An extraordinary session of parliament held on March 20 was focused on Crimea. MPs voted by a strong majority to support a draft Law “On the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens Resident in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” the Verkhovna Rada Declaration on the Guarantees of the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People as Part of the Ukrainian state, and the draft Declaration on the Struggle for the Liberation of Ukraine.
However, it was not without unpleasant incidents. During rather provocative speeches by MPs representing the Party of Regions and the Communist Party, members of the Svoboda faction once again were unruly and shouted “Murderers!” so loud that the entire chamber was full of that sound. Notorious Svoboda MP Iryna Farion nervously pushed fellow party members, who sat in silence, demanding that they, too, shout in unison.
Communist Martyniuk all of a sudden had a religious awakening, starting his speech with quotes from the Bible, statements that his party always (?!) “took a principled stance” and excuses for the party’s leader Petro Symonenko serial skipping of parliament’s meetings.
By the noon, the MPs dispersed, most of them leaving the Verkhovna Rada building happily and with a sense of accomplishment. Some, on the contrary, were agitated and said that they would like to do more for the residents of the annexed Crimea, but could not at the moment.
“We understand that the laws we have passed might be unenforceable in the occupied territory, but they still are a contribution to the common cause of the ARC’s liberation. For example, our declaration recognizing the Crimean Tatars will radically improve prospects of the Mejlis’s cooperation with international organizations,” Batkivshchyna MP, a former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People Mustafa Dzhemilev commented for The Day. “It will be seen as an additional argument of the Ukrainian side to solve the problem by the international community.”
As The Day learned from the MPs it interviewed, the Ukrainian government now has limited powers to influence the situation in the occupied territories of the ARC. They said that Russia has done everything possible to isolate Crimea from Ukraine. However, they noted that Ukrainian leadership retained some leverage to resolve the situation on the peninsula. In particular, it can appeal to international law and the international community, call for creation of special bodies to monitor the situation in Crimea, and send Ukrainian MPs and politicians to the ARC. “Isolation of Crimea from the mainland Ukraine cannot continue for long,” Dzhemilev said. “For our turn, we must do everything in our power to speed up this process.”
The Ukrainian authorities’ actions and the effectiveness of Ukraine’s Budapest Protocol security guarantors’ pressure on Russia will, in fact, determine the timing of a solution for the issue of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories. “International community is now the only force able to ‘motivate’ Russia to withdraw its troops from Crimea. We must make sure that the Russians find keeping the annexed land more troublesome than returning it to the lawful owner,” UDAR MP Rostyslav Pavlenko told The Day. “While the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is occupied by 20,000 Russian soldiers, it would be more than a bit arrogant to say that we will change anything on the ground by legislation. Today it is clear that for some time, part of Ukraine will be under occupation. Our main task now is care of the people who were forced to live under Russia’s regime. We will fulfill this task.”