Is the annexation of Crimea by Russia permanent?

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1. Has the West interfered in the internal affairs of Ukraine and contributed to the overthrow of the legitimate leadership of Yanukovych?

The specific reason for the Maidan protests from autumn 2013 was the surprising decision of the Ukrainian government on November 21, 2013 to suspend the long-term negotiations on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Shortly before, President Yanukovych had reiterated the goal of signing the agreement in November 2013. Many citizens of Ukraine felt deceived by this approach and reacted with protests, e.g. on the Maidan in Kiev.

The peaceful demonstrations developed into mass protests, which also took up calls for full respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption and an end to the violent actions of the security forces against the demonstrators. Western politicians spoke out in favor of a peaceful solution and called on the Ukrainian government to uphold freedom of expression and assembly. Ukraine has made an international commitment to its partners to uphold these fundamental political freedoms and human rights.

2. What the removal of President Yanukovych and the establishment of the interim government a coup?

After the escalation of violence on the Maidan, President Yanukovych drew a memorandum on the peaceful settlement of the crisis, which was mediated by France, Poland, Germany and Russia. According to the drawing, President Yanukovych fled Kiev on the night of February 21-22, 2014. The majority of the ministers had also left the capital, so that there was no effective government and no effective head of state. Parliament speaker Rybak resigned from office.

In this situation, the parliament, as the de facto only viable and democratically legitimized constitutional body, voted on February 22, 2014 with 328 votes against, to schedule new elections for the office of President on May 25, 2014. It did not relieve the President of his office through a formal impeachment procedure under Art. 111, but determined the state of emergency due to his inability to exercise his office, as he had "unconstitutionally evaded his official duties". Such a situation is not explicitly regulated in the Ukrainian constitution, so that the parliament, as the de facto only constitutional body capable of acting, remedied the emergency in analogy to Art. 108 (2) of the constitution, which regulates inability to officiate due to illness.

3. Why is the annexation of Crimea by Russia a violation of international law?

All states, big or small, powerful or weak, have the right to have other states respect their borders. The inviolability of borders is a fundamental principle of international coexistence. It is recognized by all states. The annexation of a territory of a foreign state using military forces is a serious violation of this principle. That is why the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
An unlawful act cannot create a new, legally valid situation. That is why Russia's annexation of Crimea is not recognized internationally.

4. Does the West apply double standards in the case of the independence of Kosovo and the secession of Crimea?

With the situation in Kosovo in 1999-2008, the situation in Crimea in 2014 is neither legally nor politically comparable. After NATO intervened in spring 1999 to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe, there was a UN administration (UNMIK) set up by the UN Security Council and intensive and long-term efforts, also in the multilateral framework, to find a definitive consensual status solution. Kosovo's declaration of independence followed the failure of these almost ten years of efforts, but not as a result and under the conditions of violent external intervention.

In the case of Crimea, the situation was quite different: the declaration of secession of March 2014 was only made possible by the intervention of Russian troops in Crimea, which violated the international prohibition of violence and prevented the legitimate Ukrainian authorities from performing their duties. This violation of the prohibition of violence also makes its result - the secession of Crimea and its subsequent admission into the Russian state association - illegal. Since the prohibition of violence is a norm of mandatory international law, no other state may recognize the result. And last but not least: Nobody has annexed Kosovo.

5. Can't each region determine for itself which state it wants to belong to?

Europe has had a long history of wars, often sparked by disputes over territories. Before and during the Second World War, the principle of the inviolability of borders was repeatedly broken. Germany under National Socialism, but in some cases also other states, occupied and annexed foreign territories. Because of this often cruel history, the European states have agreed to comply with strict rules in their dealings with one another, which are laid down in the Helsinki Final Act of the CSCE and the Paris Charter. These include the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity. Russia, and before it the Soviet Union, contributed to these determinations.

The statutes of the United Nations recognize the right of peoples to self-determination, but this does not override the principle of territorial integrity. When a people is subject to foreign rule and believably and persistently expresses the desire to break away from it, a difficult situation arises. Careful international and multilateral mediation efforts are then required to prevent a breach of international law and potentially violent conflict. Only if no remedy is possible in this way can a unilateral application of the right to self-determination come into consideration as a last resort.

6. How is the vote in Crimea to be assessed?

The vote of March 16, 2014 does not alleviate the illegality of the annexation by Russia. In very special cases, in which a people is permanently oppressed and no other remedy is possible, a detachment from a state can come into question. However, this was not the case in Crimea. Above all, such a detachment does not give another state the right to annex a foreign territory. The vote in the Crimea was preceded by a Russian military operation against the armed forces of the Ukraine; It was organized quite openly for the purpose of provisionally covering up an annexation by Russia.

7. Don't other rules apply in the “post-Soviet space” between Ukraine and Russia? Doesn't Crimea belong to Russia historically and culturally?

The borders of the states in Europe have changed many times in history. Almost all states have lost areas that previously belonged to them and have recognized this. In order to avoid new conflicts, they have to give up such areas permanently. It is then important that people can travel there freely and maintain contacts.

The Russian Federation and the other states that emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union have recognized each other as sovereign states with their existing borders. With regard to Ukraine, the Russian Federation, together with other states, made a special declaration of commitment in the Budapest Memorandum to respect the territory and the borders of this neighboring country.

The Russian Federation does not include all areas that were part of the Soviet Union. The fact that an area belonged to the Russian Empire or the Russian Federative Soviet Republic at a certain phase in its history does not justify a claim by the Russian Federation.

8. Why is supporting armed separatists in Ukraine a violation of international law?

Just like the deployment of one's own troops in foreign territory, it is a serious violation of territorial integrity to support armed groups that are active in a foreign state or to recognize forces that assume state authority there.

9. What does Russia have to do with the conflict in Ukraine?

Even if large parts of the population of Donbass are very critical of the government in Kiev, the armed, separatist groups that fell into the power vacuum after the escape of President Yanukovych and his clan never had the support of a majority of the population. They can only hold their own against the government's attempts to restore public order thanks to continued massive support from Russia.

10. Has the West pursued a systematic policy of marginalization and weakening of Russia since the end of the Soviet Union?

The European Union and NATO have an overriding interest in Russia, as a strong partner and on the basis of common principles, contributing to securing the European peace order. Therefore, since the end of the Soviet Union, you have pursued the goal of close and partnership-based cooperation with Russia. The EU and Russia signed a partnership and cooperation agreement in 1997 and agreed to create four common areas in 2005. In addition, the EU has offered Russia a modernization partnership designed to support Russia in overcoming important challenges in key areas, such as economic innovation or modern social policy.

NATO has also endeavored to build a close network of partnerships and created a forum with the NATO-Russia Council for a particularly close exchange. This partnership and cooperative approach was also expressed in the intensive support given to Russia's accession to international organizations such as the G7, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization.

11. Is NATO trying to weaken and marginalize Russia? Is NATO using the Ukraine crisis to arm Russia's borders?

At the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014, the heads of state and government reiterated that the alliance is not seeking a confrontation with Russia and is not a threat to Russia. They also stress that NATO continues to strive for a constructive, cooperative relationship with Russia, and regret that the foundations are not in place because of the Russian approach in Ukraine.

Up until the Ukraine crisis, NATO and Russia had cooperated closely in a large number of areas, ranging from the fight against drugs and terrorism to sea rescue of submarines and civil crisis planning.

The NATO-Russia Founding Act contains a voluntary commitment by NATO not to permanently station substantial NATO combat troops in candidate countries and not to station nuclear weapons there. However, the Founding Act allows troops to be reinforced. The NATO Readiness Action Plan adopted in Wales, which provides for an accelerated deployment and reaction capability of NATO forces, is thus in line with the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

12. Why did the EU, the USA and other countries impose sanctions on Russia?

Because Russia has annexed Crimea, incited a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and supported these separatists militarily and politically. Russia has also recognized the result of elections held by these forces outside of Ukrainian law in and around the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk.

"Security is indivisible": if the territorial integrity of a state is violated, then the international order on which the security of all states is based is broken. The European Union has strongly condemned the annexation of Crimea. It has repeatedly called on all sides to find a political solution that is based on respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine and is compatible with international law.

Sanctions are a means of promoting diplomacy without the use of force. Sanctions are used to put economic pressure on Russia, but that is not an end in itself. Rather, the aim of the sanctions is to induce Russia to be more willing to negotiate in the search for a political solution to the Ukraine conflict in accordance with international law. The sanctions are designed in such a way that they do not directly affect the citizens of the Russian Federation, with the exception of certain persons. The Russian government itself imposed the import bans on many foods such as milk, meat and grain.

The central yardstick for economic sanctions is the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Therefore the sanctions are reversible. This is in everyone's fundamental interest, because a weak Russian economy harms everyone. Above all, Russia holds the key.