Full version of the article for "The Irish Examiner"
In December 1991, 92,3% of Ukrainians, including those in Crimea and Donbass, overwhelmingly cast their votes for independence from the Soviet Union. As a result, the borders of Ukraine were registered at the United Nations and recognised without reserve by all nations of the world, including Russia.
One could hardly imagine that only a few decades later in 2014 the world would witness Russia launching flagrant aggression against its sovereign neighbour, Ukraine, by occupying Crimea and setting off hostilities in its eastern regions. This marks the first time since World War II that military force has been used to try to re-draw the borders of a European nation.
Five years have passed since and despite numerous resolutions of international organizations, as well as statements made by overwhelming number of governments and country leaders strongly condemning Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. Still, the Kremlin continues spreading lies and distorting facts to justify its illegal invasion of my country and to mislead the international community, including by means of their diplomats whom are presumed to be trustworthy.
Let me be honest, I was not surprised to be subjected to another barrage of lies from a Russian Ambassador. Russia’s diplomatic corps are utterly instrumental in helping the Kremlin to mask its crimes. However, I did not expect it to take place in Ireland, where the Government has unambiguously condemned the Russia`s aggression and supported Ukraine`s sovereignty, independence and inviolability of its borders. Trolling the Irish people with disinformation about my country and my compatriots, including those, who live here in Ireland, sharing Ukrainian culture and traditions and enjoying Irish heritage, is not diplomacy, its propaganda.
The reality is that during previous five years Russian military forces and its proxies have killed over 13,000 of my compatriots, badly wounded tens of thousands and forced nearly 1,5 million of people to leave their homes. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 3,023 civilians were killed during the period of April 2014 - February 2019.
We should also keep in our hearts and minds those 298 innocent women, men and children, nationals of many countries, who were on board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 shot down by Russian militants over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. Their loss brings the total number of civilian deaths to 3,321 people, with an estimated 7,000 additional injured civilians suffering because of Russia’s hostile actions in Ukraine.
At the same time, more than 70 Ukrainian nationals, have been illegally detained in Crimea and or transported to Russia under trumped-up and politically motivated charges. Amongst those are included the famous Ukrainian film maker Oleh Sentsov, who won the EU’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for simply having opposed Crimea`s annexation. Today, they all remain imprisoned in Russia, under deplorable conditions, without the benefit of due process of law. Sadly, the list of these prisoners continues to grow, despite international condemnation.
In an effort to deprive political prisoners of their right to defence the Kremlin resorts to intimidation and persecution of their lawyers and human rights defenders. Recently, our Embassy received a letter in which the Human Rights Committee of the Council of the Bar of Ireland expressed its deep concern on the administrative detention of Emil Kurbedinov, a human rights lawyer actively defending the rights of Crimean Tatars.
Another alarming trend that requires strong international reaction is ongoing militarisation of Crimea and the whole area of the Black and AzovSeas. Since 2014, Russia has almost tripled its military personnel from 12,500 to over 32,000, as well as its armaments and military equipment. Alarmingly, Russia has established and modernised an infrastructure for swift deployment of nuclear weapons after Ukraine put its nuclear arsenal beyond use and joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1994.
Russian military build-up in the region may be used for expanding the area of Russian aggression against Ukraine with possible occupation of the Sea of Azov and southern parts of the country. Such military activities, including the unilateral re-introduction of nuclear arms in the region, are fraught with far-reaching consequences for the security of Ukraine, Europe and the world.
Fresh in our minds are shocking events of 25 November 2018 in which Russian military forces operating in the KertchStrait fired upon 3 Ukrainian vessels, wounding sailors and taking 24 more prisoner. These Ukrainian sailors were deprived of fair trials and are still held in captivity in Russia.
Due to concerted efforts of world community, the status of Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine remains unchanged. Ukraine’s sovereign territory has confirmed by any number of international documents, including UN Resolution 68/262 “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine”, Resolutions 71/205, 72/190, 73/263 “Situation of Human Rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine”, as well as resolution 73/194 “The Problem of the Militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as Parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov”.
It is well worth noting that Ireland Co-Sponsored these significant Resolutions, thereby gaining the appreciation of the people of Ukraine and community of nations.
Ukraine is strengthened by the unceasing support from people all over the globe, including the people of Ireland. Ukrainians continue to defend our homeland against further Russian aggression in Donbas and will spare no efforts to liberate Crimea, and restore the peace, even if it takes decades to do so.