Security Council Research Report: Ukraine BALMUN IX

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1 Creating a sustainable solution for Ukraine, based on the Minsk Agreements, that respects Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence as well as international law By Marian Bothner Introduction In November of 2013, thousands of protesters in the streets of Kiev laid the groundwork for one of the most divisive and ambiguous political crises of the 21st century. The protesters revived a struggle which has persisted within Ukraine for the last hundred years: should the country align itself with Russia or Western Europe? When the anti-russian protests gained enough momentum to overthrow the government, the Ukrainian civilians sought to establish an interim government that might strengthen ties with the European Union. In response, Moscow, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, authorized the use of military force within Ukraine to protect its interests. At the same time, not all residents of Ukraine many of whom identified as ethnic Russians were keen to join the EU as an independent state. This phenomenon gave rise to a pro-russian separatist movement, which called for Ukraine s (or at least the easternmost territories ) annexation by Russia. In the context of this dispute, violent fighting broke out in Eastern Ukraine after Russia officially annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March Although two ceasefire agreements have been signed, they have both been subject to numerous violations. According to the United Nations, the entire crisis has amounted in 30,000 casualties and has claimed an estimated 9,100 lives as of March The situation has comparatively stabilized since 2014, but the political path towards a non-corrupt, independent, and stable post-revolutionary Ukraine has not yet surfaced. Still, peace talks continue and the UN has stressed its dedication to upholding international law and human rights in the region. The United Nations Security Council is thus tasked with ensuring a legal and sustainable solution for Ukraine so as to uphold its autonomy and territorial integrity. Moreover, the members of the UNSC must also balance Western interests with the often conflicting policies of the Russian Federation. Definition of Key Terms The Minsk Agreements The Ukrainian and Russian authorities met in Belarus capital, Minsk, for two separate summits: first in September 2014 and again in February The first agreements made in Minsk, referred to as the Minsk Protocol, dealt with the immediate combat situation in the Donbas territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the Ukrainian military was fighting off the Russian troops. This agreement centered on the creation of a line of ceasefire. Although the situation temporarily settled, the ceasefire collapsed in early As antagonism heightened, many Western politicians argued that any further military escalation could completely destabilize the region and result in full-scale war. In February, the German 1

2 Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande drafted a peace plan for Ukraine, resulting in another Minsk summit. On February 11, Putin and Poroshenko agreed on the Minsk II Accord. These accords called for an immediate bilateral ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front lines, and the release of prisoners and political hostages. Additionally, the agreement mandated legislation granting Donetsk and Luhansk special status of semi-autonomy and the withdrawal of all non-ukrainian troops, while also calling for governmental control over Ukraine s eastern border by the end of the year. Territorial Integrity This term refers to the principle upheld by international law that forbids nations from promoting border changes in other separate nations. Effectively, the right to territorial integrity states that invasion or expansion through forceful border changes is an agreed act of aggression. Specifically, according to Article 2 4 of the UN Charter, All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. All 193 members of the UN have signed the Charter and pledged to respect its principles, including that of territorial integrity. The Donbass The Donbass is the easternmost region of Ukraine, bordered by Western Russia. While historically, its boundaries have been somewhat ambiguous, the Donbass generally refers to the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine. In these provinces, Russians make up the largest ethnic minority and the Russian language is widely spoken. The Donbass served as the major fighting ground for the war between the pro-separatist forces and the Ukrainian military. General Overview The Crisis: While there had always been clashing internal disputes regarding Ukraine s position in the political spectrum, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 poised Ukraine to be the buffer between The Russian Federation and the states that would become the European Union; Ukraine s political allegiance was left largely undefined. In the 2000 s, public opinion in Ukraine appeared to sway considerably more towards the Western allies, however Russian loyalists remained influential in the government. Controversy erupted in November of 2013, following President Viktor Yanukovych s decision to withdraw from an EU trade agreement in favor of accepting financial assistance from The Russian Federation. This event sparked wide-scale protests, led by Ukrainian citizens who had hoped for stronger relations with Europe demonstrations which were dubbed the Euromaidan Protests. After over 800,000 Ukrainians rallied in Kiev against the government, Yanukovych signed an anti-protest bill in January of 2014, which restricted the Ukrainians right to demonstrate. The bill, which proved 2

3 ineffective, was then annulled in a matter of weeks. Sporadic civil unrest continued well into February; during this time, the government became increasingly unstable, with several key politicians resigning. On February 22, the protesters stormed the central government buildings in Kiev and seized control of the capital, forcing Yanukovych to flee. Meanwhile, both politicians in Moscow and pro-russian forces in Ukraine resisted the new interim government, which meant to align itself with the EU. Just days after the Euromaidan demonstrators took Kiev, Russian separatists on the Crimean Peninsula which is geographically attached to Ukraine, not Russia took control of Simferopol, Crimea s capital city. Almost immediately after these events, Russia invaded Ukraine. Enlisting its troops stationed at its naval base in Sevastopol, with Russian Special Forces, Cossacks, as well as Ukrainian supporters, Russia was able to take the Crimean Peninsula. Following the invasion, the Kremlin annexed the peninsula in mid-march. According to the Russians, a local referendum showed that 97% of Crimeans supported the annexation a vote which was condemned by the Western powers as a sham. Nevertheless, Russia still holds the Crimea to this day. A similar turn of events transpired in the eastern Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The Russians were able to militarize local groups of Ukrainians who were dissatisfied with the interim government and, consequently, unrest swept across Eastern Ukraine. While Ukraine's national army had been unsuccessful in holding Crimea, the military did roll back against the separatist movements in Donetsk and Luhansk. As the fighting continued throughout 2014, the United States and the EU issued sanctions on Russia for its actions which were widely seen as a violation of international law. In August of that same year, when the local rebel fighters seemed to face imminent defeat, Putin mobilized the official Russian troops into eastern Ukraine. At the same time, he repeatedly denied their presence in his public addresses. When the Ukrainians suffered major losses in the Donbass region, peace talks began in Minsk. The 1st Mink Protocol was signed in September and called for a ceasefire between Kiev s forces and the separatists. It also left the Russian-backed rebels in control of large portions of the Donbass, including the capital cities of both Donetsk and Luhansk. The Ukrainian government also granted the Donbass region temporary order of local self-governance in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in accordance with special legislation. When the representatives of the Donbass violated the terms of their agreements, policy-makers in Kiev sought to revoke the legislation. While the military situation stabilized somewhat in the fall of 2014, the Minsk Protocol was violated on numerous occasions, particularly along the ceasefire line. Additionally, throughout 2014, Russia blockaded many of Ukraine s exports and later, in 2015, temporarily cut off its natural gas supplies. These events substantially destabilized Ukraine s economy in the midst of the revolution. Post-Revolutionary Ukraine: In Western Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko was elected as the new president in an election process deemed fair by the international community. By the start of 2015, a coalition cabinet was formed, which worked to strengthen Ukraine s relationship with Western Europe and the US saw relative 3

4 stability in Ukraine as Poroshenko primarily sought to ensure civil liberties and reestablish the country s territorial integrity. However, these efforts were hindered when the original Minsk Protocol s ceasefire broke down in January. To address the situation, representatives of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France held a summit in February, leading to the Minsk II Accord. In the following weeks, the Ukraine parliament ratified legislation called for by the Minsk II agreements, which gave special status to the Donbass territories a law which pointed towards governmental decentralization. The question of decentralization continued to be a controversial issue throughout 2015, sowing discord in the coalition government. While the accords successfully created a framework for the new Ukrainian government s sovereignty, low-intensity combat continued in the Eastern region, with an unprecedented number of casualties, until October when Russia turned its attention toward the situation in Syria. Ultimately, Ukraine s situation in 2016 is largely that of a humanitarian crisis. By the beginning of 2016 an approximate 9,000 people had been killed and more than 20,000 were left injured in the Donbass conflict, according to UN figures. Additionally, the armed conflict displaced over two million Ukrainian civilians. The Donbass territories which stylized themselves as Donetsk People s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People s Republic (LNR) remain legally attached to Ukraine, but are effectively dependent on Russia; the question of their autonomy has yet to be unilaterally resolved. According to an investigation conducted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), many Eastern Ukrainian households have been heavily damaged and looted. Local government administrations do not function and access to public services is very limited. Basic necessities like food and water are expensive and almost unattainable. Civilians cannot cross the contact line, which marks the border between central Ukraine and the Donbass provinces, without extreme difficulties. Finally, the OHCHR reports that the official ceasefire remains tenuous. 4

5 Timeline of Events Date Event 1991 Ukrainian independence from USSR; in a national referendum, 90% vote for independence. 21 November 2013 President Yanukovych's administration abandons trade agreement with EU; Ukraine looks to strengthen relations with Russia. Late November, 2013 January-February, 2014 Euromaidan protests begin in Ukraine; over 100,000 rally in Kiev Intermittent fighting between government forces and anti-russian opposition February 2014 Protesters seize presidential administrative buildings; Yanukovych disappears; interim government is established Late February - March, 2014 Pro-Russian gunmen seize the Crimean capital; separatist movements arise in Eastern Ukraine 18 March 2014: Russia declares annexation of the Crimean Peninsula March 2014 August 2014 War in the Donbass region breaks out Russian troops enter the Donbass territories 5 September 2014 The Minsk Protocol is signed and official ceasefire begins January-February 2015: February The Minsk Protocol breaks down Minsk II accords are signed 5

6 Previous Attempts to Solve the Issue The Minsk Agreements have served as the primary guidelines for solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Beyond that, the United Nations has taken several measured steps, as well. The UN Security Council first met to discuss the situation in Ukraine on 28 February 2014, just after Yanukovych was ousted from Kiev. One month later, on 27 March 2014, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the Territorial integrity of Ukraine (A/RES/68/262). The Security Council met again in July of 2014, passing a resolution which condemned the downing of a civilian aircraft on an international flight, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, on 17 July Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, with the loss of all 298 passengers and crew on board (S/RES/2166). Then, alongside the summit in Belarus, the UNSC adopted S/RES/2202 (2015) which supported the package of measures for implementation of the Minsk Agreements to end violent combat in the Donbass region. One year after the crash of MH17, in July of 2015, the UNSC was unable to pass a resolution that sought to create an international tribunal with aim of prosecuting those responsible for crimes related to plane s crash. Most recently, in March 2016, the United Nations Working Group on mercenaries released a series of recommendations for upholding human rights in Ukraine, in accordance with the Minsk Agreements of previous years. Conclusion The Ukrainian crisis that unfolded in 2014 has given way to governmental instability and lacking territorial integrity. As the UNSC convenes, it is paramount that Member States tackle the growth of parallel governance structures, the general absence of rule of law, the reports of arbitrary detention and torture, and the lacking mechanisms for redress in Ukraine. At the same time, delegates might also address the status of the Donbass provinces and the Crimean annexation both of which remain controversial issues for Eastern Europe and the international community at large. Consider Zeid Ra ad Al Hussein statement on the situation in Ukraine: There is a terrible sensation of physical, political, social and economic isolation and abandonment among the huge number of people more than three million in all who are struggling to eke out a living in the conflict zone. Therefore, UNSC Delegates must strive to alleviate the current humanitarian crisis while also seeking out political closure and definitive solutions in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution. 6

7 Bibliography "Despite Less Fighting, Eastern Ukraine Still 'highly Flammable,' UN Reports, as Death Toll Tops 9,000." UN News Center. UN, 09 Dec Web. 23 Mar < "Freedom in the World 2015: Ukraine Report." Freedom House. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar < "Freedom in the World 2016: Ukraine Report." Freedom House. N.p., Web. 29 Mar < Giuliani, Jean-Dominique. "Ukraine - Conflict of Laws & Private International Law." Foreign Law Guide (n.d.): n. pag. Web. < "The Situation in Ukraine: Quick Guide." The United Nations. The United Nations, n.d. Web. 28 Mar < Stern, David. "Ukraine Suspends Preparations for EU Trade Agreement - BBC News." BBC News. BBC, 21 Nov Web. 28 Mar < Tomkiw, Lydia. "Ukraine-Russia Conflict Update: Peace Agreement Extended Into 2016 As War Continues." International Business Times. N.p., 30 Dec Web. 28 Mar < "Ukraine Crisis: Timeline - BBC News." BBC News. BBC, 13 Nov Web. 02 Apr < "Ukraine Crisis: Timeline of Major Events." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 28 Mar < "Ukraine: Growing Despair among over Three Million Civilians in Conflict Zone UN Report." UN News Center. UN, 03 Mar Web. 23 Mar < "Ukraine: UN Experts Urge Accountability for Human Rights Violations by Foreign Fighters." UN News Center. UN, 22 Mar Web. 23 Mar < 7

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