Міністерство закордонних справ України

Київ 07:29

Statement by Ambassador Oleh Shamshur at the 5th Information Meeting of the Director-General of UNESCO with the Permanent Delegates and Observers to UNESCO


 by H.E. Ambassador Oleh Shamshur

the Permanent Delegate of Ukraine to UNESCO at the 5th Information Meeting of the Director-General of UNESCO

 with the Permanent Delegates and Observers to UNESCO

on the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)

                                       (20 September 2017, Paris)


Mr. Assistant Director-General,

Distinguished representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and “Amnesty International”,

Dear Colleagues,

Let me start by expressing our appreciation of the work done by the Director-General Irina Bokova, Assistant Director-General Eric Falt and his team to organize five information meetings, as well as UNESCO partners that have been sharing with us their important insights into the human rights situation in Crimea under Russian occupation.

Upon the request of the Director-General Ukraine has submitted information on the latest developments in Crimea, largely covering the period following the 201st session of the Executive Board. It was included into the document under 202 EX/5, Part I (L) prepared by the Secretariat for the next session of the Executive Board.

All those factsheets clearly attest to the process of drastic curtailing of human rights in Crimea in all areas of responsibility of UNESCO, further degradation of the human rights situation in Crimea  in general. The violations of freedom of expression, conscience, and religion; the right to a peaceful assembly and association; freedom of the media and access to information; the right to education in one’s native language continue to be extremely severe and systemic. Linguistic rights are of particular concern, which was clearly stated in the Order of International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case “Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” (Ukraine vs Russian Federation) of 19 April 2017. In addition, the ever degrading state of conservation of the cultural property and its ongoing misappropriation, as well as illegal excavations and illicit trafficking of the valuable objects of art have also become current realities of the period of occupation.

Virtually every week bring another shocking news on the massive, well-planned offensive launched by the occupying power against individuals, organizations and institutions they deem to be “subversive”. Several outrages have happened after our information has been passed to UNESCO Secretariat.

After the annexation of the peninsula, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate in Crimea has experienced constant pressure from the Russian authorities and received numerous threats. In June 2016, the “Court of Appeal” of Sevastopol ordered the Crimean Diocese to vacate its premises in Simferopil and pay a substantial fine. On August 31 2017, Russian special services blocked the Church of the Holy Princes Olga and Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate in Simferopil. The property of the Ukrainian temple in the Crimea was damaged. The Archbishop of the Simferopol and Crimean Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate Clement reported that the bailiffs removed from the temple the cross, church utensils, rare icons, porcelain, crystal tableware and other objects donated to the church. Due to the brutal force used by the secret services the Archbishop himself received serious injuries.

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko called this attack totally unacceptable. The Russian assault on the freedom of religion stirred indignation of the international community that harshly condemned this heinous act.

On 15 August 2017, in Crimea near the children's recreation camp “Artek” a Muslim cemetery was destroyed in the course of so-called construction activities. The burial grounds were bulldozed. This was done notwithstanding the existence of agreement with the Crimean Tatar community that the construction machinery would be removed from the territory of the cemetery, where a monument to Saint Aziz, one of the venerated persons of Crimean Tatars was to be erected. To make situation even more horrendous, it is completely unknown whether his remains, as well as the remains of other Muslims buried in the cemetery, had been transferred to some other place before the destruction of the site.

Religious, national and other forms of intolerance, denigration of culture and traditions of non-Russian population, as well as targeted persecution of those who do not accept the illegal annexation of the peninsula have been characteristic of the actions of the occupying authorities in Crimea.

On September 11 the Russian-controlled court in the regional capital, Simferopil, sentenced the prominent Crimean Tatar leader, Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis Akhtem Chiygoz, to eight years in prison. As you know, the Mejlis was banned by Russia after it occupied and seized control of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula. In fact, Achtem Chiygoz, was imprisoned for his support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the struggle for human rights.

In another attack on the freedom of expression and rights of journalists, on September 18 the so-called Prosecutor's Office of Crimea requested in the court of Simferopol three years of imprisonment (with suspension) and ban on public activities for Crimean journalist Mykola Semena well known for his honest reports on "Radio Freedom" and "Krim.Realii". A trumped-up criminal case against him was filed by the notorious so-called prosecutor Natalia Poklonska back in April 2016. Mykola Semena is being falsely accused of public appeals to violate the territorial integrity of Russia.

While the population of the peninsula bears the brunt of occupation, the cultural and natural heritage in Crimea is also being treated by the Russian authorities as the spoils of the “conquest”, not as objects of timeless, historic significance. Illegal excavations, illicit construction activities, negligence regarding conservation and renovation of the invaluable cultural sites have become commonplace under occupation.

Nowadays international community, and UNESCO in particular, is preoccupied by the need to strengthen protection of cultural heritage in conflict areas. UNESCO has undertaken numerous efforts in this regard. We strongly believe that Crimean cultural heritage has been seriously endangered by Russian aggression and requires continuous attention and protection on the part of this Organization.

From the early days of occupation of Crimean peninsula by Russia, Ukraine had been forcefully deprived of the World Heritage property “Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora”, as well as of five cultural heritage sites inscribed on the Tentative List, and other numerous historical and architectural sites of national significance. While the issue of the state of conservation of Chersonese has been on the agenda of the World Heritage Committee, the Crimean sites included into the Tentative list are practically defenseless. We are convinced that UNESCO should pay more attention to the state of conservation of cultural heritage sites inscribed on the Tentative List.

We have taken due note that UNESCO follows closely the situation with regard to the illicit trafficking of paintings from the Aivazovsky National Art Gallery in Feodosia, Crimea (Ukraine) as it has been reflected in the document 202 EX/5 Part L. Still, we are convinced that UNESCO could and should play a proactive role in preventing such illegal activities, in particular by publicly condemning them and putting pressure on their perpetrators in order to remedy situation, especially as there has been evidence of the growing number of violations of the provisions of 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

According to the reports, on 29 June 2017 the exhibition "Panticapaeum and Phanagoria. The two Capitals of the Bosporan Kingdom" was opened in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow, the Russian Federation). The exhibition features 450 exhibits including archaeological objects from the funds of the so-called East Crimean Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve, which has seized the funds of the Ukrainian Crimean Republican Institution "Kerch Historical and Cultural Reserve". It is worth noting that a separate section of the exhibition - "Findings of the Recent Years" – contains archaeological objects found on the territory of the Crimean peninsula after its occupation by Russia. This exhibition constitute a brazen and uncontestable testimony of illegal export of the objects of the Museum Fund of Ukraine and the conduction of illegal archaeological excavations at the temporarily occupied territory. Another fact of illegal excavations undertaken by Russia is the recent sand extraction near the archaeological sites of Ancient Fortifications of Artesian. We expect UNESCO to pay due attention to these blatant violations.

We have reiterated on many occasions that human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea and the sense of impunity on the part of the Russian authorities is further exacerbated by the lack of the comprehensive direct monitoring activities of the international organizations there. Russia bans access to Crimea of the international observers and monitoring groups that collect information on the violations of human rights in Crimea.

These actions clearly contravene the provisions of the UNGA Resolution A/RES/71/205 "Situation of human rights in Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”, adopted on 19 December 2016, by which the General Assembly urges the Russian Federation to ensure the unimpeded access of international human rights monitoring mechanisms to the temporary occupied peninsula to monitor and report on the situation according to their mandates.

Within this context, I am pleased to acknowledge progress in the implementation of the relevant decisions of the Executive Board. In particular, as it was mentioned by the Assistant Director-General Eric Falt, two rounds of consultations took place in Kyiv within the  context of joint elaboration of modalities of a direct monitoring activity by the Secretariat on the follow-up of the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine). We are now close to finalizing the document that should allow for the commencement of the direct monitoring activities as the next step enhancing indirect monitoring and information gathering.

I would like to reconfirm the readiness of Ukraine to reinforce our dialogue with the Secretariat, members of the Executive Board, member States of UNESCO to ensure that this process is followed by practical actions corresponding to Executive Board decisions. Once again, I would like to repeat that the direct monitoring activities of UNESCO Secretariat cannot and should not be an aim in itself. They have to become an important instrument to redress the situation in Crimea within the mandate of our Organization.



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