I thank the joint committee for giving us the opportunity to express our views on the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, there has not been much understanding of the situation there from the perspective of my country. As we see it, the events in Ukraine are a result of the very deep internal political crisis which did not come about only yesterday. The crisis was not created by Russia and came about, despite multiple warnings from my country. It was created artificially for geopolitical reasons. The current leadership in Ukraine, the United States of America and the European Union are trying to demonise my country by depicting us as the cause of the conflict. This is not new for us. Every time Russia attempts to protect its lawful interests, the image of an ugly, vicious Russian bear appears immediately.
The events in Ukraine are causing pain for all Russians. Unlike for political technocrats in the United States and Europe, Ukraine has never been just another foreign country for Russians. Russian history begins in Kiev and Belarus. Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities and the starting point for the Russian fleet. Ukraine is an inseparable part of Russian history. The people of Ukraine are our brothers, not just in a figurative sense. That is why all Russians are grieving for all those who lost their lives during the recent violence in Ukraine. The fates of Russians and Ukrainians are bound together historically, culturally and at family level. Together we defeated fascism. All of these facts should be taken into consideration when one is trying to understand the relationship between Russians and Ukrainians. Our two peoples are now being forced to clash with one another.
My country does not recognise the new leadership of Ukraine because of its illegitimacy. The current leadership took power as a result of a coup d'état and has consciously obstructed the agreement signed on 21 February this year with the connivance of France, Germany and Poland, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of which signed the agreement and guaranteed its implementation. Consequently, the current Ukrainian authorities have de-legitimised all of their subsequent activities.
I would like to draw attention to how the new authorities began.
They have attempted to restrict the Russian language spoken by more than 50% of the population, eliminate the Communist Party supported by 15% of the population, cause vandalism to Soviet-era monuments and encourage extremist actions by far-right, fascist and neo-Nazi forces. There are several Svoboda Party representatives in the current Ukrainian Government. In a resolution dated 13 December 2012, the European Parliament stated:
It is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party - recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party.
The following year, this was forgotten by Europe. We do not understand why this has happened.
Most of all, Russia is concerned about the strengthening of neo-Nazi, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces in Ukraine. These forces are not a new phenomenon in Ukraine but over the past several years, with the connivance of the Ukrainian authorities and the direct participation of the West, they have been growing in real strength. This was demonstrated with the so-called Right Sector movement members exploiting the revolutionary feelings of people which pushed them to struggle with police forces while also provoking the police through illegal activities. I must remind the committee that the police and security forces did not use their weaponry against these people. The Right Sector movement members are in the Ukrainian Government and its leader declared he will participate in presidential elections. He has also requested access to arsenals to pacify the east of Ukraine and fight with Russia. This nationalist organisation has taken serious actions against Russians in east Ukraine which Kiev ignores.
It is also one of the reasons there was such righteous indignation among the Crimean population and those in southern and eastern regions of the Ukraine. Kiev’s authorities are not able to control these radicals. Instead, they use them to stay in power and to suppress protests from those who want live better together with Russians and other residents of Ukraine and build a new democratic country. In this context, we are surprised by the EU and US position. We did not hear any condemnation of the Right Sector’s actions. Moreover, the Russian Federation is demanding the West sets in motion an inquiry into the famous story about snipers in Maidan. Otherwise, it would have been rolled under the carpet.
We want to be heard, especially in Ukraine and the capitals of EU member states. Beware. We all know what fascism is. If such forces like the Right Sector are allowed to continue, no one will notice when they wake up in another country. The anti-constitutional actions used by the present Ukrainian Government, made up of nationalists and neo-Nazis, are considered by the EU to be legitimate.
The referendum on the independence of an autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol will be held on 16 March in full compliance with international law. The citizens of Crimea have the full right to determine their fate by themselves and not to have to ask for permission from Kiev. This fact does not contradict international law. The decision of the International Court on Kosovo, dated 22 June 2010, is based on Article 1.2 of the UN Charter which has created a precedent that it does not require a mandate from the central authorities to conduct a referendum. This has been repeated in documents and statements of officials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark and other western European countries. The precedent in international law is considered to be a law itself. Thereby, the authorities of Crimea are acting fully in compliance with international law and with the decision of a UN international court. Crimea, if it passes the referendum, as an independent and sovereign country, can then appeal to join the Russian Federation.
The Russian Embassy in Ireland has received numerous SMS messages, e-mails, letters and telephone calls from Irish citizens supporting Russia’s position. That does not mean we do not get telephone threats and so forth but they are fewer than those voices which are on our side. This fact testifies not only about the interests of the Irish people to the events in Ukraine but about their objective approach in assessing the activities of the current leadership of Ukraine, as well as the Crimean authorities’ position with Russia, the EU and USA.
I thank the committee for its attention.