Letter dated 22 April 2021 from the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council
I have the honour to transmit herewith the Chair’s summary of the open Arria-formula meeting of the Security Council held on 17 March 2021 as a follow-up to the Arria-formula discussion of 12 March 2021 on the situation in Crimea (see annex).
I would appreciate your kind assistance in having the present letter and its annex issued as a document of the Security Council.
(Signed) Vassily Nebenzia
The Annex to the letter contains a multipage summary of the meeting:
On 17 March, the Russian Federation hosted an Arria-formula meeting with a view to providing members of the Security Council and all other interested States Members of the United Nations with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with first-hand information on the situation in Crimea from representatives of national minority groups, the education sector and young people residing in Crimea. The obvious need for such a meeting stemmed from the groundless refusal to participate by the sponsors of the Arria-formula discussion of 12 March, who opted for a one-sided politicized event with a carefully calibrated list of loyal briefers without reliable or verifiable information.
The meeting was held virtually by
videoconference and was live-streamed on United Nations WebTV1 and YouTube.2 It was chaired by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, and was attended by the representatives of 30 other delegations3 to the United Nations, including all current Security Council members, except Estonia (the main host of the Arria-formula meeting of 12 March). Despite the fact that representatives of all of the States Members of the United Nations were invited to attend and to make statements, the delegation of Ukraine for the second year in a row expressed no interest in engaging in the discussion.
The guest panellists represented four national-minority groups – Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Bulgarians – as well as two educational institutions and young people. Specifically, the participants were briefed by the Rector of the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University, Chingiz Yaqubov; students of the university; the head of the Ukrainian Community of Crimea, Anastasia Gridchina; the head of the regional national-cultural autonomy of Crimea “Belarusians of Crimea”, Roman Chegrinets; the Vice-Chair of the Bulgarian regional national-cultural autonomy of Crimea “Paisius of Helindar”, Ludmila Radeva; and the head of the Educational Centre for Children and Youth Creativity, Vera Pautova.
A concept note was released prior to the discussion, providing the background. It reminded participants about the seventh anniversary of the reunification of Crimea with Russia, following the rejection of the outcomes of the 2014 coup d’état in Kiev by the population of the Peninsula and the subsequent referendum organized by the local authorities in response to public demand. The results were unequivocal: of the more than 82 per cent of voters participating in the voting, more than 96 per cent had voted in favour of reunification with Russia. This figure had become the genuine expression of the free will of the people. The referendum had allowed Crimeans to exercise their right to self-determination, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and had led to the inclusion of two new territorial units in the Russian Federation on 18 March 2014: the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Perhaps most interesting are the documented reactions of the United Nations member representatives present:
Statements by delegations to the United Nations
Of the 31 delegations present, 16 took the floor. Those of them that had co-sponsored the Arria-formula discussion of 12 March repeated their positions of non-recognition of the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, which they referred to as “illegal annexation and occupation”. They reconfirmed their commitment to continue implementing such an approach “including through sanctions” until there was “the full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in internationally recognized borders”. They also repeated allegations of “violations by Russia” of human rights on the Peninsula, including those of the Crimean Tatars. The panellists kept refuting such unsubstantiated claims in their replies.
In addition, a representative of the United States, also a co-sponsor of the Arria-formula discussion of 12 March, assumed that the discussion initiated by Russia was “a misuse of the country’s seat on the Security Council”.
The Permanent Representative of France, Nicolas de Rivière, indicated that his participation did not imply the recognition of the views expressed by the participants. He added that “those who live today a normal life in Crimea deserve respect, but this does not change the illegality of Russia’s annexation of Crimea”. However, Mr. de Rivière did not answer the question of why in that case ordinary Crimeans, who deserve respect, are deprived of the right to freedom of movement and face inhumane travel restrictions on the part of the European Union.
The Permanent Representative of Germany, Christoph Heusgen, repeated his position that the events of 2014 were a “violation by Russia of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994” and heard an answer from Mr. Nebenzia that the document was not limited to the single aspect usually referred to. He also alleged that some of the panellists were not representatives of civil society, but “were on the payroll of a repressive regime, receiving instructions on what they have to say”, however, without providing any further substantiation.
Among other delegates taking the floor was a representative of China, who recognized that information provided by the panellists was conducive to the comprehensive understanding of the situation. He stressed the need for political settlement of disputes through dialogue.
Diplomatic solutions to protecting the legitimate interests of the countries of the region were also promoted by the representative of India, who noted that the views of the panellists contradicted those expressed by the briefers in the Arria-formula discussion of 12 March.
Representatives of Belarus, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Sudan and Syria also took the floor to present their views on the topic under discussion, calling the Arria formula useful.
The whole thing is an interesting read…