“We are resolutely moving towards the de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea,” said Emine Dzhaparova

On February 20, 2014, the Russian occupation of Crimea began, and on February 26, we celebrate the Day of Crimean Resistance to Russian Occupation. These days, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is holding several events to draw the world’s attention to the occupied peninsula. First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova told ZMiST about these measures, as well as other steps of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in terms of de-occupation of Crimea.

Photo was taken from the Center for Journalistic Investigations

– On February 26, by the Decree of the President of Ukraine, the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is celebrated. What measures does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine plan to take on this date?

The issue of the de-occupation of Crimea is one of the priorities of Ukraine’s foreign policy and key areas of work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Along with the implementation of such strategic initiatives as the Crimean Platform, the Ministry is constantly conducting outreach to foreign audiences to provide objective information on the state of affairs in the temporarily occupied Crimea.

For several years in a row, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has been conducting large-scale international information campaigns in February to draw attention to the growing militarization of the growing peninsula, insolent violations of general norms of international law, and international humanitarian law. This year will be no exception. From February 20 to 26, the Foreign Ministry is launching a new information campaign focusing on Russia’s continued aggression, which began with the temporary occupation of Crimea and continued with a hybrid war in Donbas and the accumulation of Russian troops along our borders in recent months.

On February 26, the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, the celebration of which will be the culmination of our information campaign, its “face” on social media pages of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions abroad will be Nariman Jelal.

Several additional events will also be devoted to Crimean issues. A general debate of the UN General Assembly will be held in New York on February 23, during which special attention will be paid to the current situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. On March 1, in Geneva, during the high-level segment of the spring session of the UN Human Rights Council, a thematic event “Crimean Platform as a mechanism to end impunity for human rights violations in Crimea” will be held with the participation of the Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba.

Foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine will hold thematic round tables, rallies and flash mobs, public lectures as part of the Crimean Week, as well as thematic articles and interviews of Ambassadors will be published in local media.

– Recently, we have witnessed an intensification of the dialogue between the Ukrainian authorities and representatives of world Ukrainians. How do you assess the interaction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, diplomatic missions abroad with Ukrainians living in foreign countries, and what are the plans to strengthen these ties?

The multimillion Ukrainian community lives outside Ukraine, which is our reliable partner, take an active position in defending the national interests of our country in the international arena and supports Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression. The multimillion-strong Ukrainian community lives outside Ukraine, which is our reliable partner, take an active position in defending the national interests of our country in the international arena and supports Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.

Your feeling about the active dialogue of the Ukrainian authorities with the representatives of the world Ukrainians is not wrong. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Diplomatic Institutions of Ukraine work closely with the World Congress of Ukrainians and NGOs of Ukrainians abroad, including the European Congress of Ukrainians, the Congress of Ukrainians of Canada, the Ukrainian Congressional Committee of America, the Union of Ukrainian Organizations of Australia, as well as with public organizations in Ukraine that take care of foreign Ukrainians.

For closer and more determined cooperation, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed in December 2020 between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the World Congress of Ukrainians. Among other things, Ukrainians abroad are involved in such areas as defending Ukraine’s interests in the world and deepening Ukraine’s cooperation with foreign governments, promoting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration, disseminating truthful information about the situation in Ukraine and countering Russian propaganda; developing relations in the trade and economic sphere, in the fields of education, culture, youth policy, creation of opportunities for studying the Ukrainian language abroad, recognition in the world of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as genocide of the Ukrainian people.

The Ministry ensures the functioning of the National Commission on Ukrainians Abroad, which operates permanently under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Among the functions of the Commission is to make decisions on granting the status of a Ukrainian abroad, which strengthens ties with Ukraine and significantly expands the legal opportunities of foreigners of Ukrainian origin. This includes, in particular, the opportunity to receive free education or work in Ukraine without obtaining a special permit. It is important to note that the geography of countries whose citizens have received the status of foreign Ukrainians has expanded significantly, not only geographically close to Ukraine or countries with large Ukrainian diaspora but also countries such as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, Chile, etc.

Non-governmental organizations of foreign Ukrainians, which carry out active pro-Ukrainian activities to defend the national interests of Ukraine, are provided with methodological and financial support aimed at preserving Ukrainian national identity, celebrating anniversaries, and commemorating prominent Ukrainians, arranging burial sites. outstanding Ukrainians, promoting the development of the formation and scout movement, the activities of cultural and educational centers, and Saturday and Sunday schools established by public organizations of foreign Ukrainians (in 2021, public organizations of foreign Ukrainians to provide financial support in the amount of more than 300 thousand US dollars).

We are constantly working to ensure that cooperation with foreign Ukrainians is systematic and institutionalized. In this context, to improve the current legislation, the Ministry has already developed many draft regulations, which are currently undergoing interdepartmental approval. It is a question of the creation of legal conditions for the empowerment of the persons who have got the status of the foreign Ukrainian, in particular, their participation in state-building processes; clarification and expansion of activities and regulation of mechanisms of organizational and financial support for the use of budget funds to support public organizations of foreign Ukrainians; development of the concept of a new state target program of cooperation with foreign Ukrainians.

Approval of these changes should promote the realization of the rights of foreign Ukrainians in other countries, meet their needs in the cultural, linguistic, educational spheres, the development of Ukrainian schooling outside Ukraine.

Photo was taken from the magazine “Ukrainian Week”

– Over the past 2 years, Ukraine has held several events at the international level to once again draw attention to the occupation of Crimea. The most significant were Age of Crimea 2020, the Crimean platform in 2021. At Ukraine’s initiative, the OSCE has repeatedly raised the issue of Russia’s human rights violations in Crimea, including religious, political persecution, and gross violations of fundamental human rights. How do you assess the effectiveness of these measures?

For the past eight years, Russia has been investing a lot of effort and money in trying to impose on the international community that the Crimea issue is “closed.” But what did our events show?

Firstly, all Russian efforts have failed and the issue of the attempted annexation of Crimea is a priority for the international community. Secondly, not only is no one going to acknowledge this attempt, but the international community will continue to take practical steps to respond to Russian crimes. Recent EU sanctions are a clear confirmation of this. Thirdly, Russia must sooner or later return Crimea to Ukraine.

As you already know, the results of the founding summit of the International Crimean Platform managed to focus international attention on the Crimean issue and create a strong coalition of states for the de-occupation of the peninsula. The co-founders of the Crimean Platform included all EU countries, NATO, and the Group of Seven.

The Summit agreed on the priorities of international policy towards Crimea and the commitment of the members of the International Crimean Platform to continue cooperation, including further political and diplomatic pressure on Russia, to end the temporary occupation of the peninsula.

These goals are enshrined in the Joint Declaration. Among other things, it recorded violations of the norms and principles of international law, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, the creation of threats to security, freedom of navigation, and other threats as a result of Russia’s actions.

The declaration goes much further than the documents on Crimea adopted in recent years by the UN General Assembly, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. Cooperation within the framework of the International Crimean Platform also allowed intensifying work on the decisions of international organizations.

In December last year, at the initiative of Ukraine, the UN General Assembly approved two updated resolutions on the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea, as well as the militarization of the peninsula. The resolutions, among other things, emphasized the emphasis on Russia’s illegal actions in the field of human rights, preservation of cultural heritage, militarization, and its long-term environmental consequences for the region.

The updated resolutions of the UN General Assembly are important international instruments for strengthening the international policy of non-recognition and de-occupation of the peninsula, as well as restoring security and stability in the Black and Azov Seas. These documents will be an additional lever of influence on the Russian side to liberate the occupied Ukrainian territories and receive appropriate compensation from the Ukrainian side.

As for the OSCE itself, it is the platform that allows us to inform the international community about the situation in Crimea in weekly meetings. Importantly, the OSCE deals with all dimensions of security, military, economic, human. That is, in fact, in real-time we have the opportunity to inform the international community about new crimes, new arrests, new military equipment that is illegally appearing on the peninsula, about environmental degradation.

It is equally important that not only Ukraine but all our partners talk about Crimea. The Russian delegation remains in deep isolation. Unequivocally, such attention to Crimea is very annoying to the Russians, they are trying unsuccessfully to stomp their feet. And, I never tire of repeating that such publicity and such increased attention to Crimea can save lives.
The OSCE allows keeping Crimea in the focus of constant attention of the international community. And believe me, the names of political prisoners who are being illegally persecuted by Russia on the Crimean peninsula are well known in Vienna. Vienna also understands that without restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including Crimea, and without respecting the fundamental principles of the OSCE, there can be no question of restoring stability and confidence in Europe.

– In September of this year, the Russian occupiers arrested your relatives in Crimea. According to fabricated accusations, the occupying authorities are making “saboteurs” out of Asan Akhtemov and his brothers Aziz, and they face 10 to 15 years in prison. Undoubtedly, this was the pressure of indirect action on you personally and revenge for your pro-Ukrainian position. How did you cope with such trials and what happened to your relatives?

Undoubtedly, Russia is irritated not only by my position and professional activity as a Crimean Tatar woman who was forced to leave her home due to the Russian occupation but also by Ukraine’s proactive policy on the Crimean issue in general. Of course, it would be more convenient for the Russian occupier to keep silent about the crime and pretend that nothing happened in the style of the usual Russian propaganda about “Crimea has returned to its native harbor.”

Russian tactics in Crimea during the eight years of occupation are to shut the mouths of all dissatisfied. Ukrainian citizens are constantly persecuted by the Russian occupation authorities. They are thrown behind bars, silenced, or left the peninsula. I would call this a Russian policy of “hybrid deportation.”

The Crimean platform has become a real stimulus for Russia. Even at the stage of preparation for the launch of the Crimean platform, Russia was massively opposed. By the way, on the eve of the Crimean Platform Summit, Russia added me and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kulebu to its sanctions list.

The Crimean platform is like salt on a wound because it became clear that it was not possible to remain silent when world leaders spoke unanimously about Russia’s crimes in Crimea and joined the civilized peace process of de-occupation of Crimea.
Therefore, Russia’s reaction to the fact of holding the Summit was expected. She began to take revenge, again by trying to suppress support for the Crimean platform by intimidation, and politically motivated persecution of the Crimean Tatar people reached a new peak in Crimea.

Immediately after returning to Crimea after participating in the Inaugural Summit of the Crimean Platform, Nariman Jelal, Deputy Speaker of the Crimean Tatar People’s Majlis, was arrested, along with my cousin’s husband Asan Akhtemov and his cousin Aziz Akhtemov. According to absolutely absurd and fabricated accusations, they were turned into saboteurs and smugglers of explosive devices. They face up to 20 years in prison on the charge.

Asan and Aziz Akhtemov tried to force them to confess to a crime in which they have no involvement.
In this case, representatives of the Russian occupation forces demonstrated everything they are capable of: electric torture, moral abuse, psychological pressure, threats of physical violence, the use of classified witnesses, closed “court hearings”, not to mention inhumane conditions of detention. As of now, all three have been indicted, and on February 18, 2022, the trial of Nariman Jelal, Asan, and Aziz Akhtemov began on the merits.

None of them, of course, pleads guilty to this fabricated, politically motivated case. They are all determined to fight and, if necessary, to go to court before the European Court of Human Rights. In addition, Russia is now trying to put pressure on activists, journalists, and lawyers in this case. There are mass detentions of people simply because they came to the “trial” to support the guys. For our part, we are doing our best to make this case as public as possible – it is immunity for Nariman, Asan, and Aziz from continuing torture.

As Igor Kozlovsky once told me, his torture ended in the illegal Isolation Prison only when the then US Ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Payette, made a statement in his support and his case became public. We inform all our international partners, in particular through the Crimean Platform, and include their names in the resolutions of the UN General Assembly.

During the celebration of the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on February 26 in Ukraine this year, we are going to conduct a series of information campaigns in support of Kremlin political prisoners.

Photo was taken from the magazine “Ukrainian Week”

– On April 26 last year, the so-called prosecutor of Crimea issued a decision recognizing the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people as an extremist organization and banning its activities in Russia. How did this decision affect the activities of the Mejlis, its ability to defend the rights of Crimean Tatars, to perform its functions?

The ban on the Majlis is part of a campaign to discredit the Crimean Tatars by the occupying power and to persecute all those who disagree with the occupation. This includes mass persecution of political leaders, activists, human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and other members of the Crimean Tatar people.

As a result of this policy, the system of national institutions of the Crimean Tatars in the occupied Crimea was effectively destroyed, and the national leaders of the Crimean Tatars were forced to leave Crimea and could not return to their homeland due to persecution.

Such steps by the Russian occupation administration are among the reasons why Ukraine filed a lawsuit against the Russian Federation in the UN International Court of Justice in 2017. Ukraine has also asked the International Court of Justice to take appropriate interim measures. On April 19, 2017, the International Court of Justice issued an Order on the Application of Interim Measures in the Case of the Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russia). In particular, the Court ordered the Russian Federation to “refrain from restricting the rights of the Crimean Tatar people to retain their representative institutions, including the Majlis.” Russia deliberately and defiantly ignores this prescription.

The Mejlis continues its activities on the mainland of Ukraine. The Ministry cooperates with the Mejlis on the de-occupation of the peninsula and the defense of the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Majlis participates in international advocacy and expert activities, as well as in the preparation of documents of international human rights and other organizations.

– President of Ukraine V. Zelensky in his speech in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on February 1 noted the work of Ukrainian diplomats, which provided the greatest, unconditional diplomatic support, military, and technical assistance to Ukraine from allies since 2014. What was the highest in the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine during this period, when there was an unprecedented accumulation of Russian forces on the Ukrainian-Russian border and Russian propaganda predicted that Ukraine would be left alone in the face of the threat of occupation?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has been and remains a part of a large united team of authorities fighting for the protection and restoration of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state. The military does its job, diplomats do theirs, politicians do theirs. We have tried to maintain and develop the same unity in the external arena, with our friends and partners. During the eight years of Russian aggression against Ukraine, we have managed to form a strong international coalition in our support. This coalition has come in handy even now, in recent weeks and months, as Russia has begun deploying additional troops on the border and in the occupied parts of Ukraine, threatening war if its demands are not met.
I am convinced that for the Kremlin, the real “cold shower” has been the unity demonstrated by Western countries and Ukraine on the inadmissibility of Russia’s demands. Despite all the intimidation, manipulation, and propaganda on the part of Russia, it was clearly instructed on the principle of respecting the right of sovereign states to choose their security arrangements, including alliance agreements.

The additional defense weapons received from Ukraine’s partners, the volume of which has increased significantly in recent years, have become an additional argument against the Kremlin’s efforts to intimidate Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry continues to work on significantly expanding the list of weapons we receive and speeding up their provision. The better Ukraine is prepared to repel a possible new wave of Russian aggression, the less likely it is to happen.

Sanctions also remain a key tool in countering Russian aggression. No matter how ineffective Russian propaganda is about their ineffectiveness, they continue to fulfill their mission of deterring Russia by limiting its ability to expand aggression. In the course of numerous diplomatic meetings and negotiations in recent weeks, we have paid particular attention to the importance of building a coherent, powerful package of new sanctions. We are pleased that we have succeeded in convincing our partners of the expediency of their early preparations so that the Kremlin is fully aware of the dire consequences of its actions if it decides to escalate the situation.

– A historic achievement of Ukrainian diplomacy was the creation of a new Alliance between Ukraine, Poland, and Britain at the initiative of Kyiv. This decision of the three countries was timely good news for Ukrainians and an unpleasant surprise for the Kremlin. With your permission, I have two questions in this regard: first, could you reveal more details about the new Alliance between Ukraine, Poland, and Britain, and second, what other pleasant diplomatic surprises can we expect this year?

In October 2021, Ukraine (Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba) took the initiative to launch tripartite cooperation in the format “Ukraine – Great Britain – Republic of Poland”.

This idea was supported by the foreign ministers of Great Britain and Poland. The new alliance is based not on local geography, but on the common principles of our states, the desire to strengthen security and develop trade, and readiness for concrete action. Creating small alliances to unite “like-minded countries” is an effective form of cooperation in terms of defending and promoting national interests. We have many successful examples: the Associated Trio with Georgia and Moldova, the Lublin Triangle with Poland and Lithuania, the Quadriga with Turkey.

Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Poland have a realistic view of the security threats in Europe posed by Russia’s aggressive policies, as well as what needs to be done to counter them effectively. We are also united by the significant potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in many areas, including trade, investment, energy, including renewables.

The official announcement of this tripartite alliance took place on February 17, 2022. As for this year’s expectations, the most pleasant diplomatic surprise for us would be the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border, the cessation of the temporary occupation of Ukraine, the release of all Ukrainian citizens held by Russia for political or religious reasons, the restoration of territorial integrity and international peace. both in our country and the whole of Europe.

Photo was taken from the magazine “Ukrainian Week”

– What do you wish to all those who continue to oppose the Russian occupation in Crimea, what advice can you give to those whose relatives or friends, just acquaintances arrested or feel insane pressure and persecution for the pro-Ukrainian position?

We all need to be strong in spirit and united, to support each other. Only in this way will we be able to move forward, work on the release of political prisoners and the release from the temporary occupation of the entire Crimean peninsula, and more. There is no other way. We all need to remember that human life is of the highest value. The Kremlin’s political prisoners are even ready to make such sacrifices to restore their rights and freedoms to the peninsula. Unfortunately, it seems that the occupation administration is acting in the same way as the Soviet Union, which was characterized by repression, deportation, genocide, destruction of religion, neglect of human rights, including the right to life – and this is not an exhaustive list.

Ukraine opposes the implementation of such a policy by all available methods, including in the international arena.
In particular, we have singled out human rights issues and international humanitarian law in a separate track of the International Crimean Platform. Shortly, together with the human rights working group of the Expert Network of the International Crimean Platform, we agreed to develop an action plan for the protection of political prisoners, which we plan to discuss with relevant agencies and non-governmental organizations.

I would also like to note that the Ministry continues to work on involving well-known figures with an internationally recognized name in the initiative of advocacy mentoring of 9 civilian journalists – political prisoners of the Kremlin. Currently, such celebrities as Professor Francis Fukuyama, former US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights Antonio Stango, Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, Vice-Marshal of the Polish Sejm Malgorzata Gosewska, journalist Galia Rulomen Ackermanch civilian journalists illegally imprisoned by the occupation administration.

Let me assure you that we are resolutely moving towards the de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea, and we are working to release Ukrainian political prisoners. It is important to mention that in January this year the Law of Ukraine “On Social and Legal Protection of Persons Deprived of Deprivation of Personal Freedom as a Result of Armed Aggression Against Ukraine and Members of Their Families” was adopted, which provides for legislative mechanisms legal protection, including many social guarantees.

I would like to conclude with the world-famous words of the Ukrainian genius: “The unity of the strength of the people.” And it is also significant that on February 16 we celebrated the Day of Reunification, announced by the President of Ukraine.
Believe in yourself, believe in your state Ukraine. In the face of aggression, we must all be a united front, only then are we invincible.

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