Ukraine’s Multi-Faceted Saga, by Claudia Lamberty

29 Nov

Editor’s Note:   Since May upon her graduation from Skidmore College, Claudia has been a frequent presence in UN conference rooms, including in the Security Council chamber. While she and her GAPW cohort continue to assess the value and relevance of the UN for their generation’s future, all have been encouraged to think and write about areas of special interest.  For Claudia, the situation in Ukraine is one of those areas. 

The Russian occupation of Ukraine continues to fuel hostility in an already adversarial international climate. In late October, then Security Council President Bolivia organized a meeting to address the situation in eastern Ukraine – the first of its kind since May 2018. The meeting was followed by a side-event to further elaborate on human rights abuses in Crimea. Despite the supplementary meeting’s low attendance the event organized by Ukraine was poignant and persuasive. When it comes to permanent members of the Security Council, there simply is no room for systematic violations of the UN Charter and other relevant frameworks. And yet, less than a month after this meeting, Security Council President China was forced to confront the latest of Russian provocations.

In October’s Security Council meeting the Undersecretary of Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, briefed the council on the situation in eastern Ukraine. Since 2014 Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its fueling of conflict in the Donbas region have fostered social unrest and impeded efforts towards a sustainable peace. The meeting was organized to hold Russia accountable for the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine and scale up efforts in the aid process. Despite expressions of decisive support towards reconciliation and while noting a general decline in levels of violence, the situation continues to breed uncertainty and instability in the region. Ambitions to demilitarize the zone of conflict in Donbas must not lose momentum among Security Council members.  

Ukraine’s objections to the preparation of elections in Crimea and elsewhere in the east of the country remain consistent. The Minsk Agreement (2014), the first negotiation of peace regarding Russia-Ukraine, dutifully addresses the scheduling of elections. According to DiCarlo’s briefing, “Any measures taken outside of Ukraine’s constitutional framework would be incompatible with the Minsk Agreement.” Russia cannot demonize our democratic modalities in order to gain or maintain control.

Infringement on Ukrainian political will is only exacerbated by the humanitarian crisis faced by local residents in the region. According to the Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 70 disruptions of local water supplies have occurred since 2017. Deliberate destruction of infrastructure obstructs civilian access to resources. The safety and health of civilians must be a priority for all parties to the conflict and Russian collaborators have failed to prioritize the needs and livelihoods of at-risk families. It was made clear that more can and should be done to support civilians and the internally displaced.

Russia’s occupational and administrative tactics in the region continue to violate measures intended to preserve human rights and thwart international aggression. As highlighted in the Security Council and the related side-event, accusations against Russia appear to be firmly supported by its violations of the Minsk Agreement, the Paris Charter, International Humanitarian Law, the Helsinki Accords, Law of the Sea, and the Law of Occupation. During this turbulent time it’s unfortunately starting to feel like commitments to multilateralism are too much to ask for. Russia must be held to the highest standards of international diplomacy as a permanent member of the Security Council. Instead military occupation seriously impedes diplomacy and the dwindling integrity of the UN continues to be fueled by the P5.

Instances of censorship and non-commitment to transparency are also serious red flags in the escalation of conflict.  For example, Russia’s refusal to accept UNHCR monitoring of the Donbas and Crimea regions opens the door to new violations of what are legally binding frameworks.  The silencing of Ukrainians seeking their full entitlement to land, resources and ethnic identities will only lead to a worsening of conditions. When given an opportunity to defend itself in the Security Council, Russia responded with blatant and stubborn rejection of any accountability. As the Ambassador to Ukraine poignantly stated, “Elections are only a stepping stone to a new cycle of Russian aggression.” The broader UN community must not allow the continuation of textbook human rights abuses especially when the accused sits in the Security Council chamber every day and evaluates the behavior of others.

Very recently at the UN, an emergency meeting in the Security Council addressed the latest act of alleged Russian aggression against Ukraine. The event in question took place on November 25th under a Russian-built bridge in the Kerch strait. The strait is the only passageway between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, which is located northeast of Crimea and borders both Russia and Ukraine. Russian warships blocked the strait and proceeded to ram into and open fire on 3 Ukrainian vessels. Several Ukrainian seamen were injured in the attack. The event proved to be another chapter in Russian’s persistent annexation of Crimea and disregard for Ukraine’s navigational rights. According to the Ambassador of Ukraine, the incident was a clear violation of the Law of the Sea, as well as other treaties that assert the neutrality of the Azov Sea. Ukraine has officially declared martial law for thirty days as a result of escalating aggression: a political strategy that will perhaps only further summon Russian militancy. 

Once again, Security Council members scrutinized Russia’s provocations and its refusal to take responsibility. When given an opportunity to address the situation, Russia denied any references to Crimea within the Minsk Agreements and yet again played victim. The current situation continues to jeopardize the integrity of legally binding agreements and calls into question UN handling of fragile circumstances. Unfortunately, the outcome of the meeting did not measure up to its urgency. While Security Council members condemned the act of violence, little progress was made in scheduling consultations or providing tangible measures to mitigate the conflict. Hoping for political solutions is not the same as creating the conditions for them.

The weakening integrity of our political infrastructure can only be curtailed once our permanent Security Council members stop pointing fingers and take responsibility for their own actions. During this divisive moment in our global politics, acts of operational, administrative, and economic aggression in the name of one or another major power are increasingly common and unfortunately fail to surprise. The dwindling integrity of our global institutions cannot afford to be fueled by the P5. Existing legal and political instruments can be better utilized to prevent conflict and restore the dignity of those who continue to be bullied by powerful states.



One Response to “Ukraine’s Multi-Faceted Saga, by Claudia Lamberty”

  1. Connie Newton November 29, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    Thank you, Claudia,
    There is so much to be discouraged about in your report and so much appreciation for the clarity. Because it’s weighty to receive, I though I’d send an unsolicited blessing from one of John O’Donahue’s poems. The Loretto Community shared it with me today and I send it to you in case you need a wee blessing. All the best, Connie Newton

    May this new year excite your heart,

    Kindle in your mind a creativity

    To journey beyond old, contrived limits.

    May this work challenge you toward

    New frontiers that will emerge

    As you begin to approach them,

    Calling forth from you the full force

    And depth of your undiscovered gifts.

    May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,

    Enabling you to draw from the invisible

    New ideas and a vision that will inspire.

    Remember to be kind

    To those who work with you and for you,

    Endeavor to remain aware

    Of the quiet world

    That lives behind each face.

    Be fair in your expectations,

    Compassionate in your criticism.

    May you have the grace of encouragement

    To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,

    Building in them the confidence

    To follow the call of the gift.

    May you come to know that work

    Which emerges from the mind of love

    Will have beauty and form.

    May this new work be worthy

    Of the energy of your heart

    And the light of your thought.

    May your work assume

    A proper space in your life;

    Instead of owning or using you,

    May it challenge and refine you,

    Bringing you every day further

    Into the wonder of your heart.

    Adapted slightly from John O’Donohue’s “To Bless the Space Between Us”


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