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Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen at the Security Council Arria meeting: “A symbolic date: Fifth anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s occupation of Crimea: A blatant violation of international law”

15.03.2019 - Speech

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Thank you very much. While listening to our Russian colleague, I was wondering if he was going to stop at all. The question I have is: who is the biggest fan of Alice in Wonderland, you yourself or all the people that spoke before? And I must say, the discussion that we have had until now was a very good discussion and expression of something which is very important: UN Charter. I think what you heard today by all the speakers before the Russian was a very strong backing of what the UN stands for: Strength of the rule of law against the law of the strongest. And what we have seen in this very brute military force that was used in Crimea was disrespect for international law.

I was scribbling down what the different speakers said with regard to the breach of international law committed by Russia. It was the breach of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights, international humanitarian law, international maritime law, the Budapest Memorandum, bilateral treaties, disrespect for UNESCO World Heritage, and a violation of the rights of minorities. We had very strong statements from the representatives of these minorities. When we hear what’s happening to the Tatars, to the minorities there, we are reminded of what’s happening to other minorities worldwide, to the Rohingya or to Uyghurs. We had the disrespect for the freedom of media, the freedom of religion and disrespect for literature.

The good thing we also heard from the exchanges is that there are positive voices, or there have been positive voices from Russia. I think it was very good that we were reminded of what the late President Yeltsin said: that human rights are not an internal affairs, but something that the international community has to care about. And therefore this event today is very important. We also heard, and I learned today, of what Andrei Sakharov did – a key figure in Russia on human rights. He was personally engaged in reversing the deportation of somebody representing a minority. I think this gives hope that one day we will return to the situation which we had before the Russian invasion.

I would like to remind my Russian colleague that there was a referendum when Ukraine became independent. In the referendum the vast majority was in favor of the creation of the state of Ukraine. And even in Crimea, where you say that this was always marginalized, the majority of the population in Crimea at the time was in favor of being a part of Ukraine. There is no wonder what the results are when you cast votes today after having expelled everybody.

I also found it surprising that you didn’t respond in your statement to what was said before about the militarization of Ukraine, self-determination, the creation of a more Russian identity, manipulation of history, the creation of parallel institutions and also the exchange of population and the change of ethnic composition. You didn’t respond to these.

So, let me finish. I totally support what has been said before by my French colleague with regard to what should be done. We must not allow the annexation of Crimea to become a fait accompli. We have to raise it again and again, even if people get tired. With regard to the proposal, you said you have to have a look at Crimea and you have to get a Russian visa. Of course, you would love everybody here, the representatives of states, to go ask for a Russian visa and go there, because this would constitute international recognition. No, this will not be done. Let’s not allow for a fait accompli, let’s not allow for the continuation of the violation of human rights and international law. What I also found positive in one of the speakers and briefers – and I would thank all of them for their declarations – is, I think Mr. Chyihoz said: “We will not allow you to break the people of Crimea.”

There is no military solution, and now I can repeat what Germany has said on all crises – there is only a political solution. Let’s work toward this. France and Germany have been very active in the Normandy format. Germany and France are always the first to see to it that we have a political solution and that we can return Crimea to Ukraine. I have one question, if I may, to Ms. Oprysko who was also asked by our Russian colleague: can you say a bit more how you are able to be in touch with your father. Are you able to visit him? Are you able – and your family also the others – can you call him? How is his legal help? Are he and the other ones getting appropriate medical help? Does he have ICRC access, so that they are in humane conditions? Thank you.

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