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UK government's response to points made by President Putin in his address to the Russian Parliament on 17 March.
President Putin addressed a joint session of the Russian Parliament on 17 March. Here is Her Majesty’s Government’s response to some of the points he made in his speech.
On 16 March in the Crimea, there was a referendum in full correspondence with democratic procedures and international legal norms. More than 82% of the voters took part in the referendum; more than 96% spoke for reunification with Russia. These figures are more than convincing.
Not only did the referendum violate Ukraine’s constitution, it was not in line with internationally agreed democratic procedures and best practices. Russian armed forces have been in Crimea for several weeks, during which time they installed a pro-Russian puppet administration that voted through a referendum via a closed parliamentary session, under watch from armed, foreign gunmen, from which MPs opposed to Russia’s agenda were excluded. The referendum’s preparation – which was just 10 days – was characterised by a complete lack of transparency over the composition of local electoral commissions, voters’ lists, and the number of ballot papers issued - with no meaningful impartial observers. The wording of the two questions posed made it impossible for voters to express support for Crimea’s existing status within Ukraine – nor were the questions on the ballot explained, nor was there a free public debate in Crimea. There are credible reports of intimidation. The 96.7% result is wildly out of kilter with the results of a representative opinion poll, conducted by a reputable Ukrainian research institute, as recently as February 2014, which indicated that only 41% of Crimean voters supported the region’s incorporation into Russia. The turnout is also suspiciously high given wide opposition boycott.
I understand those who came out to Maidan, speaking against corruption, for peaceful protest, for just elections. Elections are there to change the power that is not good for people, but those who are behind the latest events in Ukraine were aiming a different objective. They were preparing coup d’état. They were planning to grab power without stopping before anything. Terror, murders, pogroms: everything was used. The main figures in the coup were antisemites, Russophobes, nationalists and neo-Nazis. And they determined a lot of what’s happening in Ukraine.
Since President Yanukovych’s departure, the Ukrainian Parliament and interim government’s actions have been in keeping with the Ukrainian Constitution. Numerous groups, including the United Nations, OSCE and the Ukrainian rabbinical association, have not seen widespread human rights violations, or anti-Semitic pogroms anywhere in Ukraine. Former President Yanukovych’s own party, the Party of the Regions, supported measures implementing the interim Ukrainian government and calling for new elections. The single greatest destabilizing force in Ukraine right now is Russia.
Euromaidan was composed of a cross-spectrum of ordinary Ukrainians with a common agenda to demonstrate their opposition to abuses of power and their desire to see change. It was remarkably disciplined and self-restrained. They acted only in self-defence in response to violence initiated by the authorities under the direction of former President Yanukovych.
One of the first acts of the new authorities was scandalous revising of the law on languages.
Ukraine’s interim President refused to enact legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level, and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatseniuk has said that this proposed law will not be enacted.
It is also clear that there is no legal and executive power in Ukraine.
There is clear legal and executive authority in Ukraine. The abandonment of office by former President Yanukovych was confirmed by a constitutional vote in Parliament – which remained unchanged and was elected in a free vote of the people in Ukraine. The interim government was approved by an overwhelming majority in a free vote in the Ukrainian Parliament, including representatives of Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions.
Those who were resisting the putsch were threatened with repressions and punishment, and the first was Crimea – Russian-speaking Crimea. Therefore, citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol addressed themselves to Russian government to protect their lives: not to let happen in the Crimea what is happening in Kiev, Donetsk and other cities of Ukraine.
The OSCE High Commissioner said that she has found “no evidence of any violence or threats to the rights of Russian speakers” in Crimea. Ukrainian ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska said that no residents of Crimea have contacted her regarding the violation of their rights.
No credible/verifiable evidence has been presented to justify claims that Russian nationals are under threat in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine. We have seen no evidence of attacks on churches in Eastern Ukraine, as the Russians have claimed. Ukraine’s interim President refused to enact legislation limiting the use of the Russian language at regional level.
Military forces of Russia have never entered Crimea: they were there in accordance with international agreement
Not true. Their equipment, armaments and training clearly mark them out as Russian troops – for example driving military vehicles with Russian licence plates. If they are local militias, why do they not openly identify themselves as such? Black Sea Fleet (BSF) personnel have operated outside their bases in contravention of BSF agreements.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has reported that the 1st Motor Rifle Battalion Vostok of the 18th Separate Vehicle-Mounted Assault Brigade, which is stationed in Kalinovka in the Chechen Republic, is now deployed in the town of Dzhankoy in Crimea. Also servicemen of the 31st Separate Assault Brigade of the Airborne Troops, which is stationed in the Russian town of Ulyanovsk, and the 22nd Special-Purpose Brigade from the Krasnodar Territory are deployed in Crimea as well.
There are a number of examples of these troops freely identifying themselves as Russian security forces – eg Military personnel at Belbeck and Simferopol airports.
…the Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent – a precedent our western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation, when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate…
The situations in Crimea and Kosovo are not comparable. Kosovo’s independence followed nearly nine years of UN administration and the failure of a long period of inclusive, internationally sponsored negotiations on Kosovo’s final status. The referendum in Crimea is attempting retrospectively to legitimise the rushed, unilateral action of one state which, as last weekend’s Security Council showed, is acting in complete diplomatic isolation.
Of course, Russia’s position on Kosovo does seem to be inconsistent. At a Security Council meeting on Kosovo on 18 February 2008, Ambassador Churkin for the Russian Federation said: “The unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition are incompatible with the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, which clearly specify the principles of inviolability of frontiers and territorial integrity of States”
(Quotations of President Putin come from a BBC translation.)
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