Kyiv, March 26, 2014. Local and regional authorities of the 47 Council of Europe member-states condemned Russia’s attack on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The Congress of the Council of Europe shared the concerns of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and of “the whole international community”. According to the Declaration adopted at the 26th session of the Congress, the pseudo-referendum in Crimea (held on March 16) failed to provide minimum democratic guarantees and cannot result in the shifting of borders between Ukraine and Russia.
“The use of military force by Russia to redraw national boundaries is unacceptable,”https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=2176309&Site=COE reads the Declaration. The Congress does not recognize the validity of the Crimea vote and denounces Russia’s military annexation of the peninsula. The Congress compared the Ukraine crisis to the 2008 situation in Georgia: Russia’s occupation of the independent states’ territories was unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
Thus, the 47 European countries expressed their full support for Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to remain an integral part of Ukraine and for Ukrainian territorial integrity to be reinstated, reads wcd.coe.int. Notably, Ukrainian authorities turned to the UN with an appeal to recognize Crimea as a demilitarized area, which would help protect local civilians. Earlier this week Ukrainian Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov resolved to withdraw Ukrainian armed forces from Crimea. Ukraine’s government is preparing to dispute Russia’s land-grab of Crimea in international courts.
Commenting on relations between the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as part of Ukraine and the central Ukrainian government prior to the disputed vote, the Congress highlighted that “Crimea enjoyed a broad degree of autonomy, which could, if necessary, have been further strengthened in consultation with Ukrainian national authorities”. This statement rebuts the Kremlin’s constant media pitch about Russian troops occupying Crimea to “prevent conflict” between the autonomous republic and Ukraine’s central authorities. Ukrainian experts reiterate that there had not been a conflict in the peninsula until the violation by Russian armed forces of the Ukrainian border.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe dismissed another argument made by the Kremlin [about the alleged ‘Coup d’état’ in Kyiv] by saying that the Congress lends its support to Ukraine’s new, legitimate authorities in strengthening democracy in the country and protecting the rights of all Ukrainian citizens.