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Comment of the Directorate General of Information Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
10 March 2014 18:40

Recently, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, having been occupied by Russian troops and other paramilitary forces under their direct control, there has been an unprecedented number of flagrant violation of human rights and a complete disregard for the Constitution of Ukraine and international law.

The Russian Federation is indirectly acting through the puppet regime of the Crimean authorities and directly through its illegally stationed armed forces of the Russian Federation and is solely responsible for the impressive violations of the rights and freedoms of civilians, in particular the right to freedom of speech and assembly as well as encroaching on the freedom, honor and dignity of human health and life.

Under constant moral and psychological pressure, journalists are trying to objectively report on the events in Crimea and provide accurate and unbiased information to citizens of Ukraine and the international community about the unfolding events on the peninsula, in particular about the presence of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Crimea and their attempt to further destabilize the situation.

Ukrainian and foreign media outlets are faced with obstruction of business, are being restricted from moving about the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and are directly threatened with aggression, beatings and robberies by armed groups supported by the self-proclaimed authorities of Crimea.

Individual citizens and journalists who have opposed the attempts of the Russian Federation to annex Crimea and have voiced their opposition to unlawful and illegitimate decisions made by Crimean officials, have had their names put on a list of “unreliable people” (essentially, an enemies list) and their photos and personal data have been distributed on social networks and bulletin boards with calls for brutal reprisals against them.

However, thanks to their selfless work, information about mass violations of human rights in Crimean have managed to break through the barrage of disinformation that has been spread throughout the media by Russia and in so doing, have overcome the physical blockade preventing representatives of the international community and civil society from entering the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

It should also be noted that international observers who have come to Ukraine to objectively monitor alleged human rights violations in Crimea, have not been allowed onto the territory of the autonomous republic or have been forced to leave.

On March 5, 2014 in Simferopol, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General Roberty Serry was put under duress, forced to cut short his visit to Crimea. Additionally, on four separate occasions, OSCE observers were prevented from entering the peninsula: they were denied access through checkpoints by armed guards who eventually fired warning shots over the heads of the delegation.

Members of the Ukrainian military have also experienced constant pressure from these armed groups, comprised of members of the armed forces and special units as well as members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, that do not have the right to be stationed on the territory of Ukraine.

The apogee of contempt for all basic rules of Ukrainian and international legislation came in the form of violent kidnappings of journalists, activists and member of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

On March 9, 2014 two groups of journalists and activists were detained at a checkpoint to Crimea from Kherson oblast, and their whereabouts remain unknown. Earlier, journalists from stations “1+1”, “STB”, “Channel 5”, “Inter” and “HromadskeTV” as well as print journalists and their foreign counterparts were attacked. On the same day, a commander from one of the bases of the Ukrainian armed forces was kidnapped. And this is but a small sampling of kidnappings and acts of violence against peaceful citizens committed by the forces of Russian aggression.

Kidnappings and threats of force undermine the fundamental values of any society that professes a respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Moreover, systematizing such acts as policy has been recognized by the international community as a crime against humanity.

These conditions, the abduction of civilians in the center of contemporary Europe, are an unacceptable violation of all democratic norms and principles and requires an immediate and harsh condemnation by our international partners.

It is imperative to offer a clear legal assessment of the actions of those who, for the sake of satisfying their pragmatic interests and under the guise of humanitarian slogans, actually destroy the democratic achievements of our country and attempt to create a dangerous precedent that threatens not only the sovereignty of Ukraine, but also regional stability.

It is unfortunate that in this situation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, instead of satisfying their normal international functions and maintaining compliance with Russia’s international obligations, has taken on the mission of systematic disinformation, sowing unfounded fear among its own citizens, and creating a horrible picture of events in Ukraine that have nothing to do with reality.

In this context, it is still surprising to see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation spread falsehoods in a statement in which Russia continues to mislead others with descriptions of “chaos” in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Based on official information from law enforcement agencies in Ukraine, on March 8, 2014, there was no incident involving firearms in Kharkiv nor were there any reports of anyone sustaining gunshot wounds. There is also no evidence to support the claim by the Russian Foreign Ministry that seven Russian journalists were detained in Dnipropetrovsk.

Again, we urge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to refrain from spreading unverified information. At a time when the international community expects the Russian Federation to de-escalate the situation in Crimea, we implore the Russian Federation to use restraint, to be prudent and responsible in the search for a settlement to the situation in Crimea. To this end, we recommend as actual evidence, observations by citizens of Ukraine, citizens of other states currently residing in Ukraine, including our fellow citizens—ethnic Russians, who are not under any threat, except for that posed by further aggression by Russia itself. 

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