Ukraine, Georgia discuss deoccupation, countering Russian aggression in a webinar

Ukrainian News
Canan Kevser
23 February 2021, 20:04
Canan Kevser
23 February 2021, 20:04

Georgia and Ukraine on Tuesday organised an online roundtable on "Deoccupation of Ukraine and Georgia: joint efforts of both States, International Organizations and Civil Society Institutions."

The webinar was organised jointly by the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgia and the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (The Rondeli Foundation) on February 23.

The discussion highlighted that Russia's intensive militarisation of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and Georgia continues to threaten global and regional security and stability. 

"Russia disregards its international obligations and the fundamental principles of international law by conducting systematic political persecutions, in particular on ethnic and religious grounds; violating fundamental human rights and freedoms and conducting illegal elections," the organisers of the roundtable said in a statement.

The issue of developing joint mechanisms of response and counteraction to ongoing Russian aggression was addressed in the discussion aimed at mobilising the international community's efforts to restore and maintain territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia within their internationally recognised borders.

Four diplomats and specialists have attended from the Ukrainian side, including Mr Anton Korynevych, Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea; Ms Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine; Mr Rustem Umerov, Secretary of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Human Rights, Deoccupation and Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories in Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the City of Sevastopol, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations; Mr Nariman Ustaiev, Director of Gasprinski Institute for Geostrategy.

During his speech, Member of Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) Rustem Umerov emphasised that the states have faced similar problems and challenges in the past.

"Since the 1990s, Russia has been destabilising the situation in Ukraine by promoting its false narratives, especially in Crimea, such as alleged historical affiliation with Russia," Mr Umerov noted.

He recalled that in 1991, there was an armed conflict in Georgia that broke out in Abkhazia against the territorial integrity of Georgia, which led to the 2008 Russia-Abkhazia war. 

"Since the world did not support Georgia as we wished in 2008, later it came up in 2014 Russia launched a military aggression against Ukraine by occupying Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine. In this context, I think, Georgia and Ukraine understand each other where the value of democracy and respect for human rights is crucial for both of the states."

He added that such actions of the Russian Federation against both states are part of Russia's foreign policy - a strategy of constant pressure and influence on the independent states to prevent our European and Euro-Atlantic choice.

"Now, our states face the challenge in the form of temporarily occupied territories, understanding the need and urgency of developing not only the strategy of de-occupation but also reintegration."

NATO should pay more attention to Black Sea security

Mr Umerov asserted that another issue that deserves attention is the security issue in the Black sea region. 

"Russia is turning Crimea into a constantly growing military base, which is being re-equipped with military equipment. Russia's policy poses a threat to all the states in the region and hinders the development of trade."

According to him, Russia is using the Black Sea as a basis for projecting its power into both the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

"NATO should pay more attention to the Black Sea region and its strategy. One of the ways to solve this problem could be the establishment of a triangle that unites NATO-Ukraine-Georgia."

Umerov noted that the parties should conduct joint naval/air exercises and exchange intelligence, and further emphasised the necessity to fulfil the NATO membership action plan.

"Such cooperations would be an important step toward realising our Euro-Atlantic aspirations."

He assured that the investigation of the war crimes committed by Russian authorities in international courts and prosecution of those who are guilty are within the scope of the parties' common interests. 

"Also, Ukraine and Georgia are connecting the east and west, attracting foreign investments and place a huge roll in ensuring security in the Black Sea region. It guarantees the formation of the security bell. Mutual investments of both Ukraine and Georgia should also increase as the states participate in infrastructure projects from east to west. It also gives some opportunities for mutual cooperation."

According to him, it is also important to share the experience in the context of overcoming the consequences of aggression. He stated that Georgia has a longer history of resolving the issue at a legislative level, therefore, its expertise in this area would be interesting to Ukraine. 

"It would be useful to learn more about your experience in resolving the issues of sanctions, facilitating reintegration, work with people from the occupied territories. And probably useful for both countries to organise cooperation in a level of parliamentary committees. For example, we would like to hear your representatives from the committee on human rights and civil integration, and the committee on defence and security."

The Ukrainian MP reminded that in order to force Russia to comply with international law in the temporarily occupied territories, Ukrainian lawmakers are trying to raise awareness of foreign colleagues about the human rights situation in Crimea, during the meetings at various levels.

He pointed out that at the PACE winter session, in which Georgia was also present, the issue of human rights violations in Crimea was raised, and Georgian colleagues supporting the Ukrainian delegation.  

The Secretary of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Human Rights noted that during these meetings, the Ukrainian delegation emphasised the importance of international support and increasing pressure for the release of Ukrainian political prisoners.

"During my speech at PACE, I raised the issue of discrimination on the basis of ethnic and confessional grounds, within the debates about the problems of ethnic profiling in Europe."

Since 2014, Umerov added, Ukraine has been working on a strategic decision of how to ensure the de-occupation of Crimea. In 2020, it was decided to establish such a format called Crimean Platform, which the president had addressed in the UN.

"We, as a member of parliaments, initiated a formation of an inter-factional group called Crimean Platform inside of the parliament. Our purpose is to form and implement the parliamentary track within the frame to unify our state strategy for de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea."

According to Umerov, the Ukrainian MPs focus on gaining support at the international level by using all tools of inter-parliamentary dialogue, including bilateral cooperation with the EU countries, the U.S., Canada. 

Mr Umerov emphasised the importance of increasing cooperation of the international organisations in the Black Sea region states such as Georgia, Turkey and others.

"We are also drawing the number of legislative acts now, dealing with the different issues of reintegration and de-occupation; namely the laws of sanctions policy, protection of cultural heritage, determination of the states in assisting political prisoners, prisoners of war."

Rustem Umerov concluded by highlighting that the protection of the Crimean Tatars, indigenous people, and support for their comprehensive development is among Ukraine's priorities.