Remarks by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Dmitry Balakin at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the fourth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, Vienna, March 1, 2018

Friday, 02 March 2018 07:03

Mr Chairman,

I am glad to have this opportunity to comment on the extremely important matter of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. March 18 will mark the fourth anniversary of this truly historic event.

The people of Crimea had waited for years to exercise their legal right to self-determination, which is enshrined in the UN Charter and reaffirmed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States according to the UN Charter, and the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Accords).

There are no grounds to cast doubts on the results of the referendum that took place in Crimea on March 16, 2014. Those who know the actual situation on the peninsula have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the local population indeed voted in favour of reunification with Russia and continues to support that decision. Anybody who speaks about so-called annexation and the need to “shove Crimea back” into Ukraine is being extremely disrespectful of the peninsula’s population, who are the holders of the territory’s sovereignty.

Crimea’s return to Russia was motivated by a forced anti-constitutional coup that took place in Kiev four years ago. The attack on buses with Crimean residents who were returning from Kiev by barbaric nationalist radicals near the town of Korsun-Shevchenkovsky on February 20, 2014 became the turning point for the Crimeans, who realised where their further path should lie.

The Crimeans’ resistance to the forcefully imposed Ukrainisation and Russophobia began back in 1991, when the prevailing majority of the population voted in a referendum for restoring the Crimean Autonomous Region as a separate constituent entity of the Soviet Union, an entity independent from Ukraine. The resistance continued for almost 25 years and finished with the 2014 referendum on the reunification with Russia.

One of Ukraine’s nationalist leaders, Dmitry Yarosh, expressed the Kiev officials’ attitude towards the people of Crimea in the following manner: “Crimea will be Ukrainian or uninhabited.” Kiev authorities did not stop at words. They organised a water and food blockade, cut off transit and energy. In its appeal to the UN General Assembly on December 25, 2017, the Crimean State Council Presidium qualified those measures as terrorism against the residents of Crimea.

Ukrainian nationalists continue to call for punishing Crimeans for their choice. Governments of several other countries have taken the same discriminatory stance by imposing restrictions against the Crimean people – although back in 1975 the same countries stated that the main achievements of the Helsinki Accords were the freedom of speech, the freedom of movement and the peoples’ right to determine their fate. It is paradoxical that these countries are now punishing Crimeans for exercising those very rights and freedoms.

It is particularly inappropriate that the accusations regarding human rights in Crimea come from Ukraine, which in the period since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has not taken any efforts at all in this area and has ignored the recommendations of international human rights institutions.

Life has affirmed that the Crimean residents made the right choice. Watching Kiev’s policy of persecuting dissidence that resulted in bloodshed and tragedy in Odessa and Mariupol and the civil war in Donbass, it can be easily surmised what actions the radical nationalists would have taken in Crimea. Thanks to its reunification with Russia, Crimea has avoided such brutality.

The current situation in Crimea is peaceful. Local residents freely exercise the rights granted by Russia’s international obligations and guaranteed by the Russian Constitution.

Crimea is confident of its future. Its structural integration with the Russian Federation is completed. Regional legislation has been brought in compliance with federal laws. The republic’s socioeconomic status is stable despite its difficult legacy. The regional budget revenue is growing. Housing construction is expanding. Industrial production and agriculture are developing. The tourist industry is improving. The free economic zone is developing rapidly. The total amount of capital investment has exceeded 100 billion roubles ($1.7 billion). Investors from China, India and some OSCE countries are taking great interest in the peninsula. The republic has foreign trade relations with 60 countries.

The local population enjoys positive inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations. Federal and regional officials protect the interests of ethnic minorities, including Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians, with respect to their culture, language, religion and other aspects of their lives, in accordance with the Constitution. There are 14 regional ethnic and cultural autonomies on the peninsula, including two Crimean Tatar autonomies.

The Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages are the official languages in the Republic of Crimea, and conditions are in place for learning these languages at schools and universities. Parents enrolling their children at any Crimean school can choose a language of instruction.

Major ethnic groups are represented in the Crimean executive bodies on a proportional basis. The Interior Ministry, for example, has 56 percent Russians, 29 percent Ukrainians and 11 percent Crimean Tatars in its staff. The prosecutor’s office has 71 percent Russians, 16 percent Ukrainians and 10 percent Crimean Tatars.

The number of Ukrainian nationals visiting the peninsula is increasing every year. Around 400,000 Ukrainians visited Crimea in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, the number of Ukrainian tourists reached 700,000. In 2017, the figure exceeded 800,000. The total number of tourists who visited Crimea in 2017 stands at 5.13 million.

All this is happening against the backdrop of intimidation of Ukrainians by Kiev and Ukrainian media, recommendations not to visit Crimea, and even despite the fact that many Ukrainians have to wait for hours at Ukrainian checkpoints at the Russia-Ukraine border to enter Crimea.

Finally, we would like to propose that representatives of the OSCE states, parliament members and NGOs visit the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol and form their own judgement of the situation based on their personal experience rather than observations from a distance which are usually based on biased sources. We are ready to welcome delegations of international organisations in Crimea if they travel there according to procedures applicable to Russia visits.

Thank you.

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