Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Speaking on Thursday at the FSB annual collegium, the president of Russia Vladimir Putin paid special attention to the situation in the southeast of Ukraine. According to the President, the Ukrainian authorities deliberately aggravate the situation in the conflict zone in Donbass in order to sabotage the Minsk agreements, putting a stake on the military solution to the problem.
The head of state also stressed that the Kiev authorities “openly speak about the organization of saboteur-terrorism, subversive activities, including also in Russia”.
Signal to the West
It is clear that anti-terrorist and counterintelligence work is the base of the activity of the FSB. But it is also clear that such statements by the President that are open access are first of all directed to an external audience.
The leadership of FSB can be orientated behind closed doors too. Moreover, nobody doubts that from the very beginning of the civil conflict in Ukraine the FSB fixedly watched attempts of its transfer to Russian territory. Since 2014, information on the detention of both Ukrainian and Russian citizens who attempted to conduct on the territory of Russia spying activities in the interests of Kiev, and also to prepare acts of terrorism, periodically appears in the media.
Thus, the statement of the President is orientated not to a Russian, but to a foreign audience. And this audience is not Ukrainian. If there was a desire to address to the Ukrainian authorities, the presentation would have been made via diplomatic channels. This statement is also not a threat of a military response to the Ukrainian provocations. If it was, it would have been done on the collegium of the Ministry of Defence or the Security Council.
The choice of place and format of the statement unambiguously testifies to the signal being sent to our western partners. The FSB has great opportunities for conducting counterterrorist activities.It should be noted that preventive actions against terrorists and their inspirers are one of the components of such work, and are not obliged to be limited to Russian territory.
However, its carrying out on the territory of another state is limited by strict conditions. So that the preventive counterterrorist measures on foreign territory are justified from the point of view of international law, it is necessary to be in a condition of war with the relevant State, or to be subjected to an unprovoked attack from its side.
One more option — if the loss of control by the current authorities, with which terrorist activity is conducted, is recorded at the level of the UN Security Council. This option in this case isn’t considered, because the international community doesn’t consider the Kiev authorities incapable of controlling the situation on the territory of Ukraine.
Up to now, Kiev explained the various kinds of provocations against Russia – including bloody ones (in Crimea) – by the amateur activities of individuals, without even recognizing their belonging to their power structures.
The reaction of Russia was limited to diplomatic protests, documenting the facts of provocations, collecting evidence about the participation in their preparation of the Head Department of Investigation (HDI) of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and SBU, and transferring this data to the relevant international structures.
Judging by all this, the critical mass of the facts is collected, and the second aspect takes effect — international-legal.
The statement of the President was preceded by the message of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation about the fact that it collected the necessary and sufficient evidence for presentation to the Ukrainian authorities of the accusation of purposeful terrorist attacks on residential quarters of the cities of Donbass with the use of “Tochka-U” ballistic missiles. This act was qualified by the Investigative Committee as the use of a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against civilians.
Putin’s statement completed the logical line that was drawn by the message of the Investigative Committee. The use of a WMD against civilians can be qualified not only as a war crime, but also as state terrorism. In the same way, saboteur-terrorist activity against the state, which the position of peace is supported by, is qualified in the same way. And it is precisely this that Vladimir Putin accused the Ukrainian authorities of.
In turn, the authorities of the state, who authorized the actions that qualify as state terrorism in recent years are recognised by the world community as “those who lost their legitimacy”. Moreover, practice of the use of such a term in regards to Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad assumes that the existence of a resolution of UN Security Council is not mandatory — sufficient are the backed-up-by-facts (and sometimes even unfounded) statements of the state, who consider themselves as victims.
The precedents created by the United States in the last twenty years allows to use against “regimes that lost their legitimacy” any measures of influence, including military, also carrying out special operations, as well as recognition and official support of the alternative insurgent governments waging civil war with the regime.
For the use of any of these measures of influence a resolution of the UNSC is desirable, but it isn’t obligatory. As the events in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria showed, it is possible to easily go beyond the resolution of the Security Council or to proceed without it.
There is a right to take measures
Russia was always committed to strict observance of the norms and procedures provided by international law. That’s why it is possible not to doubt that the so serious statement of the president Putin could be made only in the presence of a faultless evidential base and in confidence that it is impossible to contain in any other way the Ukrainian power, which lost self-control.
I.e. Russia is already now ready to provide to the international community the proof of the subversive activities authorized by the Kiev power.
We, of course, understand that the existence of the most faultless evidence doesn’t guarantee its acceptance as such by the UN Security Council, where everyone has interests, and each permanent member possess their right to veto. The situation with the Malaysian “Boeing”, where the international commission on investigation still can’t determine the culprit responsible for its destruction, and which isn’t able to study the data provided by Russia, is the best confirmation of the double standards existing in modern politics.
However there is one interesting moment. The terrorist activity authorized by the authorities of one state against another state (state terrorism) is not just an act of unprovoked aggression, but a concrete armed attack.
Article 51 of the Charter of the UN assigns to the state that was the subject of an armed attack the right for individual or collective self-defense, the contents of which such a state defines itself. It is obliged only “to report immediately to the UNSC about the taken measures and to stop its implementation as soon as the Council independently takes the measures necessary for the maintenance of international peace and safety”.
In such an option, mechanisms of the UN play already on the side of Russia. Moscow possesses the right to veto, and without its consent the Council can’t make binding a resolution — therefore, it isn’t able “to take measures independently”.
In fact, Putin signalled to our western “partners” that if they don’t have enough opportunities to appease the Kiev authorities, which lost its self-control, then Russia is ready to take measures, though unilateral, but fully corresponding to international law, the spirit and letter of the UN Charter.
And – as a cherry on the cake — left them in ignorance what the exact measures will be (for sure asymmetric). Because the FSB doesn’t report about its plans to the State Department.
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