Ministry on affairs of temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons will be most open to cooperation with civil society – official


Deputy Head of the newly established ministry presents directions of agency’s activities and actual state of play. Civil society organizations that have Crimea as focus recall main problems and action plans advising the new state actor on possible steps and cooperation ways.  

Kyiv, May 18, 2016. Ministry on affairs of temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons will be the most open for cooperation with civil society among the ministries, said Georgiy Tuka, Deputy Minister of the above agency at the round table discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. He said the ministry currently employs three persons only. Next week Deputy Minister on Crimea affairs is to be appointed. “Two strategic work directions are foreseen: these are activities set to return Crimea and the currently occupied territories of Donbas,” said Tuka. He said the return of Crimea is a long-term issue and it excludes the military way of action. “Political and economic pressure on Russia needs to be reinforced. Over the past two months the rhetoric has considerably changed from ‘Krymnash’ (‘Crimea is ours’, popular hashtag and motto of Crimea occupation supporters – UCMC note) to ‘how shall we proceed?’. In a while Russian society will start realizing that it is the state policy that has led to such quality of life,” noted Tuka.

He is convinced that Ukrainians and Ukrainian companies have to actively use international judicial mechanisms to reimburse the losses they have suffered due to the occupation of Crimea. Deputy Minister assumed that the total sum of these lawsuits may make economic activities of the Russian Federation considerably complicated. Tuka emphasized that there is already a strategy for return of the temporarily occupied territories. The fact that the Ministry is in place will allow influencing governmental decision-making based on the ministry’s terms of reference. Oleksiy Starodubov, representative of “Crimean Expert Center” NGO recalled three blocks within the theme of Crimea return: civic, constitutional and international. “We have no umbrella in form of the international and public dispute between Ukraine and Russia on Crimea crisis. We first of all need to file a lawsuit against the Russian Federation to the International Court of Justice (UN judicial organ) to register annexation, terror act, forcible seizure of power, numerous violations of international public law provisions. It will send a clear message to our international partners and investors who suffered losses that Russia bears responsibility over it,” noted Starodubov.

Eskender Bariyev, representative of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people suggested that the newly established Ministry has to include departments on internally displaced persons, occupied territories and Crimean Tatars. “There is a series of laws that require regulatory sub-laws. The Ministry both forms and implements the policy,” he noted. Bariyev also added that there needs to be an international department within the Ministry that would act in close cooperation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Serhiy Mokrenyuk, Head of “Euromaidan-Crimea” NGO noted that the first step needs to become appointment of the Deputy Minister on Crimea through public discussions that need to engage civil society organizations. “Crimean civil society is very powerful and is ready to cooperate,” he emphasized.

Oleksiy Kurinnyi, professor at the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” raised the issue what to do with Crimea and with its population after the peninsula is back with Ukraine. “First of all [our responsibility is] to protect the rights of Crimean Tatar people. Then comes protection of Ukraine’s national interests as after these years pro-Russian population will feel themselves an even bigger irredenta. Protection of the Ukrainian community and maintaining inter-national peace are also important so that Crimea does not turn into the new Kosovo. It will prevent Russian separatism in the future,” said Kurinnyi. In his opinion the peninsula needs ethno-national re-launch.

Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Klyment reported about the pressure that is being exercised upon him and his parishioners on the peninsula. Thus he said the premises of his church are in try to be seized. He called on the government to register ownership rights for the building with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate.

Andriy Shchekun, representative of the “Crimean center of business and cultural cooperation “Ukrainian House” emphasized importance of education. His organization introduced distance learning. They started from Ukrainian language and literature. However there is a big problem with financing. “[State] system of distance learning that would be supposed to provide the simplified external independent evaluation of school graduates and entry to universities is not working. […] Children of internally displaced persons are entitled to free education and accommodation in dormitories. But this right is constantly violated. The Ministry’s position is unchanged: ‘it is not budgeted this year’,” said Shchekun.

According to Olga Skrypnyk, representative of the Crimean human rights group residents of the occupied territories often suffer from actions of Ukrainian civil servants. “Resolution no.1035 is questionable as people cannot leave, take their belongings with them, cannot carry through food and medicine. It is not normal if we are talking about the integration of Crimea,” said Skrypnyk. She also criticized the legislation on the free economic area that is only doing harm to people and violating their rights. Moreover the human rights defender suggested that civil society takes part in forming of personnel of the newly created ministry.

According to Natalia Belitser, expert of the Phylyp Orlyk Institute infrastructure of the southern part of Kherson region needs to be actively developed. “It would help prevent instigation of artificial conflicts and counteract provocations. Of course Crimeans have lost many trade connections, but if they are given an opportunity to resolve their problems, if they feel comfortable having crossed the administrative border, they will feel better here than in the occupied Crimea,” expert noted.

“The problem of de-occupation has to see all democratic forces united. We need to unite. We can create battalions […], but it is not going to lead us to de-occupation as de-occupation is about legislative activities and observing human rights,” said Veldar Shukurdzhiyev, civic activist, initiator of creating the “Indigenous people” film.