"Crimea is theirs", or Ukraine's spineless stance

10:00, 28 December 2016
Politics
878 0
Opinion

Land claims are a frequent cause of conflicts. Regaining control over a few square meters of land, wrongfully seized by a neighbor often becomes a matter of dignity for the ordinary citizen, encouraging them to overcome all obstacles to this end. The particularly passionate ones file lawsuits, appeal to local authorities, put impose psychological pressure on the wrongdoer, create all sorts of inconveniences, set public opinion against him… And in a year or two, or maybe in five years, they get what they want. The Ukrainian State should act in the same way to recover its territory and deal with its presumptuous neighbor...

2016 was the third year since the peninsula had been lost to Russia and yet another year when Ukraine kept on the brakes the process of its return. Public figures and experts offered dozens of various strategies that could accelerate de-occupation of Crimea. But these ideas at government disposal, as well as developments and solutions, are either back-shelved or being implemented at a snail's pace.

Almost six months ago, the Ministry for the temporarily occupied territories was established. But, having the knowledge and capabilities, this body has not taken any decisive steps toward reintegration of the peninsula, and with each month, hopes have been melting that it will engage in a real fight for Crimea.

This summer, on June 15, the first and, unfortunately, the only parliamentary hearing was held on the issues of Crimea de-occupation. Raising the level of discussion to the Rada rostrum, Ukrainian authorities have proved completely unable to work out a clear action plan to resolve the Crimea crisis. Parliamentary hearings in June heard no constructive proposals for the return of the peninsula.

It is also strange that Ukraine does not seek to go on the “offensive”. After all, part of the Crimean population remains loyal to Kyiv

Throughout 2016, has responded not too professionally to the information blows aimed at it. Russia twice (in August and November) tried to simulate terrorist attacks in Crimea and to inflate some international scandal out of this. Both times, Ukraine took a pause and froze. The government did not explain the situation to its citizens, giving rise to rumors and panic. Crisis response was anything but timely.

It is also strange that Ukraine does not seek to go on the “offensive”. After all, part of the Crimean population remains loyal to Kyiv. Even more surprising is that Ukraine is not trying to at least set up TV and radio broadcast for this audience that would help strengthen the patriotic sentiment, or at least signal support from mainland Ukraine. Unfortunately, in the struggle for the minds of 2.5 million of Ukrainians living on the peninsula, the initiative has totally been given to the Russian media.

In fairness, it should be noted that Ukraine has started to build a telecom tower at Chonhar checkpoint to broadcast in the Russian-occupied peninsula and southern regions of Kherson region. But so far, the project is at its early stage.

Fortunately, in spite of Russian efforts to discredit Ukraine, the international community has clearly indicated its support for Kyiv’s struggle for Crimea. This is seen in the U.S. "black list", which December 21 extended to include construction companies involved in the Kerch bridge project. This is evident by the resolution of the UN General Assembly adopted on December 19, which branded Russia the occupier state and accused Moscow of "abuses against residents of Crimea, in particular reported discriminatory measures and practices, arbitrary detentions, torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Our Western allies are willing to support us if Ukraine no longer buries its head in the sand but starts to exercise its right to protect its citizens, infringed on the peninsula

The United Nations Resolution of December 19 and the expanded sanctions list introduced by Washington say that the world sees the increasing number of human rights violations in Crimea. Our Western allies are willing to support us if Ukraine no longer buries its head in the sand but starts to exercise its right to protect its citizens, infringed on the peninsula. I should recall that none of the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada have visited Crimea’s Simferopol, to support Deputy Head of the Mejlis Ilmi Umerov, who in August-September was for three weeks forcibly held by the FSB in a mental clinic. Such idleness does not fit with the general hyperactivity of Ukrainian politicians during the trial of Nadiia Savchenko, as many prominent Ukrainian figures had no fear traveling to Russia to support her.

Time plays against us. While Ukraine is marking time, Russia implements a comprehensive national strategy with regard to Crimea. Moscow launched strong diplomatic and propaganda efforts to promote "krymnash" [Crimea is ours] thesis among the population in Crimea and across the world. Ukraine still has many internal and external allies, willing to help in the issue of the return of the occupied territory, but if our country does not activate the fight, it will be losing support.

Oleksiy Starodubov is a conflict analyst and director of the Crimean Expert Center

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