AS (2014) CR 15
2014 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 3.30 p.m.
Recent developments in Ukraine: threats to the functioning of democratic institutions
The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.
Ms ANTTILA (Finland) – I thank our rapporteurs for their good report on recent developments in Ukraine. We all deeply regret the dramatic events at the Maidan in February. What led up to that event? The Ukrainian authorities suspended the procedure for the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, the negotiation of which had already begun in 2009.
Ukraine is a sovereign State and we have to respect its sovereignty. It has every right to negotiate this agreement. At the same time, in 2009, Ukraine and Russia had their own common agreement on the same issues. Why did the European Union and Ukraine forget to inform and discuss this with Russia during the time of negotiation? Is it because Ukraine was planning to stop the co-operation with Russia in this area? I think that was a mistake.
The political relations between Russia and the European Union are not good; rather, they are problematic. This is not good for Europe. We are suffering from this state of affairs. Recent events have increased the east-west divide in Ukraine and have led to unrest among the populations of both parts of the country. The only way to resolve these problems is through an open democracy. The people of Ukraine must have the full right to decide their future in free elections. It is very important to establish a democratic inclusive system of governance for the country. This opens a new window of opportunity for Ukraine’s democratic development.
Some European Union representatives have said that Ukraine belongs to Europe. Russia says Ukraine belongs to the Russian neighbourhood countries. This is not a fruitful discussion, and it is not acceptable. I strongly support Ukrainians’ full democratic rights to decide for themselves without any outside recommendations and threats.
The European Union was established to keep peace in Europe. We have managed this very well for decades. How can this Ukrainian crisis be resolved in a diplomatic way? We really need to get Russia, Ukraine and the European Union around the same negotiating table to find a common solution to these serious problems.
Mr SKINNARI (Finland) – The crisis in Ukraine is best resolved through dialogue. Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the United States must all sit around the same negotiating table. In this crisis there are no good guys or bad guys, only State interests: those of the independent republic of Ukraine; the current and historical interests of Russia; the interests of the European Union member States; and the NATO-centred interests of the United States. All parties much reach a common understanding. The decision on the constitution of Ukraine belongs to the people of Ukraine.
In the middle of all this, we have the individual, whose rights everyone wants to defend. The individual is the most important element. Defending human rights is especially the task of the Council of Europe; Europe is best represented through the Council of Europe. That is why we have a huge responsibility to create the conditions for a positive climate with the aim of finding a political solution to the situation in Ukraine. The Council of Europe must support this aim. We cannot hinder the progress of diplomatic forces. Now is the time for common sense and agreement through mutual respect for one another.
Ms SCHOU (Norway) – Yet again the crisis in Ukraine is on our agenda. I am deeply saddened by the deterioration of the situation. Despite warnings from the international community, Russia has violated international law through the annexation of Crimea. I can only join the Norwegian Foreign Minister B°rge Brende in his condemnation of Russia’s actions. As far as Norway is concerned, we see neither the referendum in Crimea, nor the Russian annexation of Crimea as a change in the status of Crimea. According to international law, Crimea is part of Ukraine.
On accession to the Council of Europe, Russia declared its intention to abide by the commitments it signed up to, and not to threaten to use force against its neighbours. The annexation of Crimea is a clear violation of this.
Ukraine deserves our full political support. Through this resolution we must give a clear message to the Ukrainian Government that we support their efforts for a democratic and peaceful transition. In building a democratic future for the Ukraine, the Council of Europe can, and should play a central role. At the initiative of Secretary General Jagland, the Venice Commission and the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities have delivered opinions and reports crucial to understanding the situation. The Venice Commission is clear: the changes in the Russian constitution in annexing Crimea is in violation of international law.
The advisory committee is deeply concerned about the safety and access to rights of the minority populations in Crimea, especially the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian community. It did not find limitations on the use of the Russian language. This shows that the institutions and monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe are important in providing a nuanced picture of the developments, as well as in giving crucial advice on the way forward.
The Council of Europe is the only pan-European institution. A key asset of the Parliamentary Assembly lies in its role as an arena for dialogue; there are 47 member States, all of which have direct lines of communication with each other through this Assembly. We should keep it this way. Then again, being a member of the Council of Europe means making a commitment. Member States must live up to our standards of human rights, democracy and rule of law. If not, leaving is an option.
On 25 May, the Ukrainian people will go to the polls and elect their president. Together with the Organsization for Security and Co-operation in Europe we will send election monitors. It is crucial that the presidential election is free and fair and that the Ukrainian peoples’ voice is heard. We, as an Assembly, and as fellow Europeans, must do what we can to support this democratic process. The ongoing crisis must be solved with political means, free and fair elections being one of those.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – Despite Russian propaganda, which is full of false information about Ukraine, facts are undeniable. The new Ukrainian authorities are legitimate and have all the credentials to rule the State. What happened in February? The Verkhovna Rada, which was democratically elected in 2012, backed up the previous version of the Ukrainian constitution which had been cancelled after an illegal decision of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court that was adopted in 2010 under the pressure of former President Yanukovych.
As the Venice Commission concluded in its opinion, 599/2010, the Constitutional Court had changed the constitution voluntarily, exceeding its authority, and it was recommended that the Parliament of Ukraine improve this disparity. And the Parliament has improved it, with the constitutional majority.
According to the current constitution, the Government was elected in line with the Rules of Procedure by a wide coalition – more than three quarters of the Parliament. On 22 February, the President of Ukraine escaped from the country, and we still do not know whether he is alive. In this case, the constitution stipulates that the Head of Parliament is under an obligation to execute presidential credentials. Generally, everything was done according to the legal procedure.
We understand that Yanukovych is a puppet to his masters in the Kremlin, and that they are now angry with Ukrainians for their revolution in the name of dignity. Russian officials are afraid when free people fight for their liberty. That is the only explanation for why Russia does not recognise the Ukrainian authorities. But the sun cannot be the moon, even for Putin. Moscow’s propaganda media are flooding Ukraine with lies; I will give you some facts to counter all of it.
There is no proof whatsoever of ethnic Russians being killed in the Crimea or in south-eastern Ukraine; no decisions have been made by the Ukrainian Government discriminating against the Russian-speaking population; more than half of all TV channels and about 60% of printed outlets are in Russian; 45% of the EuroMaidan revolution participants in Kiev were Russian native speakers; and 80% in the south, and 76% in the east of Ukraine are against Crimea’s separation from Ukraine. Radical movements are supported by only 1.5% of voters; this number is lower than in the European Union. But the main thing is that Ukraine remains open to any kind, and any level of observation. Just as a comparison, Russian denied international observers access to visit Crimea. I could continue with a long list of Russian propaganda tricks. I would like to finish this passage with a joke: we have the same number of armed people in public places as there are bears walking along city streets in Russia.
Now the Kremlin is heating up and is financing the separatists’ movement in eastern Ukraine in order to create a new grey zone in three or four eastern regions. The Kremlin’s main goal at the moment is to create areas of tension – to wreck the presidential elections in Ukraine.
Dear colleagues, Ukraine is now in a very difficult situation. The former Kremlin puppet government has destroyed our economic, financial and military potential. Russian troops are located along our eastern borders. We are ready to fight against occupants, however long it takes. But do not forget what happened to Europe when it let Hitler annex and occupy neighbouring countries. Yes, we have a new regime in the Kremlin now. Russia did not win the battle against fascism in 1945, but it got it as a trophy to use later against Ukraine. Cast your minds back to their tanks in Prague and Budapest. Do you want you see that again? To stop Putin we have to unite. And now it is time to be #UnitedForUkraine in order to avoid a new world tragedy.
Ms ZELIENKOV┴ (Czech Republic) – I would like to stress that the only way out of the crisis in Ukraine is through dialogue, and that is what we are seeking – there is no alternative. Russia is not our enemy, although it seems that some of its leaders are trying to provoke the West. However, Russia’s actions have backfired; the process of trust with the European Union and United States of America has been damaged for the decade ahead.
This is also a huge challenge for the Council of Europe, because looking back on the whole of modern European history, we know that the policy of retreating makes no sense. I call for the unity of the Council of Europe because we have agreed on common values. The distance of countries from Russia and bilateral trade with these countries cannot play any role in this dispute. We have to respect each other’s opinions, but we should also pay attention to what we know about those countries due to common history, geographical and cultural relations with Russia and Ukraine, which have been closely bonded for centuries. Their knowledge is not supported by prejudice, but by facts. We therefore have to agree, with all due respect, on a long-term strategy for the development of relations with Russia, and all of us, as parliamentarians, should insist on it in our Parliaments.
Finally, I would like to make some points to those who are reluctant to denounce the Russian annexation of Crimea, invoking Crimea and Russia’s common history and the wishes of the local population to become Russian citizens again. All of us present were elected on the basis of the mechanism of democracy, which we incurred in the long and often bloody history of the formation of European values that we consider universal. In my opinion, a referendum in a country occupied by troops, influenced by one-sided propaganda, insusceptible to arguments from the other side with no space in the media, escalated at the highest possible level, preventing the free expression of opinion of each voter, and presenting a false choice between two manipulative and suggestive questions, in which there is no option for Crimea to remain in Ukraine, should not be valid. This is the reason why I cannot accept the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. In this respect, I think we should show our condemnation of this action by the acceptance of sanctions.
If you accept the referendum in Crimea as legal, you should consider whether you should remain in this institution, because by this behaviour you degrade and insult your voters. At the same time, you send a message to your voters that you would allow your own political career to be supported by cannon and tank barrels.
Ms PAKOSTA (Estonia) – This is a very good report. I would like to summarise the most important facts. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is a fully legitimate body, elected in 2012 under the close observation of the Assembly. All its decisions must be respected by the Ukrainians, but also by all other nations.
Indeed, Ukraine faces a Herculean task to carry out meaningful reforms. We must continue to give the country all assistance necessary to fulfil this task. However, at present, all reform efforts of the new legitimate government and the Ukrainian Parliament are blocked, as the country is having to deal simultaneously with its real internal problems and the escalating assaults by Putin's Russia on its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We all know that President Putin will not stop until he has brought Ukraine to its knees – at least not until the rest of Europe stops him through serious sanctions. Representing the most venerable human rights watchdog in Europe, we must, in effect, condemn and deplore Russia's actions. And we must hold accountable all those who have contributed, and continue to contribute to the unlawful annexation of the Crimea, who encourage the deployment of Russian armed forces in the Crimea and eastern Europe, or who deliberately sent Russian provocateurs to destabilise the situation in Ukraine.
I follow with deep concern the provocation organised by Russian troops in civilian clothing with the aim of making the 25 May presidential elections a failure in Ukraine. It is our principal task to ensure that these elections are organised in a normal and peaceful atmosphere and to guarantee that the will of the people in Ukraine is freely expressed without any external pressures.
Nor must we fall victim to the Russian propaganda war. All arguments such as the protection of minorities are false. We know that only too well. The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities declared after a visit to Ukraine that there is no threat to minorities there. Let the Ukrainian constitution and the Council of Europe conventions protect multi-ethnic Ukraine and not the expansionist aspirations of President Putin.
Dear colleagues, I hear you say over and over again that we need to continue dialogue with Russia, but dialogue with whom? Do you really think that any of us will be able to convince President Putin to change his course? His own law-makers cannot, or do not want to call him to order. There was only one Russian MP - Mr Ilya Ponomaryov - who dared to vote against the annexation and the continued aggression against Ukraine. Allow me to thank him for his courage. He should be in this Chamber, instead of those who approved the aggression.
May I finish by replying to Mr Slutsky’s perfect demonstration of demagoguery and echo his words that “truth finds the light of day”. Yes, the truth is that our Russian members have shown us with their deliberations today that they have no understanding of the values and principles of the Council of Europe, and thereby have no place in this Organisation.
Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal) – Our Assembly has debated Ukrainian problems several times. We all want to help Ukraine to consolidate its democratic institutions and grant its citizens prosperity and social justice. Unfortunately, there have been many obstacles to achieving these goals. And now, after a long period of political and social confrontation and unrest, the Ukrainian system has almost collapsed. The incumbent President left the country and escaped to foreign territory, in the face of failure to maintain law and order in his own capital, even through brutal repression and mass killings. We must give full support to the new legitimate authorities of Ukraine. The president pro tempore was previously the president in office of the Supreme Rada; the government is multi-partisan and has the confidence of a two-thirds majority in the parliament.
Ukraine, as a member of the Council of Europe, is entitled to the solidarity of all other member States. I express my personal agreement to the proceedings of co-operation announced at the beginning of this debate by Secretary General Jagland and I hope they are successful. I have studied the history of Ukraine, and I am aware of the many sufferings of its people. I understand the anxiety of the Ukrainian citizens in the present situation, feeling their country under threat of division and military occupation by a powerful neighbour.
Our Assembly must condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of the eastern part of Ukraine by Russia. Russia is also a member country of the Council of Europe and its leaders should bear in mind that those attitudes are totally unacceptable. The new version of Brezhnev’s Limited Sovereignty doctrine, under the little of the near abroad, is a reminiscent of the Soviet imperialistic era and must be denied and repelled. Europe and the world need, and would greatly benefit from a modern, open, progressive and democratic Russia, not a ghost of past times disturbing the Euro-Asian continent.
Ms KAZAKOVA (Russian Federation) – I became a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe not so long ago. When I meet my voters and they ask me about the main purpose of this Organisation, I usually say that its basic role consists in providing a platform for a constructive dialogue in order to protect democracy, and the rights and freedom of the citizens of our countries. And I genuinely believed that until recently – but not after I read the document before you.
Indeed, we are here not to present our concerns about this or that issue, but to present information and facts underlying these concerns. If we are guided by our emotions, we will face a situation similar to that which occurred in the lobby of the hotel where we are staying, when one of the Ukrainian parliamentarians started to behave aggressively, shouting, “It’s a shame being Russian! God damn you!” and so on. Please note that we heard it, not from a marginal person, but from a representative of one of the branches of power. And this happened here in Strasbourg, the city of calm and democracy. Imagine what Russian-speaking citizens might hear from such a person in the territory where that person enjoys absolute power. This is about paragraph 15, which states that there is no threat to the rights of Russian-speaking people. What about the ban on the use of the Russian language? Is this not a violation of rights?
Now I turn to several facts concerning paragraph 16 of the resolution. Concerning the referendum in Crimea, there were 1 200 polling stations during the referendum. You can have a look at the list of district electoral commissions’ members, comprising Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, Armenians and Greeks. Even in the areas predominantly inhabited by Crimean Tatars the turnout was not less than 65%. For example, as one of the chairs of Taurida National University said, speaking at the extended meeting of the Academic Board, “Mejlis is not all Tatars. My family and I will go to the referendum and we will vote ‘in favour’”. Ask your fellow observers. There were representatives of Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic – with 600 international observers overall. There were thousands of journalists who were purposefully trying to find proof of violations. But there were no violations, as there were no complaints during the referendum, not even anonymous ones. Where are they? Can you show them to me? I have not seen a single photo, a single video. Maybe you have such information? I was there at that time; what about you? Can you confirm your allegations with any facts? Observers saw queues at polling stations, a moment of remarkable harmony and unanimity, because people cast their ballots following their souls. What fraud in the referendum are you talking about? Do people really believe that you can force people to celebrate with champagne and fireworks?
On paragraph 12, can you show me any complaints regarding the interdiction of access to the homes of the Ukrainian and Tatar minorities in Crimea? Can you show me any appeal to the Crimean or Ukrainian authorities or maybe to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe? There are none, and there never will be, because this paragraph is a downright lie. Instead, we have one of the leaders of the “Right Sector” movement who addressed to terrorist Doku Umarov a request for help and urged him to be more active against Russia. Is this not a signal for us to reflect upon? Or have we forgotten that terrorism does not act within one country or one people?
Yesterday, the whole world celebrated International Roma day. I received a letter from the head of the Roma community of Russia. I quote: “Today, when fascist thugs are marching in the streets of Kiev under the banners of Bandera and are openly promoting genocide, it is of particular importance to speak about the extermination of Gypsy people by the Ukrainian fascists. We are indignant at the fact that European politicians do not give us a legal evaluation of the developments in Ukraine.”
And this, dear colleagues, is true about almost every paragraph. There is no data which could confirm the correctness of the facts in the resolution; instead there are many questions which you have not been able to answer so far. That is why, by voting for such a resolution, you press the button of destruction of democracy and truth. I ask you to consider the situation thoroughly and vote against this resolution, and then start an unbiased dialogue which would help us to stop the escalation of a deep crisis in Ukraine and bring peace and prosperity back to this land.
Many of you are wondering: from what source do these Russians have so much information about life in Ukraine and why do they aspire so much to stop mass protests and chaos, to see peace and prosperity come back to this blessed land? This is because, for us, it is something more than it is for all of you in this hall. In our delegation alone, most members have blood ties with Ukraine – Ukrainian origins, friends, relatives. For instance, I lived in Lugansk for 15 years, I grew up there, my kid was born there, there I have all my schoolmates, my relatives live there, they love Ukraine, they have been living and working honestly in this country. I have 2 square metres of my land there – it is mine because my brother is buried there. Next to Lugansk, in Krasnodon and Rovenki, you can see historical places where, during World War Two, the fascists tortured young heroes, buried them alive and branded stars on their bodies, no matter whether they were Ukrainians, Russians or Jews. We grew up with this history. And what can we do when we see thugs who are wearing the fascist swastika from head to foot, proudly marching in the streets, exchanging fascist greetings, chanting “we will knife and hang the Russians”, destroying and profaning the monuments to soldiers liberators? They do not hide it, they are proud of their actions; they film everything and publish it on the Internet.
And the public authorities do nothing to stop them. Should we be delighted with such authorities?
Ms GORYACHEVA (Russian Federation) – After reading this resolution, I was eager to take a shower; I saw in this document so much dirt, signs of a new Cold War, distortion of facts and an open desire to legitimise the blood-stained authorities in Kiev. It can only lead to an escalation of civil unrest in Ukraine.
But maybe that was its real aim. We already know who created and supported the armed coup d’Útat in Ukraine. Was it not the West that spent, as was reported by the media, $5 billion? Were the militants not trained in Poland and Lithuania? Did the officials of the European Union and the United States not scurry about among the protestors in Maidan, and then, after Germany, Poland and France signed the agreement on 21 February, dodge their responsibility and stop paying attention to bloodshed, armed militants, massacres, tortures, the humiliation of Russians, Jews and other peoples? We could perhaps have had some doubts, if there had been no Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria; now they do not exist for many countries in this world.
I will not analyse the whole document, but I will turn next to paragraph 14 of the resolution, which is permeated with ignorance and lies. It concerns the alleged aggression in Crimea. Any educated person is fully aware of the fact that the Black Sea fleet has already been stationed there for over 20 years on the basis of the bilateral agreement with Ukraine, which was fully respected. But there were also 15 000 Ukrainian troops in Crimea, so why did they not act? Why was not a single shot fired? Probably because the bloodstained and much-loved-by-the-West Kiev junta was so repulsive for the military that over two thirds of them decided to join Russia. Others were free to leave Crimea. So where do you see aggression?
The right of the Crimean people, 83% of whom came to the referendum and 97% of whom voted to join Russia, cannot be contested by those who consider themselves to be democrats – at least if they really want to be perceived as such. Besides, referring to the Ukrainian constitution violations is hypocritical; it would be more appropriate to address this issue to the self-appointed Kiev authorities.
There is one more point I would like to mention. Why were you not concerned about respect for the Constitution of Yugoslavia and its territorial integrity when you recognised the independence of Kosovo? Why such dismay now?
As for the ending of the resolution, which calls for a war against Russia and Russians in Ukraine, I would like to remind you of a well-known saying – he who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind. Europe’s foreign host is far away, but you are too close to a hotbed of tension that was created in Ukraine. Reflect upon this.
Finally, I would like to remind you of yet another wise remark by Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”