Thursday,
29 June 2017
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OpinionHow can Russia be punished for arms supplies to Donbas

It is no secret for the international community, what state supplies weapons and ammunition to Donbas militants in eastern Ukraine. Both the OSCE and NATO have declared openly and officially that the supplier is Russia. Special Monitoring Mission reports Russian military equipment and ammunition crossing into Ukraine. There is factual evidence that Russia has been supporting militants with arms. There are even individual statements of certain Russian public figures recognizing such military support. By the way, certain officials of the Russian defense ministry who confirm this clearly as well. Thus, the evidence is out there, and it’s not even being concealed.

What’s lacking? A dot over the "i", that is the UN Security Council resolutions. But since Russia is a member of the Council, no such resolutions can emerge.

Within the OSCE and in the framework of their decisions, there can be no direct and clear definitions either because Russia remains one of the members – and sponsors – of the organization. No one has deprived Moscow of its membership status yet.

In addition, the Tribunal ruling was supposed to emerge regarding Russia’s support of terrorism and separatism. There was no tribunal and, accordingly, there is no legal conclusion issued in international law, which could form the core of efforts to hold Russia liable. All the necessary evidence has been provided Ukrainian intelligence, CIA, and other agencies. There is no secret for NATO, the European Union, and the United States as regards the “identity” of supplier of weapons to militants.

Within the OSCE and in the framework of their decisions, there can be no direct and clear definitions either because Russia remains one of the members – and sponsors – of the organization. No one has deprived Moscow of its membership status yet

The question is whether there is a relevant formal recognition of the fact, or some definition, and whether it can result in some sort of legal action (sanctions, etc.) Certain sanctions have already been introduced against Russia, of course, including those in relation to Russia’s actions in Donbas. However, we shouldn’t expect anytime soon any additional sanctions against Moscow for its support of terrorism, separatism, and military operations, since this requires tough political decisions. Currently, the EU is failing to make such moves because it would be unable to maintain the sanctions regime on their own, without the United States. The package of sanctions already introduced is the maximum we can expect from Brussels.

Therefore, Ukraine now needs to work on legal decisions and legal definitions which could hypothetically result in the introduction (both by international organizations and individual governments) of a new round of sanctions against Russia. Ukraine could also demand that court rulings be handed down which would lead to the prosecution of individuals responsible for the terrorist attacks on Ukraine on the part of Russia. Such rulings could be issued in relation to Vladimir Putin, the officials of the Russian Defense Ministry and structural units of the presidential administration.

But these issues cannot be resolved overnight. This is a long and exhausting game involving a wide range of major diplomatic, political, and media efforts.

Vitaliy Kulyk is a CEO at the Civil Society Research Center

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