Oleg Tsarev: Kiev’s Claim Against Russia at the UN Court Can Boomerang on Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Boomerang – a throwing tool in the form of a curved stick or a crescent sickle, which when skilfully thrown comes back to the thrower. To boomerang back to somebody (about something dangerous, undesirable, which addresses the one from whom it came).

S. I. Ozhegov, N. Yu. Shvedova. Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language

On Wednesday April 19th, the International Court of Justice of the UN in the Hague refused to satisfy the demand of Ukraine to establish temporary measures concerning the claim against Russia in connection with violation of the convention on the fight against the financing of terrorism.

Kiev filed its lawsuit in the International Court of Justice of the UN on January 16th, 2017. Ukraine accused the Russian Federation of violating the convention on the fight against the financing of terrorism and on the elimination of racial discrimination, and demanded to introduce against Moscow “temporary measures” until the final verdict of court. Among the demands of Kiev — to stop “arms supplies in Ukraine, support of militants”, and also “discrimination” in Crimea.

“At this stage of the consideration of the case, Ukraine didn’t provide sufficient proof that would show that these elements are plausible,” said the chairman of the judicial instance, the judge Ronny Abraham at the open hearings in the Palace of Peace in the Hague on April 19th.

Thus, the court partially satisfied the demands of Kiev concerning the convention on the elimination of racial discrimination. Russia must refrain from infringement of the rights of the Crimean Tatars and guarantee the possibility of teaching in Ukrainian in Crimea.

“It would be desirable to remind that the Russian Federation has to answer the obligations in compliance with the Convention on elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. The court considers that in Crimea the Russian Federation has to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to preserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis. In addition the Russian Federation has to ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language,” said the chairman Ronny Abraham at court session. He added: “In this case, having considered the provisional measures requested by Ukraine, and the conditions of this case, the court decided that the measures which will be applied should not be identical to those requested by Ukraine.”

Comment of Oleg Tsarev:

It is necessary to immediately say that this is not yet the final decision of the court. Ukraine will (or at least, is going to) produce specific evidence of Russia’s financing of the militia of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, thereby substantiating the foundation of their accusation – financing of terrorism by Russia. It will be extremely difficult to prove Russia’s financing of terrorism. If the decision will be the same as the one we received now, this anyway is a plus for Russia. A plus – because it is possible to figure out a way to come to an agreement with the Mejlis and Tatars and concerning the Ukrainian language. I don’t see serious problems here. But in the event that the financing of terrorism by Russia will not be proven (and most likely it won’t be proven, which we see already in the preliminary position of the court), it turns out that in Ukraine there is a civil war. It means that the Army is involved in the murdering of its own civilians, jets were used, there is shelling and bombing –  it actually gives us the chance to address the legal bodies. But not in the International Court of Justice of the UN, but in a tribunal (which then must be created) for the criminal actions of the Ukrainian power. And like that, the claim of Ukraine will return to her like a boomerang. That’s why it is impossible to say that in the UN court a serious failure happened for the Russian Federation – it, all the same, is a victory. I always treat words carefully, and today I see the situation precisely like that. Another thing is that this local victory should be further developed, skilfully.

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The decision of the Kiev authorities to appeal to the court with the accusation of complicity in terrorism was initially losing. Perhaps, somewhere in the world the Donetsk militiamen were called terrorists, but was there at least some recognition of the DPR and LPR as terrorist organizations? No. There were no such judgments in the world anywhere, and not even in Ukraine. That’s why Ukraine stood on unsteady ground. When you appeal to the court, you recognize the jurisdiction of this court, Ukraine in 2009 already lost in court part of its territories (the shelf of Snake Island), and they went to Romania. In this case Ukraine was itself the initiator of this court case, but if the decision is made that there is no financing of terrorism by Russia, it it will be a very serious loss of Ukraine. I.e. Ukraine, by the formulation of the question itself about the financing of terrorism, predetermined the impossibility for sane lawyers to make a decision that is positive for Ukraine. From the point of view of simple legal pedantry it is impossible: if there are no terrorists, then what financing of terrorists is there? It is extremely difficult to prove the financing of terrorism and the existence of terrorism itself. I can’t imagine what documents have to be presented in court and how these documents can be received in order to prove something on this accusation.

It would be desirable to more specifically analyse the possibilities of the realization of those temporary measures that were obligated to Russia. Let’s begin with the simplest one – Ukrainian schools. I think that it is very simple to fulfil – it is necessary to offer all parents who want it to write an application for their children to participate in Ukrainian classes. And if enough of such applications are collected, it is necessary to organize studying in Ukrainian. There are no difficulties in the organization of this. Another thing is that we are unlikely to have enough persons interested in it – even in such large cities as Simferopol or Sevastopol – at least for one class. Of course it is possible to fictitiously create such classes, schools, to provide a budget for teachers. But these classes will be empty. And then what – to herd the children there through force? Nobody is going to do it, there is no such procedure. The procedure can be only as I said – a grassroots initiative. Thereby the desire of Russia to fulfil the demand of the court will be shown. But I don’t think that such classes will be created – for the reason that there won’t be people interested.

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As for the Mejlis, I think that all Tatars should simply enter there and elect normal leaders. There are candidates. For example, Ruslan Ismailovich Balbek, I’ve known him for many years thanks to work in the Verkhovna Rada (he was the assistant of my colleague Dmitry Shevtsov). Now Balbek is a Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation. I have photos on Facebook (it’s true that the page was removed, but it is possible to look for them on the Internet): Tatars came there, they very actively acted on Antimaidan. That’s why Tatars in their majority came for the Crimean referendum, and voted for accession to Russia. Those who were against it, left. But such people are few and far between. That’s why there are no obstacles for the creation of normal Mejlis.

There are certain organizations that practice radical Islam. But this accounts for literally a fraction of a percent of the entire Tatar population. There is the epatage of the youth that quickly drive cars on Crimean roads, shout something, and a yellow-blue Tatar flag hangs from the window. I think that it is necessary not to push the youth away – there is a need to attract it. If they want to emphasize their individuality, to safeguard their identity, the Russian Federation in this sense is a more comfortable country than Ukraine. In general, with the transition under Russian jurisdiction, Crimean Tatars acquired more rights than they had in Ukraine. Issues that weren’t previously solved started being solved. Questions about the allocation of land and about the registration of enterprises were in a short time solved. Perhaps, there was such a setup from the Supreme power to obtain the support of the Tatar population. But anyway this practice and this setup worked. I drive across Crimea by car and all the time I hear Tatar broadcasts. The fact that the Tatar media actively works is essential.

Let’s return to the topic of the courts. Was Russia late with its counterclaims? The question is about those characters who blow up power line pylons and carry out various blockades of Crimea – the representatives of the present so-called Mejlis. It was possible long ago to take it to the world level. As well as to submit for international discussion the question of recognition of the fact that the Kiev authorities carry out discrimination and genocide of Russians. I think that this is a systemic problem for the Russian Federation. The problem is in the fact that, firstly, there is a need to finance and cultivate organizations that will be engaged in the protection of the rights of Russians and Russia. I went to the OSCE, I saw how it is done. It is very bad that this work isn’t being carried out. Big money is allocated for such organizations as Rossotrudnichestvo. It would be better if, instead of this, Russian journalists abroad are setup and supported, as well as Russian human rights organizations. Human rights activity must be the main thing. The rights of Russians are infringed on across all the former Soviet Union: in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan… While claims had to be submitted against the Baltic countries a long time ago. Ukraine submitted a claim for the protection of Tatars, who in reality aren’t oppressed in Crimea. But it is absolutely unclear why such claims aren’t submitted by Russia against the Baltic countries in connection with such phenomena as non-citizens living in these countries – our compatriots?

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In the time I, in the framework of Novorossiya’s parliament, carried out such activity when we prepared the claims of injured people for the International Court of Justice. But now this activity is curtailed. There, there are problems connected to the fact that in order to appeal to the International Court of Justice, it is necessary to pass at first all verticals of the Ukrainian courts. But the experience of South Ossetia showed that in the event of military conflicts – while in Ukraine there is a military conflict – it is possible to immediately appeal to the International Court of Justice, and they can make a decision. This is a common problem of the Russian Federation – that it doesn’t defend itself. There are a lot of international and European mechanisms, it is necessary to built inside them inline, to work on it, and to defend Russians, Russian-speakers, and their interests. After all, when Russians in Ukraine or in Tajikistan are defended, it isn’t just help to them from universal positions, this is support from the strongest lobby on these territories – the lobby of the Russian Federation. Like the lobby of Ukraine in Canada. We see to what extent the anti-Russian line is taken by Canada on the Ukrainian question. Why? Because there is a very powerful Ukrainian diaspora. And Russia should conduct this work.

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