ICC Classifies Annexation Of Crimea As International Armed Conflict, UN Committee Condemns Occupation

November 16, 2016
Russian soldiers take position in Simferopol, Crimea, in February 2014 before Russia annexed the peninsula.

Ukraine Day 1003: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. Heavy fighting continued in southeastern Ukraine today, on par with the escalation in the last week, with 6 Ukrainian soldiers wounded in Avdeyevka, northwest of Donetsk. There were unconfirmed reports of 3 Russia-backed fighters killed and 2 wounded.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


ICC Classifies Annexation Of Crimea As International Armed Conflict, UN Committee Condemns Occupation

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has classified Russia’s invasion of Crimea as an international armed conflict.

An ICC report published on Monday states:

The information available suggests that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This international armed conflict began at the latest on 26 February when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government.

The law of international armed conflict would continue to apply after 18 March 2014 to the extent that the situation within the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol factually amounts to an on-going state of occupation. A determination of whether or not the initial intervention which led to the occupation is considered lawful or not is not required.  For
purposes of the Rome Statute an armed conflict may be international in nature if
one or more States partially or totally occupies the territory of another State,
whether or not the occupation meets with armed resistance.

In addition, the report says that evidence such as cross-border shelling and the detention of Russian military personnel inside Ukraine “points to direct military engagement between Russian armed forces and Ukrainian government forces that would suggest the existence of an international armed conflict in the context of armed hostilities in eastern Ukraine from 14 July 2014 at the latest, in parallel to the non-international armed conflict.”

Furthermore, the Office of the Prosecutor is currently reviewing whether there is sufficient evidence to determine that the “non-international armed conflict” waged by Ukrainian citizens on the separatist side, is in fact an international armed conflict regardless, if those forces are proven to be acting under the direction of the Russian government.

This corresponds with The Interpreter‘s own research, which found incontrovertible proof of the massed deployment of Russian military forces in Ukraine, particularly during two major operations in August 2014 and January/February 2015.

The ICC report also describes numerous specific allegations being reviewed, including the harassment, abduction and killings of Crimean Tatars, the disappearance of more than 400 people, destruction of civilian infrastructure, torture, detention and the deaths of some 9,578 people during the war in the Donbass.

In response, President Vladimir Putin has issued a decree, withdrawing Russia from membership of the ICC.

However the measure is a symbolic protest, as Russia has never ratified the Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC’s jurisdiction in member states with regards to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

While Ukraine has not, so far, ratified the statute, the Ukrainian government has granted the ICC jurisdiction over such crimes committed on Ukrainian territory since November 21, 2013.

The Human Rights Committee of the UN General Assembly has approved a resolution condemning Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

The resolution was approved last night with 73 votes in favour, 23 against and 76 abstentions.

The full text of the resolution on the human rights situation in Crimea can be found here.

In particular, the text includes a condemnation of:

the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine —the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol — by the Russian Federation, and reaffirming the non-recognition of its annexation.

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian foreign minister, told Liga.net that Ukraine had come under considerable pressure to soften the wording of this section of the resolution, especially regarding the designation of the occupation as “temporary” and the naming of Russia as the occupying force.

The Associated Press reports:

The resolution is virtually certain to be adopted by a similar vote when it comes before the assembly next month.

The draft resolution condemns “the abuses, measures and practices of discrimination against the residents of the temporarily occupied Crimea, including Crimean Tatars.”

The OSCE reports that participants in a protest outside the National Bank of Ukraine yesterday told their monitors that they were paid to attend.

The protest, organized by the Za Zhittya (For Life) party – a small faction led by former Opposition Bloc MP and businessman Vadim Rabinovich, was met with a strong security response by the authorities, which ended up looking somewhat out of proportion with the small gathering, made up, as the OSCE says, largely of pensioners.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) reported:

In Kyiv the SMM monitored a public gathering outside the National Bank of Ukraine organized by the political party, For Life. About 1,200 people (70 per cent elderly women) listened as a speaker accused the bank of corruption. Protestors temporarily blocked the street in front of the bank. The SMM noted that about 20-30 young men in civilian clothing, positioned at the edge of the crowd, were stopping people and asking them where they were going when they attempted to leave the demonstration. The SMM was also stopped by the men who stated they were from the “rapid reaction group” of the For Life political party. Two demonstrators separately told the SMM that they would be paid the equivalent of about USD 10 for participating in the demonstration. Up to 100 law enforcement officers were present at the site. The demonstration remained peaceful.

Two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded yesterday as Kiev reports 21 attacks by Russia-backed forces.

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, told reporters that the servicemen were wounded by enemy fire in Talakovka, just outside Mariupol, and Novotroitskoye, near the highway between the port city and Donetsk.

On Monday, the OSCE SMM published a report, stating that their observers had recorded the use of heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems in Kadiivka, formerly Stakhanov, in the Lugansk region, on the night of November 11-12. The report does not indicate which side used rockets.

As we reported yesterday, the Ukrainian military denied that its own forces were using Grads, and said that the OSCE SMM could have heard  firing from a 30-mm automatic cannon on a BMP-2, which could, they claimed, sound like Grad missile firing.  They said the Ukrainian team on the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) did not confirm the Grads.

While Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers on this area of the front had been reporting intense fighting for some time, official reports from the Ukrainian military appear to have rather understated the level of violence.

From the SMM report:

During the evening and night hours of 11-12 November, while in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 94 explosions (outgoing and impacts) assessed as artillery and multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) fire 5-10km west-north-west, 355 undetermined explosions assessed as artillery and MLRS fire, of which at least 16 were assessed as impacts, 26 outgoing rounds of 152mm artillery fire and respective impacts, and 25 were explosions of MLRS rounds, at distances 5-15km west-south-west, 180 explosions assessed as impacts of artillery rounds of unknown calibre, 150 outgoing explosions of artillery rounds of unknown calibre, 100 explosions (outgoing and impacts) assessed as artillery of unknown calibre, and 13 undetermined explosions all at distances ranging 5-20km north, west-south-west, west and west-north-west. On 13 November, while in Kadiivka, the SMM heard 17 undetermined explosions approximately 10km west-south-west and south-west.

— Pierre Vaux