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Russian comment on the expiry of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty of 1997

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The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine signed on May 31, 1997, will be terminated on April 1, 2019 at Ukraine’s initiative.

Ukraine has announced its decision in a manner that has become typical in the past few years: by placing the blame on Russia. Russia allegedly violated the treaty, which “has become an anachronism through Moscow’s fault,” as Poroshenko has written on Twitter.

The treaty may admittedly have become somewhat outdated, since it was signed over 20 years ago. But that is clearly not the fault of Moscow, which has declared readiness to hold talks on concrete proposals to upgrade the bilateral legal framework, including the 1997 Friendship Treaty.

We will not analyse all the treaty articles, which is a job for legal experts, but there are several things we would like to point out.

For example, Article 6 of the Friendship Treaty says that the parties pledge “not to enter into any agreements with any countries directed against the other party” or “permit its territory to be used to the detriment of the security of the other party.” Has Ukraine complied with these provisions? No, in violation of these provisions Ukraine ratified the Memorandum of Understanding between Ukraine and the Alliance on Host Nation Support for NATO Operations (2004), amended its Military Doctrine (2005) to proclaim the strategic goal of joining NATO and adopted a law amending the Constitution to formalise Ukraine’s strategic goal of becoming a full member of NATO. While doing this, Ukraine did not make use of the mechanism of consultations, which is stipulated in the 1997 Treaty, to discuss these topics with Moscow.

Ukraine has grossly and systematically violated Article 12 of the Treaty, under which “the High Contracting Parties shall ensure the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of national minorities on their territory, and create conditions for the encouragement of that identity” and also pledge to “promote the creation of equal opportunities and conditions for the study of the Ukrainian language in the Russian Federation and the Russian language in Ukraine.”

Instead, the Maidan authorities have been waging a consistent offensive against the Russian language and the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine for a number of years. The relevant examples include the Law on State Support for Cinema, which bans Russian films and TV series about Russian security services, as well as all Russian television productions and films made after 2014; the Law on Language Quotas for Television, which sets the quota for Ukrainian-language productions at 75 percent at the least; the Law Amending Ukrainian Legislation to Restrict the Entry of Anti-Ukrainian Foreign Print Products, which cut short the entry of Russian print products and, consequently, greatly restricted the right of Russian speakers in Ukraine to receive objective information in their native tongue; restrictions imposed on Russian websites; amendments to the Law on Touring Events in Ukraine, under which Russian performers can enter the country only by permission of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU); and the notorious Law on Education, which has not only provoked indignation in Russia and several other countries with large ethnic minorities in Ukraine, but has also been sharply criticised by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is now discussing a draft law on Ukrainian as the state language, which is fully in keeping with the policy of Ukrainisation and infringement on the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Since we anticipate the usual complaints about Crimea, it should be said that Article 3 of the 1997 Treaty says that the “High Contracting Parties shall construct their relations with each other on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity, the inviolability of borders, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the non-application of force, including economic and other means of pressure, the right of peoples to decide their own fates freely, non-intervention in internal affairs, the upholding of human rights and basic freedoms, collaboration among nations, and the conscientious fulfilment of international obligations assumed, as well as other generally accepted norms of international law.”

However, Ukraine continues to deny Crimeans the right to freely decide their future. When the anti-constitutional coup took place in 2014 and radical nationalist forces, the proponents of violence and intimidation, came to power in Ukraine, Crimeans, seeing a palpable threat to their safety, resorted to the right of nations to self-determination, which is guaranteed not only in the Russian-Ukrainian treaty but also in the UN Charter and the majority of fundamental international laws.

We believe that the above information is sufficient for making an objective conclusion on who and when started violating the 1997 Treaty. We included all of these arguments in a note we have forwarded to the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine. We urge Ukraine to respect its bilateral and international obligations in deed, not in word. The anti-national actions of the Maidan authorities, which are violating the fundamental rights of their own people and are trying to destroy the traditional multifaceted ties between the people of Russia and Ukraine under the pretext of war against the “aggressor”, will undoubtedly become a bad memory, and history will ultimately pass a harsh sentence on them.

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