Kyiv, June 30, 2015 – Until the National Security and Defense Council adopts a strategy on occupied Crimea and the President approves it, it is inappropriate to discuss the newly created State Agency on Crimea’s activities. During a panel discussion titled “Crimea–Memories, Reality and Vision”, held at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, the Head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov, said that state policymakers are back-paddling because they do not understand the importance of a strategy in Crimea. He noted, “Strategy is not somebody’s whim or a word in fashion. Strategy drives many daily practical decisions. It provides direction on how we must protect the rights of Ukrainians who remain in Crimea.”
The State Agency on Crimea’s director, Aslan Omer Kyrymly, blames bureaucracy for the delay in defining policy on Crimea. Although civil society organizations have already submitted their proposed strategies, the government must make the final decision. Among other issues, Kyrymly noted the European diplomats’ crucial role and clear position regarding the occupied peninsula. He stated, “Diplomats and the entire international community took the civilized side and did not support the Crimean annexation. This was a turning point when the civilized world told the aggressors that in the twenty-first century, countries of the civilized world will not accept aggression, disorder, or brutal violent acts toward an independent Ukraine”.
In the course of the discussion, Olha Skrypnyk, Deputy Head of the Crimea Field Mission on Human Rights noted the system in Crimea aims to subdue any resistance or pro-Ukrainian viewpoints of Ukrainian citizens who remain in the occupied territory. She stated that there are no means of legal protection in Crimea—“It is the ephemeral nature of the Russian law – even if it is applied there, it is for the purpose of continuing repression.” She called for the Ukrainian government to differentiate between the issues of territorial control, and the circumstances of those who remain nearly forgotten in Crimea. She noted that non-residential status of people in Crimea is discriminatory and that authorities must regulate the new administrative border crossing procedures. Skrypnyk also called for regulation to prevent authorities from refusing entry to foreign nationals. She emphasized that blocking foreign nationals from crossing the administrative border stops lawyers—who actively engage with Ukraine—from effectively defending Crimean residents. “It is understandable that decisions need to be made as to economic activities and trade but not to the detriment of civilians. We need to understand that if the government implements a full blockade, we will loose Crimea and our connection with the people there,” she underlined.
Her Excellency Dr. Argita Daudze, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Latvia to Ukraine, traveled to Crimea in spring 2014. She emphasized that although Latvia’s EU Council Presidency is drawing to a close, Latvia will continue to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and Crimea as part of that territory. “The policy of non-recognition of the annexation is a basis that will help return the situation to its pre-occupation condition,” said the Ambassador. She added that closer cooperation with the EU is needed and that not only public institutions but also civil society must advocate for the return of Crimea.
The former Ambassador of Lithuania to Ukraine, Petras Vaitiekūnas, said that to change the EU position, “one needs to understand the EU’s mindset and how to appeal to the hearts of Europeans.” He called on Ukrainians to implement reforms inside the country and on the West to provide financial support and weapons. “We need to stop Putin and help Ukraine,” he underlined. Vaitiekūnas also noted that fault lies both with the weak position of the EU and with Ukraine itself. He elaborated that throughout the entire course of its independence, Ukraine has not pursued a clear geopolitical agenda – in particular toward the EU or NATO. Vaitiekūnas characterized the current state of affairs in a straightforward manner: Russia’s war, or more precisely Putin’s war, against Ukraine. “Two nations are fighting because one of them said that it wants to belong to the European civilization,” he noted.