On 20 March 2019 the conference “Ukraine and Georgia: way to de-occupation of its territories”, the second in a row of events in the framework of the international platform “Friends of de-occupation of Crimea” initiated by President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, took place in Budapest. The event was co-organized by the Embassies of Ukraine and Georgia in Hungary.
The event was preceded by the conference “De-occupation of Crimea: the West’s non-recognition policy and the Baltic lessons learned”, co-organized by the Embassies of Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania together with the Hungarian Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy on 6 March in Budapest.
The conference took place in the premises of Ukrainian Self-Government in Hungary.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Hungary Liubov Nepop in her opening remarks noted that the Russia’s aggression was launched on 20 February 2014, followed by the illegal “referendum” on 16 March organised by Moscow under the barrel of the Russian guns and then by the adoption of unlawful decision on so-called “accession” of Crimea to the Russian Federation on 18 March. Recalling this date our international partners, including NATO and the EU, this Monday reaffirmed their strong position in non-recognition of the annexation and in continuation of the sanctions policy against Russia until the Russian aggression is stopped, the territorial integrity and peace in Ukraine is restored and the Ukrainian political prisoners of Kremlin are released.
The Ambassador underlined that today’s discussion focuses on the vision of Ukraine and Georgia of the ways of de-occupation of their territories, continuing the discussion started on 6 March, when we analysed the Baltic countries experience. The response to the occupation of the Georgian South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Ukrainian Crimea and the part of the East of Ukraine should be our common reaction and decisive actions. The de-occupation of these territories is important both in terms of ensuring our common European security and in terms of security in the Black Sea region, which has become even more important after when Russia attacked and seized 3 Ukrainian warships with 24 military sailors in the neutral waters of Black sea last year; as well as taking into account increasing Russian military presence both in Azov Sea and in Black Sea under the pretext of the infrastructure protection, meaning the illegally constructed Kerch bridge, which is a result of the occupation of Crimea, and is used as a pretext for free shipping hindering. Thus the aggression rises to a new level and requires more active opposition.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia in Hungary Zaal Gogsadze described in details the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia occupied by Russia, underlining that there were no changes in the regions for many years. The challenges of Georgia are similar to those in Ukraine, including internally displaced persons, the Russian propaganda, systematic human rights violations, the artificial russification on the occupied territories. The European Union Advisory Mission, being the only international mission in Georgia, operates exclusively on the controlled by the government territory of Georgia, thus limiting the flow of information from the occupied territories from the Russian sources only. The Ambassador stressed the importance of more clear position of the West and more active participation of Georgia and Ukraine in the initiatives of the Eastern partnership, speed-up of their accession to the EU and NATO. The Ambassador concluded that the proper reaction of the international community to the actions of Russia in 2008 may have prevented the war in Ukraine.
In her speech Maryna Vorotnyuk, Research fellow of the centre for European Neighbourhood Studies of the Central European University paid special attention to the Russian policy of creeping aggression, stressing that the Russia’s war against Georgia and later on against Ukraine are not isolated cases, it is rather pattern of the Russian behavior. The expert noted that this creeping aggression includes the widening of the conflict portfolio in Ukraine, in order to have more space for persuading West to concede. As a clear example the expert provided the recent case of the Russia’s actions in the Black Sea. Expert also stressed on the special security role of the Black Sea region, which currently Russia is transforming to “Russian lake”, dominating the region and controlling Crimea and turning it into the military base.
Sergiy Gerasymchuk,the deputy Chairman of the Board of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”, Head of the South -Eastern Europe Studies indicated that Kremlin is testing the West all the time, not only back in 2008; while dealing with the neighbours Russia uses “revolutionary expansionism” in its foreign policy, which is transformed through the means of the unequal communication: giving to the weaker message of the West bigger Russia’s military answer. While analysing the situation in the occupied Crimea the expert focused on the situation with the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainians there, on the militarization of Crimea by Russia and negative economic consequences of the occupation. Referring to the possible measures of influence on the situation the expert underlined the importance of continuing the sanctions policy, including the energy area in it. Special attention was given to the position of Ukraine in the international courts in countering the Russian occupation and aggression.
The External Fellow of the Centre for strategic and Defence Studies and PhD student in Military Studies at the National University of Public Service Krisztian Jojart noted the importance of understanding of the possible future actions of Russia towards Ukraine as well as a plan of actions in case of further Russian aggression.
Wrapping up H.E. Liubov Nepop noted that the international community had not reacted properly on the act of the aggression of Russia against Georgia. The absence of an appropriate response was interpreted by the Kremlin as a weakness of the West and as a green light for continuation of its imperialistic policy, which led to an attack on Ukraine. If Russia will not face the world democracies’ opposition to her policies the threat of continuation of the aggressive policy of Kremlin remains and continues.
The only remedy for this situation is a clear opposition of the EU and NATO, the strengthening of sanctions and political pressure, deepening cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia as well as including our countries to these organisations.
H.E. Ambassador reminded the study “Mystification and Demystification of Putin’s Russia” recently presented by the institute “Political Capital” in Hungary, which states that the Kremlin is not successful in painting Russia as a likeable country, but it does everything to depict the country more powerful than it is in reality. Russia is not so powerful, and the West is not so dependent on Moscow as Russia tries to assert in the European consciousness. It means it is quite real to force the aggressor to respect the international law again.
The Ambassador thanked the co-organizers of the event, and also announced the third conference on the topic of the de-occupation of the Crimea at the beginning of April 2019, which will be organized jointly with the Croatian Embassy and will focus on the Croatian experience of the reintegration of the occupied territories and the possibility of Ukraine to use them.