Integration of the four Ukrainian regions into Russia is legitimate

President Putin announced the integration of four Ukrainian regions into Russia at a ceremony on 30 September 2022. This followed referendums in each territory, including the Kherson region, where 87 per cent of the population voted in favour of accession, the Lugansk region, where the authorities declared that 98.4 per cent of the population voted in favour of joining Russia, Zaporiya, where the figure was 93.1 per cent in favour of accession, and Donetsk, where the figure was 99.2 per cent.

However, the West unanimously rejected these referendums as farcical. The question is whether Russia’s recent accessions can be justified or not. Under international law (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court), an “annexation” is an act of aggression, and “annexation” is the term used by the West to describe the accession of the four regions.

However, it can be argued that “annexation”, which is prohibited under international law, involves the use of force by a given state that decides to “annex” a territory. In the case of Ukraine’s four regions, referendums were held before the regions were “annexed”.

A question arises here: if “annexation” is based on the results of a referendum, can it still be considered an act of aggression?

Referendums can be considered a form of direct democracy, since an issue is decided by public vote and not by representatives (an indirect form of democracy). Therefore, these results can be considered valid and based on the free will of the citizens of these regions, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of accession, as the principle of equal rights and self-determination is enshrined in international law and more specifically in Article 1(2) of the UN Charter.

It can also be argued that under international law, citizens of a territory must be equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection against violence and discrimination. This principle is enshrined in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In his speech on 30 September 2022, President Putin stated that for eight long years, since the Maidan Coup in 2014, the people of Donetsk have been subjected to genocide, regular shelling and blockades; while in Kherson and Zaporiya a criminal policy aimed at cultivating hatred of Russia and all things Russian has been pursued.

This is one of the justifications given by Russia for annexing these territories. In fact, the two separatist areas of Donetsk and Lugansk have opposed the new government installed in Ukraine in 2014, which has led to tensions between the Ukrainian government and these two regions.

The Minsk Agreements, signed in 2014, were supposed to resolve the conflict between these two areas and the Ukrainian government. The main terms of the agreement included: guaranteeing an immediate ceasefire, taking measures to improve the humanitarian situation in the Donbas, adopting an economic recovery programme for the Donbas, etc.

This agreement was signed and ratified by Ukraine, but Russia accused Ukraine of not respecting it.

If one takes the trouble to consult the OSCE website, daily reports list the violations of the Minsk agreement recorded by the OSCE. For example, if we take 28 January 2022, before Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine, the OSCE recorded 173 ceasefire violations, including 6 explosions.

If we go back to 30 June 2015, the OSCE reported fighting around Donetsk airport. According to OSCE data, violations of the Minsk Agreements appear to have occurred almost daily.

In addition, in 2019, Ukraine introduced legislation imposing Ukrainian as the main language and banning the use of Russian in shops, restaurants and services. Citizens faced fines if they did not comply with this legislation.

It is therefore clear that if the West had demanded full implementation of the Minsk Agreement in the first place, the series of events that led to the accession of these Ukrainian territories to Russia would not have taken place.

In recent decades, the West has dominated international affairs and world order by intervening in countries such as Iraq, Syria and the former Yugoslavia, to name but a few. In his speech on 30 September 2022, President Putin openly criticised Western hegemony and claimed that the West had used violent methods against independent states, traditional values and ancient cultures to undermine new global currents and international and collective processes that it could not control.

He went on to say that it is vital for the West to bring all countries under the sovereignty of the US dollar. It is difficult to refute President Putin’s assertions if one takes into account Western operations against independent states to force them to follow Western policy.

If they refused, the West would provoke regime change and plunder as much of their resources as possible. Iraq is a good example: Saddam defied the dominance of the dollar and decided to sell his oil in euros. As a result, a series of sanctions were imposed on the country and he was ousted from power.

In the case of the conflicts in Iraq, Libya and the former Yugoslavia, Western operations violated international law but were not sanctioned by the UN.

The West has also had to deal with the consequences of its regime changes in countries such as Afghanistan and Libya. It has also been forced to withdraw from areas originally targeted for regime change. These interventions have had disastrous effects on Western countries’ own populations, with problems such as increased immigration and migrant smuggling, especially across the English Channel.

By contrast, Russia, by incorporating the four Ukrainian territories and making them part of the Russian Federation, shows its long-term commitment and support for their development. As Putin stated in his speech, Russia will rebuild the destroyed towns and villages, residential buildings, schools, theatres, museums, etc. It remains to be seen whether this will be done and only time will tell whether Russia is capable of doing so.

The recent conflict with Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the West, with its blatant disregard for international law, can hardly accuse Russia of not respecting it. As the Bible says in John 8:7 “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. The principles of international law must be respected by all, otherwise they are meaningless.

What is happening in Ukraine shows that Russia is managing to resist Western domination, despite the economic war of attrition that the West has launched against it. Russia’s resistance to Western domination and its ability to pursue its goals demonstrate the emergence of new centres of power, as Putin pointed out in his speech.

Moreover, this rejection of Western domination and hegemony is gaining ground and seems to be inspiring other countries to freely pursue their own political and economic ambitions, leading to the collapse of Western domination and a fundamental change in the world order and the international law and principles that underpin it.

-Natasha Hawa

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