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Ukrainian American Bar Association

Declaration of Solidarity with Ukraine

22 Sep 2015 8:10 PM | Myroslaw Smorodsky (Administrator)

Declaration of Solidarity with Ukraine
Kyiv, 14 September 2015

The world is facing a number of serious challenges today. However, the international community will not be able to overcome them unless it fends off the efforts of anti-democratic and fundamentalist forces whose goal is to undermine the very foundations of human civilization. The Russian Federation’s attack on Ukraine and the military actions of the Islamic State in the Middle East are the biggest threats to mankind and we have no right to ignore them.

The Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine began on February 20, 2014, when its Armed Forces illegally crossed into Crimea. As a consequence, Ukrainian territory was seized: the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Region. Yet Russia’s goal is not to hold on to the occupied territories but to destroy the national identity and independence of Ukraine as a state, with a broader aim of weakening European solidarity and wrecking the alliance between the countries of Europe and North America. The Kremlin keeps testing the readiness and capacity of the free world to withstand its revanchist plans.

Today, the price of global freedom and security is being paid by the lives of thousands of Ukrainians, both civilians and soldiers. Ukraine currently stands alone in fending off Russia’s aggression militarily.

President Poroshenko’s peace plan called for both sides to initiate a ceasefire as of June 20, 2014, for all illegal armed groups to leave Ukrainian territory, and for the country to start decentralization and reform of local self-government and to embark on a long-term program to restore the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions. The Russian Federation simply ignored this plan. At the end of August 2014 and during January-February 2015, Russia instead used regular units of its Armed Forces on a mass scale against Ukraine.

In order to avoid a major conflict that might lead to a new world war, Ukraine was forced to compromise under the Minsk arrangements agreed with Russia through the mediation of the EU in the person of the German and French leaders.  Even though it was one of the parties to the agreements, Russia instead turned around and established proxy irregular military formations under the guise of the armed forces of two pseudo-republics, the Dennard the LNR. In fact, these forces are subordinate to the command of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and act under their orders. Russia has continued to systematically supply them with personnel, ammunition, military equipment, heavy weapons, and fuel.
Since the signing of the September 2014 Minsk arrangements, more than 2,000 Ukrainian fighters and nearly 8,000 civilian citizens of Ukraine have been killed, tens of thousands have been injured and crippled, nearly 2 million Ukrainian citizens have been displaced, and at least 1,300 Ukrainians have disappeared. Countless war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed against Ukrainian military personnel and civilians alike. Infrastructure and dozens of major industrial enterprises have been deliberately destroyed, and the equipment of some industrial establishments was either stolen or stripped and shipped to the Russian Federation.

The Minsk arrangements have become nothing more than an instrument that allows Russia to keep deceiving the world in order to avoid further sanctions, as well as  imposing conditions on Ukraine that are destructive for its constitutional order and statehood. Points 4, 9, 10, and 11 of the Minsk arrangements, signed in February 2015, require Ukraine to fulfill its commitments in an order that is irrational and in contradiction to accepted international standards, which prohibit the holding of elections on occupied territories, and in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, which states, “The Constitution of Ukraine shall not be amended during a state of war or state of emergencies” (Section 2, Art. 157.)

Unfortunately, the Russian scenario for fulfilling the Minsk arrangements is supported by a number of western leaders, effectively changing them from being partners of Ukraine to accessories to the diplomacy of force of the aggressor state. However, any concessions to Russia at the expense of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the destruction of its constitutional order, or the undermining of its independence will make it impossible to resolve the conflict and avoid war. Appeasing the aggressor has always historically led to an escalation in the conflict and its transition into an active “hot” stage of war. Only unanimous rejection and resolute action against the aggressor by all available means can stop a war. The illegal forcing of Ukraine into unilateral concessions is not a search for compromise for the sake of maintaining peace, but a spur for the Putin regime to continue with its expansionist plans. And not only with regard to Ukraine.

The flaws of the Minsk arrangements can and must be corrected by interpreting and implementing their provisions in accordance with international law and the Constitution of Ukraine. Ukraine has already carried out most of the provisions of the arrangements, especially those regarding a cease fire, withdrawing heavy weapons, approving legislation called for in the Minsk arrangements, and so on. On August 31, 2015, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature, passed on first reading the amendments to the Constitution regarding the decentralization of government powers. However, Point 18 of the Transitional Provisions to the Constitution establishes a new constitutional rule, according to which local self-government in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions should be established by a special law. This rule is being adopted under the threat of force on the part of the aggressor-state and effectively undermines the constitutional order in Ukraine. Its adoption is redundant, since as early as 16 September 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the Bill “On a special order of local self-government in certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions”. As  provided by the Bill, it becomes effective after free local elections are held in these areas in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine and well recognized international standards; in other words, after de-occupation of aforementioned areas.

In any case, these amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution can only receive final approval and local elections can be held in the Luhansk and Donetsk Regions when Point 18 of the Transitional Provisions is removed from the draft amendments to the Constitution, and, when all foreign military forces withdraw from Ukrainian territory, when the illegal irregular armed formations of DNR and LNR are disbanded and disarmed, when sovereignty is restored over all of Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories, and when the entire Ukrainian-Russian border is once again under the control of the government of Ukraine.

We call on the leaders of western democracies to:
1. Establish a broad international coalition “For Democracy” to effectively counteract neo imperial challenges to international law and order.

2. Increase diplomatic, political and especially financial, trade and economic pressure on the Russian Federation as the aggressor state to force it to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict, to cease its armed aggression and challenges to the constitutional order in Ukraine, and to pay reparations for all the consequences of its military aggressions.

3. Cease all efforts to impose Putin’s scenario of implementation of the Minsk arrangements on Ukraine, since his plans undermine the public peace, constitutional order and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and also encourage Russia to continue its aggressive actions against other countries.

4. Provide Ukraine with the necessary lethal defensive weapons that will permit it to adequately repel the aggressor and prevent further aggression in the future.

5. Organize a peacekeeping mission to eastern Ukraine for the purpose of overseeing the proper implementation of the Minsk arrangements and thus preventing further violations thereof.

We appeal to all those who care about the fate of Ukraine as a peaceful democratic European state and the restoration of international law and order, as well as the preservation of a long lasting peace in Europe, to support this Declaration.

Leonid Kravchuk, First President of Ukraine

Borys Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (1998-2000), (2005-2006)

Volodymyr Ohryzko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2007-2009)

Volodymyr  Vassylenko, Professor Of International Law, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine

Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, Member of the Club of Rome, Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Geneva

Ihor Yukhnovskyi, Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Hero of Ukraine

Oksana Pachlowska, Professor at the University of Rome "La Sapienza"

Joseph Zissels, Executive Vice President of the Congress of National minorities of Ukraine, Executive Vice President of Jewish Confederation of Ukraine

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