war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia moves to ‘revoke’ Soviet decree recognizing Crimea as part of Ukraine

Halya Coynash
Russia’s leaders will be “shooting themselves in the foot” with this pitiful attempt to rewrite history, one legal expert has noted, since the question must arise why they recognized Ukraine’s borders from 1991 until the invasion

The invasion of Crimea and pseudo-referendum in the eyes of the world, and entirely omitted from textbooks now used under Russian occupation

Russian legislators have tabled a draft bill which proposes to declare that the 1954 Soviet decree which ceased to view Crimea as part of the Russian SSR and recognized it as part of the Ukrainian SSR was ‘unlawful’ and “of no legal force”.  It is claimed that this is “for the cleansing of Russia’s legal heritage”, although it is clearly nothing of the sort.  No attempt to ‘edit’ history 70 years on can change the fact that Russia and the entire international community recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory in 1991.  Russia alone chose to violate international law by invading another country’s territory in 2014, and no attempts to legislatively edit historical facts can change that.

The authors of the bill are Konstantin Zatulin, the first deputy head of the Duma committee on the CIS, and Serhiy Tsekhov, a so-called Crimean senator wanted in Ukraine on charges of treason.  The explanatory note to this attempt to legislate history states that the bill “is aimed at cleansing the legal heritage of the Russian Federation as the legal continuer of the USSR and the RSFSR from worthless acts which have no legal foundation, but which created lawlessness, political crimes on the basis of abuse of power, causing huge damage to the sovereign rights of the Russian Federation and the interests of the Russian people.”

The Russian state-controlled TASS news agency reports article 1 of this draft ‘federal law’ as asserting that “the decision to transfer Crimea from the territory of the Russian SSR to the territory of the Ukrainian SSR taken in 1954 by normative-legal acts without legal force, in violation of the constitutions of the RSFSR and USSR are declared unlawful, not complying with the fundamental principles of a law-based state and international law.”

The authors cite the so-called ‘Soviet constitution’ of 1936 to try to prove that the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR [the body issuing the decree] did not have the right to take decisions on transferring territory from one Soviet republic to another.  The Russian deputies’ decision ten years after Russia’s invasion of Crimea to declare the 1954 decree unlawful is somehow supposed to “cut the ground out from under the propaganda” of the current authorities in Ukraine.  The latter are, purportedly, “instilling in the consciousness of their own population and the whole world the thesis about Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014.”

There have been repeated calls from among pro-Kremlin politicians for such bills or decisions on ‘revoking’ the 1954 decree or declaring it ‘unlawful’.  In fact, Crimean Realities dates the first of these to Vladimir Konstantinov on 20 February 2014 – the day that Viktor Yanukovych’s regime gunned down unarmed Euromaidan activists and the day that the Kremlin clearly views as the beginning of its annexation of Crimea. 

In June 2014, the then Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin claimed that it was Ukraine that had ‘annexed Crimea’ in 1991.   By March 2019, his successor, Viacheslav Volodin was claiming, not only that Ukraine had ‘annexed Crimea’, but that it should pay ‘compensation’.

Zatulin himself, who was declared person non grata in Ukraine years before Russia’s annexation, was calling for such a ‘law’ as early as 2017.

It is, however, noteworthy that it is only now that such verbal claims are turning into action.  Refat Chubarov, Chair of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, believes that politicians in Russia are clear that Crimea must and will be liberated by Ukraine and that such bills are an attempt to put off that time.  “The registration of this bill is indicative of the internal panic among Russian politicians, and the very action is aimed at the Russian internal audience as they need to maintain in the majority of Russian citizens this supposed ‘sacred’ status of Crimea and the position of the Russian Federation which purportedly derives from the absolute right of Moscow, as it formulates this, to own Crimea.”

Why not consider all of the other historical decisions or actions which, using the logic of the bill’s authors’ can be rendered null and void, with ‘compensation’ demanded,  through a parliamentary vote?  Chubarov says he is pleased that the bill has been tabled as it demonstrates to the entire world how absurd are not only these Russian politicians, but the Russian state itself.

Crimean Realities also spoke with Olha Butkevych, a doctor of law and the President of the Ukrainian Association of International Law.   She dismisses the claims made in the Russian document and says that the decree declaring Crimea part of Ukraine was in full compliance with international norms of the time, and with the rules of the United Nations.  Any attempt to ‘revoke’ this is a populist gesture, without any relation to law or consequences.   She notes that the Russians are effectively shooting themselves in the foot as they are thus totally negating all of Russia’s politics from 1991.  From then on, as expressed in over 400 different legal documents, the Russian Federation recognized Crimea as Ukrainian territory.   This was fully acknowledged by Russian leader Vladimir Putin when, in 2008, he asserted that “Crimea is not disputed territory” and that Russia had long recognized Ukraine’s borders. 

Unlike Russia, the UN and international community recognized those borders then and continue to do so. 

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