Points of Ukraine: Putin’s Widening Grip

Vitaly Klitschko talks with pro-European integration protesters at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev.

Today, Ms. Holland began the panel discussion by introducing the agenda of the event, which concerned examining different perspectives on the continuing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.  Then, Mr. Karatnycky provided an overview of the history of the conflict and the potential obstacles that may impede a negotiated settlement to it.  He elaborated that though President Vladimir Putin is using hard tactics to maintain control over Crimea, he has triggered the latent sentiments of a large contingent of Russians and elites that never wanted Ukraine and Crimea to separate from Russia.  Additionally, he mentioned that the main problem regarding using diplomacy to end the conflict stems from Russia’s unwillingness to reach an agreement with Ukraine.

Next, Dr. Nikolayenko spoke of the effect of the conflict on the civil society and citizens of Ukraine.  She stated that with over 8,000 Russian soldiers present in Ukraine and 9,100 human casualties that have resulted in death, the conflict has led to a growing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country and a slowdown of Ukraine’s economy.  Additionally, she mentioned that the Russian government’s influence over the Russian media has led to misrepresentations on the reporting of the conflict and swayed public support in President Putin’s favor.  Lastly, Ms. Arno talked about fleeing Russia after protesting President Putin’s inauguration in 2012 and the punishments other pro-democracy Russians face in the country due to their political views.  She also reinforced the idea that President Putin’s control over Russian media outlets have helped to build support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Additionally, she mentioned that the Free Russia Foundation that she founded seeks to give a voice to pro-democracy Russians and Ukrainians embroiled in the conflict.

Meeting: The Panel Discussion on “The Continuing Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine”

Date/Time/Location: Monday, April 18, 2016; 18:00 – 20:00; New York University (NYU) School of Law, Vanderbilt Hall, Room 210

Speakers: Ms. Mary Holland, Moderator and Director of the Graduate Lawyering Program at New York University (NYU) School of Law; Mr. Adrian Karatnycky, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Ukraine in Europe Program at the Atlantic Council; Dr. Olena Nikolayenko, Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University; Ms. Natalia Arno, President and Founder of the Free Russia Foundation (FRF)  

Written By: WIT Representative Shubhangi Shukla

Edited By: WIT Representative Alex Margolick

Photo: Reuters

International Law and Crisis in Ukraine: A Roundtable Discussion

Recent events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have raised an array of challenging issues related to self-determination, secession, international intervention, and annexation. The panel aims to explore the legal and policy implications of these issues.

Note: It was recorded that no representative were present from the Russian Federation or from the 11 nation states that were against UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262 that was adopted on 27 March 2014, entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”

In the pursuit of conducting a balanced debate on the issue of Crimea, participants were shown a video of the Republic of Nicaragua delegation providing the UN General Assembly their reasoning for voting against resolution 68/262. The main point highlighted related to the issue of self-determination. This Managua believed validated both – the referendum itself hosted in Crimea on March 16, 2014 and its outcome to join the Russian Federation.

H.E. Yuriy Sergeyev strongly posited that the referendum was illegitimate as it was inspired by Russia and the plebiscite took place while Russian soldiers occupied the peninsula. A similar view is shared by the 100 nations states that were in favour of resolution 68/262 on respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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Christopher Borgen, acting as a legal advisor on the panel, stated that Moscow’s rationale of categorizing the events, as humanitarian intervention too did not have any legal biases, as matters of intervention do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Crimean Constitution [Article 1] as granted by the parent state; Ukraine. Furthermore, he argued that even if the idea of self-determination is condoned in this scenario, it by no means gives any right to entirely dismember the state.

H.E. Ambassador Yuriy further denounced Moscow for violating the 1994 Budapest Agreement and for acting in a manner inconsistent with international law and thus “creating an imbalance in the international security environment”. As part of the agreement of ‘94, Ukraine had given up its nuclear weapons “on the basis of an explicit Russian guarantee of its territorial integrity”. However by breaching this guarantee, President Putin has undermined the foundational framework of the international order by disrespecting historical obligations that take expression in the form of treaties, pacts and agreements.

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Meeting Title:  International Law and Crisis in Ukraine: A Roundtable Discussion
Speakers: Bettina B. Plevan Proskauer Rose LLP, Chair, Council on International Affairs; Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations; Christopher J. Borgen, Associate Dean for International Studies and Professor of Law, St. John’s University School of Law; Mark A. Meyer, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Moldova in New York, Herzfeld & Rubin, P.C.
Location: The Council on International Affairs of the New York City Bar Association
Date: 4 June 2014
Summary by WIT representative: Apurv Gupta
Edited by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark