Kremlin’s hybrid tactics and ICJ

Bohdan Petrenko
17:50, 21 April 2017
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Opinion

In the context of whether Russia will follow the orders of the UN International Court of Justice, a number of interesting details should be noted.

First, recent polls show the share of Russian citizens who choose not to care that Russia violated international law by occupying Crimea increased from 71% to 78% over the past year. Therefore, international law in Russia will be taken into account only when it suits their interests. The problem is not in Russia’s compliance with international standards but its ability to return to the civilized world. And it is what will determine Russia's position regarding the orders of the International Court of Justice.

Formally, Russia can just report that the Ukrainian language is not restricted

Second, both the restoration of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and the promotion of Ukrainian language in Crimea are matters more of an ideological than legal nature for the Russians. In fact, even by admitting the fact that the Ukrainian language is being restricted in Russian-controlled territories drives Russia into a trap that it built for Ukraine when it constantly raised the question of the "violations of the rights of Russian-speakers." However, Russia can just formally report that the Ukrainian language is not restricted. It may even hold a festival or some competition on the Ukrainian language in Crimea. But nothing more will be done...

After all, increasing the number of teaching hours in Ukrainian, not to mention the increasing number of Ukrainian classes means recognizing Moscow’s language expansion across the peninsula. So probably we should expect formal measures to "support" the Ukrainian language as well as rallies of Crimean parents "against the forcible imposition of the Ukrainian language," reports on 99% of children refusing to study the language of "junta", and "statistical data" claiming that the Ukrainian language is native only to 0.5% of the peninsula’s population, etc.

As for the restoration of the Mejlis, it can actually be revived, but also with certain hybrid modifications. This means that the Mejlis can be "restored" but, say, with different members. Potentially, even its name may be altered. For example, "the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people of Russia." Of course, such organization will have nothing to do with the real Mejlis...

We shouldn’t consider naïve Ukraine’s tactics to put legal pressure on the aggressor

Another question is what consequences Russia will face if it chooses not comply with the ICJ orders, especially given its veto power in the UN Security Council and the recognition by Russia’s Constitutional Court of the norm that international treaties are of secondary importance compared to the Russian Constitution. Given the Kremlin's manipulation capabilities, this decision by the ICJ might as well bring no repercussions for Russia whatsoever.

But we shouldn’t consider naïve Ukraine’s tactics to put legal pressure on the aggressor. Kyiv’s goal is to create a negative perception of Russia worldwide. And any violation of international norms by the Kremlin will play in line with this strategy.

Now we should prepare for the fact that Russia starts formally fulfilling the court’s requirements. The only question is how Ukraine should prove to the world the gap between the Kremlin’s statistical reporting and the realities regarding the decision of the International Court Council on Crimea.

Bohdan Petrenko is a Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Extremism Research Institute

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