Ukrainians made their choice a long time ago. They determine themselves as a European nation and see their future in a big European family. Despite all the attempts by Moscow and its propaganda to put Ukrainians in despair with its leadership, our new Parliament elected on October 26, appeared to be pro-European, pro-Ukrainian, having a constitutional majority and a political will to achieve reforms and developments.
The Ukraine Association Agreement with the EU is a key part of these reforms.
Despite the difficult situation, our government is making efforts for the European future of Ukraine to be realised. Ukraine is supported by the EU member states that give us additional courage to challenge the crisis and threats. In this regard, Ukraine highly appreciates the unconditional support of the Republic of Cyprus. On September 16, the European and Ukrainian parliaments simultaneously ratified the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Many countries ratified the agreement by their national parliaments.
Moreover, the European Union decided to impose sanctions against Russia. Ukrainians consider the EU sanctions mechanism not as a punishment tool, but rather as an essential part of the overall international effort to address the destabilising behaviour of Russia, to bring it to de-escalate and to arrive at a political solution to the crisis created by its own actions.
As Ukraine used to be the EU’s “European Neighbourhood policy” partner, Europe realises the importance of Ukraine being an outpost of its eastern borders, as well as the role of Ukraine in preventing the escalation of Russian aggression and its spread to other regions.
70 years ago Ukrainians managed to expel invaders (at that time the German fascists) from their land and they will do it again.
Borys Humeniuk is the Ambassador of Ukraine in Cyprus