Russia launched its well-planned armed aggression against Ukraine on 20 February 2014 with the military operation of its Armed Forces on seizing a part of the Ukrainian territory — Crimean peninsula. This date is not even denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense, as it is indicated on the departmental medal “For the return of Crimea”. In fact, only the next day Viktor Yanukovych fled from Kyiv; and it was already 22 February 2014 that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Resolution “On the dissociation of the President of Ukraine from fulfillment of constitutional powers and appointment of early presidential elections in Ukraine”, used by Russia as a pretext for accusations of the alleged “unconstitutional coup in Ukraine”.
Illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was just the first Russian step aimed at undermining independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. The Kremlin has always been firmly convinced that Russia will never become a world leader without control over Ukraine, meanwhile a democratic and prosperous Ukraine is a threat to the current authoritarian rule in Russia. That is why the next step of the Russian aggression was an attempt to destabilize the situation in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine in order to form a quasi-state “Novorossiya”. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this plan at the “Dialogue with the Russians” TV program on the First Channel on 17 April 2014. We succeeded to disrupt the full implementation of his plans, but Russian regular troops and its proxies occupied certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
Military aggression is just one element of the Russian hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Other elements encompass:
1) propaganda based on lies and falsifications; 2) trade and economic pressure; 3) energy blockade; 4) terror and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens; 5) cyber attacks; 6) a strong denial of the very fact of war against Ukraine despite large scope of irrefutable evidence; 7) use of pro-Russian forces and satellite states in its own interests; 8) blaming the other side for its own crimes.
Courageous Ukrainian soldiers, National Guard and other defense and law enforcement servicemen stopped the active phase of the Russian military invasion against Ukraine.
Joint political and diplomatic efforts of the international community constitute a crucial element in countering Russian aggression. On 27 March 2014 the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution 68/262 «Territorial Integrity of Ukraine» which confirmed the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The same stance was confirmed by the UN General Assembly resolution 71/205 “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)” of 19 December 2016. Besides that, this resolution unambiguously defines Russia as an occupying power and places all the responsibility for human rights violation in Crimea upon Moscow.
Numerous documents in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders were approved by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and other international organizations.
Political and economic sanctions are the most effective tool of pressure on the aggressor state. They significantly reduced the possibility of a large-scale invasion and forced Russia to sit at the negotiating table, in particular within the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine and Russia are parties to the conflict, the OSCE is a mediator) and Normandy Quartet (Ukraine and Russia are parties to the conflict, France and Germany are mediators). A decision to ease or lift the sanctions will encourage a new wave of Russian military aggression.
Russian aggression against Ukraine has left about 9940 people killed and up to 23455 wounded (UN data). This number includes, in particular, 298 passengers of MH17 flight, including 80 children, killed as a result of terrorist attack on 17 July 2014, when the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by the Russian servicemen from BUK missile system that had been transferred to the occupied territory of Donbas from the Russian Federation.
About 1.584.000 residents of Crimea and Donbas are now internally displaced persons after being compelled to leave their homes.
As of today Russia continues to illegally occupy Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea (26 081 km²), the city of Sevastopol (864 km²), certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (16799 km²) — in total 43744 km² or 7,2% of the territory of Ukraine.
The occupied areas have become a territory of fear and terror, the occupying authorities act by repressive measures, resorting to systematic and large-scale violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Alarming human rights situation in occupied Crimea was condemned by the UN General Assembly Resolution 71/205 «Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)», adopted on 19 December 2016.
Economy of Donbas has been completely destroyed. Equipment of main industrial facilities of Donbas was dismantled and transported to the territory of Russia. Situation with flooded mines threatens environmental disaster. Russian authorities do not allow access of experts for assessing the threats and seeking ways to mend the situation.
A 409,7 km section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border in the east remains out of control by the Government of Ukraine.
The Minsk Agreements (Protocol of 5 September 2014, Memorandum of 19 September 2014 and Package of measures of 12 February 2015) are a basis for political resolution of the conflict in Donbas. They have been violated by the Russian Federation on a regular basis. Signing of the first documents in September 2014 followed direct incursion of the Russian regular troops in Donbas and intense hostilities near the city of Ilovaysk — the place of one of the most shameful crimes, committed by the Russian Army in Donbas. At least 366 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 429 were wounded there while leaving the city in the so-called “green corridor” under the guarantees of commanders of Russian troops.
In violation of the Minsk Memorandum, Russian troops and Russia-backed illegal armed formations seized 8 pieces of land 1696 km² in area, which had to be on the Ukrainian government-controlled territory according to the line of contact, defined by the Memorandum.
Debaltseve is one of the most telling examples of how Russia violates the Minsk Agreements. Combined Russian-terrorist forces attacked and seized the city and the outskirts on 16–18 February 2015, immediately after the Minsk Package of measures, establishing the comprehensive ceasefire since 15 February, had been signed.
Resorting to the military aggression against Ukraine, Russia violated fundamental norms and principles of international law, enshrined, in particular, in:
Russian occupation and further attempted annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as Russian illegal actions in Donbas, fall under the definition of aggression according to the points а), b), c), d), e) і g) Art.3 of the Annex to UN General Assembly Resolution “Definition of Aggression” (3314(XXIX)). The following actions are a serious crime against international peace, which entails international responsibility of the Russian Federation at the state level and international criminal responsibility of its leadership.
Russia continues to supply weapons, ammunition and fuel to the occupied territory through the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border in order to strengthen the units of its regular troops, deployed in Donbas, as well as the illegal armed formations, it backs.
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission repeatedly informed about the presence in Donbas of weapons and military equipment that is adopted exclusively by the Russian army. SMM observers in Donbas spotted heavy flamethrower system “Buratino”, a radio-electronic suppression complex P-330 “Zhitel”, UAV “Orlan-10”, portable RLS “Grad-P” etc.
It is through the uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border that Russian regular troops and mercenaries continue to arrive to Donbas from Russia. Russian mercenaries are qualified as “foreign terrorist fighters” in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2178 (2014) of 24th of September 2014. They constitute significant part of Russia-formed 1 and 2 AK army corpses (command chain consists from Russian officers and generals). The number of regular Russian troops in Donbas is between 3,6 and 4.2 thousand troops.
In violation of the Minsk agreements, Russia and its proxies continue to impede access of the OSCE SMM to the uncontrolled border. Visits of observers are of sporadic and short-time nature that conducted in the presence of Russian proxies.
Russia is the only OSCE participating State blocking the expansion of the mandate of the OSCE Observer Mission, which is now deployed at two Russian border crossing points “Gukovo” and “Donetsk”, to the entire section of the Russian-Ukrainian state border, adjacent to the territory in Donbas, which is out of control by the Ukrainian government.
Russia refuses to fulfill its obligation under paragraph 4 of the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 on the establishment of security zones in border areas of Ukraine and Russia with ensuring permanent border monitoring and verification by the OSCE.
Russia’s aggressive policy targets not only Ukraine. Russia violated territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia, announced its territorial claims and the willingness to “protect” Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States. Russia supports Eurosceptic and radical movements in Europe. It was registered that Russian special services interfered in the electoral campaign during the US presidential election in 2016, carried out cyber attacks against OSCE, Germany and France.
Russia`s brutal military campaign in Syria has resulted in increased wave of refugees to Europe. There is much evidence of close relations between Russian special services and terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Political and economic sanctions were imposed on Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine, therefore, stopping Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the reinstatement of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity may be the only reason for their cancellation. In other circumstances, Russia will continue its aggression, extending it to other states in the region.