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Kosovo & Crimea: The West's Double Standards


April 4, 2014
David Morrison / David Morrison.org

Analysis: In June 1999, the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia was sacrosanct to the international community, wasn't it? There could be no question of an independent state of Kosovo, recognized by the international community, could there? An overwhelming majority of the people living in Kosovo supported independence from Serbia, but no referendum took place to confirm this. The following day, nine states (including the France, the UK and the US) recognized Kosovo as an independent state.

http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/ukraine/kosovo-crimea-double-standards.htm

Kosovo & Crimea: The West's Double Standards
David Morrison / David Morrison.org

(March 18, 2014) -- In 1999, Yugoslavia consisted of two republics -- Serbia and Montenegro. According to Serbia's constitution, Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia, but with an overwhelmingly Albanian majority that favored separation from Serbia, and a Serb minority that opposed separation.

(In 2006, Montenegro seceded and Serbia became an independent state in its own right. Yugoslavia was no more.)

That Kosovo would remain an integral part of Serbia was one of the principles enshrined in the agreement of 2 June 1999, which brought to an end NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. Point 8 of the agreement envisaged:

"A political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia …" [1] (Annex 2)

Kosovo was to have "substantial self-government", but not going to be allowed to secede.

The Security Council endorsed the agreement on 10 June 1999 when it passed Resolution 1244 by 14 votes to 0 (with China abstaining). This reaffirmed "the commitment of all [UN] Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" [1].

So, in June 1999, the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia was sacrosanct to the international community, wasn't it? There could be no question of an independent state of Kosovo, recognized by the international community, could there?

* * * *

Fast forward to 17 February 2008:

"We, the democratically elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people …" [2]

These words are taken from the declaration of independence endorsed by the Assembly of Kosovo on that day with the unanimous support of those members present. 11 Serb representatives boycotted the proceedings. There is no doubt that an overwhelming majority of the people living in Kosovo supported independence from Serbia, but no referendum took place to confirm this.

The following day, 9 states (including the France, the UK and the US) recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Today, over a hundred states recognise it, including 23 out of the 28 members of the EU (an exception being Spain, which fears that approval of Kosovo's secession would encourage its own secessionist movements) [3].

These states were undeterred by earlier commitments by the Security Council, binding all UN member states, to support the territorial integrity of Serbia, or by the fact that, according to the Serbian constitution, Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia.

Serbia asserted that Kosovo's declaration of independence was contrary to international law. It persuaded the UN General Assembly to exercise its powers under Article 96 of the UN Charter to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the matter. Thus on 8 October 2008, the General Assembly passed resolution 63/3 [4] which requested the Court to render an advisory opinion on the following question:

"Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?"

On 22 July 2010, the Court delivered the (majority) opinion that "the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 did not violate international law" (see [5], Paragraph 123).

Crimea
On 11 March 2014, the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea resolved that it would declare Crimea to be an independent state, if the people of Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation in the referendum to be held 5 days later. The resolution, which was passed with the support of 78 out the 100 members of the Parliament, included the following:

"We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn't violate any international norms, make this decision." [6]

On 16 March the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation and, following this, the Crimean Parliament declared Crimea to be an independent state, which has now been recognized by Russia. The Crimean Parliament has applied to become part of the Russian Federation and the application has been accepted in principle by Russia.

The US and the EU have been asserting that the declaration of independence by Crimea's Parliament is illegal under Ukraine's domestic law.

It is true that the Ukrainian constitution states:

"The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine." (Article 134) [7]
and
"Alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by the All-Ukrainian referendum." (Article 73) [8]

But the Serbian constitution stated something similar with regard to Kosovo in 2008 and the Serbian authorities vigorously opposed the proposition that Kosovo had a right to declare independence.

This hasn't stopped the US and most states of the EU recognizing the declaration of independence by Kosovo's Assembly in 2008 (which unlike Crimea's wasn't the subject of a referendum).

The question is: why was it permissible for the US and most states of the EU to recognize Kosovo as an independent state in 2008 but, according to these states, it is not permissible for Russia to recognize Crimea as an independent state in 2014? Dare I suggest that a double standard is being applied?

If, as now seems certain, Crimea becomes a part of the Russian Federation, would that be in breach of international law? This is been talked about in the West as the "annexation of Crimea", which implies that Crimea is being forced to become part of the Russian Federation against the will of its people. In reality, the union is voluntary -- and that cannot possibly be contrary to international law.

What about Israeli Occupation?
There are real instances of forcible occupation and annexation in this world, in particular, Israel's 47-year occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Syrian Golan Heights against the wishes of the people who live there, and its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The US and the EU have been remarkably indifferent to these over many years, resisting any suggestion that it would be appropriate to apply sanctions to Israel to persuade it end its occupation.

On the contrary, Israel receives about $3 billion per annum in military aid from the US, more than any other country in the world, even though its GDP per head is around the EU average. And since 2000, the EU has given it privileged access to the EU market for its exports through an Association Agreement.

What about the Unconstitutional
Removal of the President?

The US/EU are concerned that the Ukrainian constitution has been breached by Crimea's secession from Ukraine. Or so they say. But they are fickle in their concern. On 22 February, the democratically elected President of the Ukraine was removed from office without following the impeachment procedure laid down in Article 111 [9] of the same constitution (see "How William Hague deceived the House of Commons on Ukraine" [10]). Were the US/UK concerned then? Of course, not -- since they wanted the removal of the President. So they pretended to the world that the proper constitutional procedures had been followed.

References:
[1] www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1244%281999%29
[2] news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7249677.stm
[3] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_recognition_of_Kosovo
[4] www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/63/3&Lang=E
[5] www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/141/15987.pdf
[6] rt.com/news/crimea-parliament-independence-ukraine-086/
[7] www.president.gov.ua/en/content/chapter10.html
[8] www.president.gov.ua/en/content/chapter03.html
[9] www.president.gov.ua/en/content/chapter05.html
[10] www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/david-morrison/ukraine-willliam-hague_b_4933177.html

David Morrison has written widely on the deception perpetrated by the British government to induce the British public to support military action against Iraq. He is the author with Peter Oborne of A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran published in April 2013. More of his writing is available at david-morrison.org.uk



EU Disavowal of Ukraine's February 21 Agreement
Responsible for Standoff between the West & Russia

David Morrison / DavidMorrison.org

(March 18, 2014) -- On 21 February 2014, the day before President Yanukovych was overthrown, the EU brokered an agreement [1] that provided for the transfer within 48 hours of substantial presidential powers to the Ukranian parliament and the creation within 10 days of a "national unity government", which would remain in place until presidential elections were held.

The agreement was signed by President Yanukovych and by the leaders of the three main opposition parties and was backed, verbally at least, by the EU and the US. Russia also supported it.

Had the agreement been implemented, it is very likely that the present standoff between the West and Russia would never have happened -- and it's possible that, with the EU and Russia acting together, Ukraine could have been set on the road to a stable and inclusive form of government, the like of which it has never had as an independent state.

But the opposition leaders reneged on the deal and, the next day, backed the unconstitutional overthrow of Yanukovych, replacing him with an opposition figure, and established a "government" representative of the opposition and not a "national unity government" as provided for in the agreement.

The EU stood idly by while this was happening and blessed the illegitimate regime that came into being as a result, as did the US. Its leaders have now been feted in Brussels and Washington.

It was the EU's disavowal of this agreement that led to the standoff between the West and Russia.

Main Points
The main points of the agreement were:

Within 48 hours, re-introduction of 2004 constitution thereby reducing presidential powers
Within 10 days, creation of a "national unity government"
Constitutional reform "balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament" to be completed in September 2014
Presidential elections, once a new constitution is agreed
Normalization of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares
Illegal weapons to be handed over to Ministry of Interior bodies
A further (third) amnesty for participants in the recent disturbances
An investigation of recent violence, monitored by the Council of Europe.

The implementation of these arrangements would not have involved any action in breach of the Ukranian constitution, unlike the removal from power of the President that took place on 22 February.

The agreement was brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland (Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski) acting on behalf of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (who was in Iran).

A Russian representative, Vladimir Lukin, was also present during the negotiations and, according to Sikorski, "made interventions during the marathon talks which eased the path towards an agreement" [2].

The agreement was signed by the leaders of the three main opposition parties, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Fatherland) Vitali Klitschko (UDAR) and Oleh Tyahnybok (Freedom) and by President Yanukovich himself. The European foreign ministers signed the document as witnesses, but the Russian representative did not.

Agreement Welcomed by EU & US (and Russia)
The agreement was wholeheartedly endorsed by Catherine Ashton on behalf of the EU:

"I welcome the agreement reached today by the President and the opposition leaders. This agreement opens the way for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine. A democratic and peaceful solution is the only way forward. The EU has been very much engaged in all the efforts that led to this important breakthrough. I particularly commend the important work on my behalf of the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland who facilitated this agreement. Implementation is now key. I call upon all signatories to respect the agreement and recall full Ukrainian ownership and responsibility for its immediate implementation." [3]

For the UK, David Cameron also welcomed the agreement, saying that "it should foster a lasting political solution to the crisis" [4]. He added:

"Over the last 24 hours, I have spoken to President Putin, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Tusk. We all support this deal and want to see it work. And working with other European partners and the United States, we will do all we can to ensure it succeeds."

For the US, President Obama's press secretary welcomed the agreement, saying that it "is consistent with what we have advocated in calling for a de-escalation of the violence, constitutional change, a coalition government, and early elections" [5], adding:

"Now, the focus must be on concrete action to implement this agreement, which we will be monitoring closely."

Later, on 21 February, Obama talked to Putin by telephone and, according to a State department spokesman:

"They agreed that the agreement reached today needed to be implemented quickly, that it was very important to encourage all sides to refrain from violence, that there was a real opportunity here for a peaceful outcome." [6]

EU Backs Illegitimate Regime
So, on 21 February, an agreement with the potential for stabilizing the political situation in Ukraine was apparently supported across the political spectrum in Ukraine and had got the backing not only of the EU and the US, but also of Russia. All that was necessary was to implement it as quickly as possible.

But opposition signatories did not honor the agreement and proceed to its immediate implementation. Instead, the day after they signed it, they reneged on it and backed the unconstitutional overthrow of the President and established a new regime, which is not representative of the east and southeast of Ukraine

And what did the EU do then? It backed the new regime, as if the agreement on 21 February had never happened.

In a press conference, on a visit to Ukraine on 25 February, Catherine Ashton never mentioned the EU brokered deal of 4 days earlier in her opening statement, a deal which 4 days earlier she had said "opens the way for a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine" [7].

When she was asked about the deal, she muttered that "the situation has moved on". Indeed it had, a President had been overthrown by unconstitutional means, which had it happened in other parts of the world the EU would most likely have condemned it. When asked if she agreed with the Russian government that "the situation in Ukraine is illegal", she avoided answering the question.

Putin Raises Interesting Questions
At his press conference on 4 March, President Putin queried why the 21 February agreement hadn't been implemented:

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three European countries -- Poland, Germany and France -- and in the presence of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on February 21.

"I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr. Yanukovych actually handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition's demands: he agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the opposition. He gave a positive response to our request, the request of western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor demonstrators.

"Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the occupied administrative buildings, they immediately occupied the President's residence and the Government building -- all that instead of acting on the agreement.

"I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the telephone these past few days.

"What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country? Armed and masked militants are still roaming the streets of Kiev. This is a question to which there is no answer. Did they wish to humiliate someone and show their power? I think these actions are absolutely foolish. The result is the absolute opposite of what they expected, because their actions have significantly destabilised the east and southeast of Ukraine." [8]

President Putin raises interesting questions.

References
[1] www.auswaertiges-amt.de/cae/servlet/contentblob/671350/publicationFile/190045/140221-UKR_Erklaerung.pdf
[2] www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/21/ukraine-crisis-sikorski-lukin-idUSW8N0LF01Q20140221
[3] eeas.europa.eu/statements/docs/2014/140221_05_en.pdf
[4] www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-welcomes-agreement-in-ukraine
[5] www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/02/21/statement-press-secretary-ukraine
[6] www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/22/us-ukraine-crisis-obama-idUSBREA1K1FF20140222
[7] eeas.europa.eu/statements/docs/2014/140225_01_en.pdf
[8] eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/6763


The Ukrainian Regime Is Illegitimate –
But the EU Backs it to the Hilt

David Morrison / DavidMorrison.org

(March 18, 2014) -- The Ukranian regime that came into existence after President Yanukovich was removed from power on 22 February 2014 is illegitimate. It is illegitimate because the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, did not follow the procedure to impeach and remove a president from power set out in the Ukrainian constitution.

Impeachment Procedure
Article 108 of the constitution [1] specifies four circumstances in which a president may cease to exercise power before the end of his term. Those are:

resignation;
inability to exercise his or her powers for reasons of health;
removal from office by the procedure of impeachment;
death.

The procedure for removal from office by impeachment is laid down in Article 111 [1]. It is not unlike that required for the impeachment and removal from power of a US president, which could take months. This makes sense, since it would be absurd to allow a parliament to remove a popularly elected president on a whim without proper consideration.

Thus, Article 111 obliges the Rada to establish a special investigatory commission to formulate charges against the president, seek evidence to justify the charges and come to conclusions about the president's guilt for the Rada to consider. To find the president guilty, at least two-thirds of Rada members must assent.

Prior to a final vote to remove the president from power, the procedure requires

the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to review the case and certify that the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration has been followed, and
the Supreme Court of Ukraine to certify that the acts of which the President is accused are worthy of impeachment.

To remove the president from power, at least three-quarters of Rada members must assent.

The Rada didn't follow this procedure at all. No investigatory commission was established and the Courts were not involved. On 22 February, the Rada simply passed a bill removing President Yanukovych from office.

Furthermore, the bill wasn't even supported by three-quarters of Rada members as required by Article 111 -- it was supported by 328 members, when it required 338 (since the Rada has 450 members).

According to Article 94 of the constitution, laws passed by the Rada require the signature of the President to come into force, so no law passed by the Rada since 22 February has been properly enacted.

Putin on Legitimacy of Kiev Authorities
President Putin questioned the legitimacy of the authorities in Kiev at his press conference on 4 March:

"Are the current authorities legitimate? The Parliament is partially, but all the others are not. The current Acting President is definitely not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal standpoint. Clearly, he has no power. However, as I have already said, and will repeat: Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate President.

"There are three ways of removing a President under Ukrainian law: one is his death, the other is when he personally steps down, and the third is impeachment. The latter is a well-deliberated constitutional norm. It has to involve the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Rada. This is a complicated and lengthy procedure. It was not carried out. Therefore, from a legal perspective this is an undisputed fact." [2]

There is a fourth way -- ill health -- but, aside from that, Putin is undoubtedly correct.

Acting President Not Constitutional
The constitution was also breached when it came to the appointment of an Acting President. Article 112 [1] specifies that "the execution of duties of the President of Ukraine, for the period pending the elections and the assumption of office of the new President of Ukraine, is vested in the Prime Minister of Ukraine".

On 22 February, there was no prime minister -- Mykola Azarov had resigned as prime minister on 28 January 2014 (when efforts were being made by Yanukovych to bring the opposition into government) and he hadn't been replaced. Instead, the speaker of the Rada, Olexander Turchynov (a close ally of opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko) was appointed as Acting President on 23 February.

He had become speaker the day before, upon the resignation of Volodymyr Rybak, an ally of Yanukovych, who resigned that morning because of ill health. The BBC reported that, according to Yanukovych, Rybak "was forced to resign because he had been physically beaten" [3]. Whatever about that, Turchynov became speaker one day and Acting President the next, thereby securing the presidency for the opposition.

Government Not Representative
The opposition then proceeded to set up a "government" which is not representative of the east and southeast of Ukraine.

What is more, the government contains five ministers, including the deputy prime minister, from the Svoboda (Freedom) party, led by Oleh Tyahnybok, which was described by the European Parliament as holding "racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views" that "go against the EU's fundamental values and principles" [4]. It seems to believe that Ukraine would be a better place without Russians and Jews. According to the BBC, in 2005 its leader signed an open letter to Ukrainian leaders calling for the government to halt the "criminal activities" of "organised Jewry", which, the letter said, … ultimately wanted to commit "genocide" against the Ukrainian people (see "Svoboda: The rise of Ukraine's ultra-nationalists," 26 December 2012, [5]).

The EU (and the US) have backed the new regime in Kiev to the hilt, despite its illegitimacy and the ultra-nationalist credentials of some of its ministers -- and the fact that it is not representative of the east and south-east of Ukraine.

Sanctions for Undermining Democratic Processes
Ironically, on 6 March 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order that "authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine" [6]. By rights, the list of individuals should have included himself, his Secretary of State, John Kerry, and, of course, his Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria (F**k the EU) Nuland.

References:
[1] www.president.gov.ua/en/content/chapter05.html
[2] eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/6763
[3] www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26304842
[4] www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/summary.do?id=1239823&t=e&l=en
[5] www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20824693
[6] www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/06/statement-press-secretary-ukraine


House of Commons on Ukraine
David Morrison / The Huffington Post

(March 10, 2014) -- In a statement on 4 March 2014, Foreign Minister William Hague deceived the House of Commons about the legitimacy of the new regime in Ukraine. He led the House to believe that the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, had removed President Yanukovich from power on 22 February in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution. "It is wrong to question the legitimacy of the new authorities", he said.

It is simply untrue that the Rada followed the procedure laid down in the Ukrainian constitution to impeach and remove a president from power.

Article 108 of the constitution specifies four circumstances in which a president may cease to exercise power before the end of his term. Those are:
resignation;
inability to exercise his or her powers for reasons of health;
removal from office by the procedure of impeachment;
death.

The procedure for removal from office by impeachment is laid down in Article 111. It is not unlike that required for the impeachment and removal from power of a US president, which could take months.

Thus, Article 111 obliges the Rada to establish a special investigatory commission to formulate charges against the president, seek evidence to justify the charges and come to conclusions about the president's guilt for the Rada to consider. To find the president guilty, at least two-thirds of Rada members must assent.

Prior to a final vote to remove the president from power, the procedure requires
the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to review the case and certify that the constitutional procedure of investigation and consideration has been followed, and
the Supreme Court of Ukraine to certify that the acts of which the President is accused are worthy of impeachment.

To remove the president from power, at least three-quarters of Rada members must assent.

The Rada didn't follow this procedure at all. No investigatory commission was established and the Courts were not involved. On 22 February, the Rada simply passed a bill removing President Yanukovych from office.

Furthermore, the bill wasn't even supported by three-quarters of Rada members as required by Article 111 -- it was supported by 328 members, when it required 338 (since the Rada has 450 members).

Nevertheless, justifying UK support for the new regime in Kiev in the House of Commons on 4 March, William Hague said:
"Former President Yanukovych left his post and then left the country, and the decisions on replacing him with an acting President were made by the Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, by the very large majorities required under the constitution, including with the support of members of former President Yanukovych's party, the Party of Regions, so it is wrong to question the legitimacy of the new authorities."

That gives the impression that the procedure prescribed in the Ukrainian constitution for the removal of a president from office had been followed, when in fact it hadn't and therefore the new authorities in Kiev are illegitimate.

President Putin questioned the legitimacy of the authorities in Kiev at his press conference on 4 March, just before William Hague spoke in the House of Commons:
"Are the current authorities legitimate? The Parliament is partially, but all the others are not. The current Acting President is definitely not legitimate. There is only one legitimate President, from a legal standpoint. Clearly, he has no power. However, as I have already said, and will repeat: Yanukovych is the only undoubtedly legitimate President.

"There are three ways of removing a President under Ukrainian law: one is his death, the other is when he personally steps down, and the third is impeachment. The latter is a well-deliberated constitutional norm. It has to involve the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Rada. This is a complicated and lengthy procedure. It was not carried out. Therefore, from a legal perspective this is an undisputed fact."


There is a fourth way -- ill health -- but, aside from that, Putin is undoubtedly correct.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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