Dods EUM: Extraordinary meeting with Boris Tarasyuk on the situation in Ukraine

On Monday 3 March the European parliament's committee on foreign affairs held an extraordinary meeting with Boris Tarasyuk.

By Dods EU monitoring

04 Mar 2014

A member of the special envoy covering the Crimean settlement asked who the interlocutors are in Crimea and if the minorities groups there are supportive of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. She concluded that more must be done to protect their rights and asked Tarasyuk how he envisaged the association agreement taking shape.

Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK) speaking on behalf of the Liberal Group, lent his support for solidarity with Ukraine. He said that Vladimir Putin is acting like a tyrant but is also not immune from the condemnation of the international community. He said that NATO may have a role to play in the dispute but said that primarily there was a need for strong border monitoring and intelligence gathering at this stage.

Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, DE) said that the situation was reminiscent of 1914. He expressed disbelief that Putin was acting like this, saying that these were not the acts of Soviet reunification but solely to create uncertainty. He said that an association agreement with the EU may aggravate the current situation and said that originally many Balkan countries wanted to be in NATO and not the EU, as territorial sovereignty was the primary goal to win freedom from Russia. He concluded that Russian activity was shocking.

Charles Tannock (ECR, UK) welcomed the speaker, adding how disappointed he was that he was unable to address the committee from a stable Ukraine and not in relation to Russian bullying. He asked about the Budapest assurances, wanting to know whether they were considered guarantees or assurances bearing in mind that they limited sanctions to consultation. He asked for clarity over the expected obligations from these assurances. He said that sanctions are needed if diplomacy does not work in this area. He also called on the Turkish Government to show solidarity with the Tatar minority group in Crimea and to help the EU. He said that Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland were too similar to the current Crimean situation for comfort. He said that the right to a referendum in Crimea over Russian influence was a charade, noting that Chechnya has never given a referendum for example.

On behalf the European United Left and Nordic Green Left, Takis Hadjigeorgiou (GUE/NGL, CY) said that the EU should show the same restraint in Ukraine as is being shown by other global players.

Borys Tarasyuk said that Ukrainians understood that it was up to them to defend their national interests; but that NATO played a very important role in wider European security. Tarasyuk noted that the country subjected a plan to join a NATO agreement in 2006 which was formally agreed in 2008 at the Ukraine Summit (April 3 2008, Bucharest). He said that he was a strong proponent of Ukraine joining both the EU and NATO. He said that cannot exclude a decision to join NATO from within the Ukrainian Parliament and such a declaration will be voted on March 4 2014 to see if there is political appetite for this.

He said that in Crimea, before the Russian invasion, they deposed the original Crimean government because they would not vote for further Russian integration; they have since been replaced by a Russian puppet administration on the grounds that the existing politicians were illegitimately elected. Russia is using political and military sabotage to gain power in the region he concluded.

He said that minority groups in the Crimea are amongst the most pro-Ukrainian nationals for a number of reasons. He said that these included the protection afforded them under the Ukrainian state which would be unenforceable in a non-Ukrainian Crimea.

Addressing concerns over the association agreement with the European Union, he was surprised about the question because these assurances were discussed at length and had popular support from the Ukrainian people, just not the government. This has changed in Ukraine he said and now previous agreements must be honoured by all parties.

Answering the question from Charles Tannock (ECR, UK) he said that the Budapest assurances was the name given in English deliberately to avoid the suggestion of guarantees - these two words however are synonymous in Russian, Ukrainian and many other languages as well he explained. To Ukrainians this Memorandum therefore means guarantees.

Speaking on whether it was appropriate for Ukraine to sign the EU association agreement, he said that the move would cement and reward the Ukrainian people for coming out as so-pro democratic as well as offering prospective membership which is already being discussed in council; he agreed with Tannock that any Crimean referendum cannot be considered legitimate under Ukrainian law and will not be recognised by the Ukrainian Government.

Krzysztof Lisek (EPP, PL) said that Putin should be proposed for the Nobel Prize in medicine for opening Western eyes to his strategy in Eastern and Central Europe. He asked what Putin was after; Crimea, the Eastern Part of Ukraine or Ukraine as a whole. He also asked what the speaker thought could be done to stop these territorial ambitions.

Wolfgang Kreissel-Dörfler (S&D, DE) said that the UN and OSCE weren't yet referenced. Asked what other options aside from diplomacy were available - sanctions in an area which is already poor may not work as can be seen in Africa.

Davor Ivo Stier (EPP, HR) said that there are many similarities between Slobodan Miloševic and Vladimir Putin particularly their exploitation of divisions in the international community to achieve political aims. He said that solidarity must be shown with Ukraine through concrete measures against Russia.

Robert Atkins (ECR, UK) gave his support to Ukraine and outlined a number of claims led by Russia which were held to be true, he said. He asked why no commitments have been made to honour existing agreements with Russia. He also claimed that China is supportive of Russia. He asked if this was significant or merely acted to show the futility of the UN security council.

Marusya Lyubcheva (S&D, BG) said that 'practical' solidarity was vital in this case, adding that the EU must act firmly to protect the rights of Ukrainians and of European citizens. She asked if sanctions could be envisaged at this stage but stressed that if they were introduced, that they must not impact EU or Ukrainian citizens who, she said, were blameless.

María Muñiz de Urquiza (S&D, ES) said that sanctions may lead to a serious escalation of violence if not handled properly. Ukraine should pass legislation to codify minority rights protection she said, and asked what the state of play was in Ukraine concerning a Russian military base in the region.

Nikola Vuljanic (GUE/NGL, HR) said that Russia, from their perspective, was protecting their own national interests. He noted that the nature of Russia can't be changed but that help can be given to Ukraine. He outlined that this didn't necessarily involve military action, but that economic and political methods were more likely. He asked what the appetite for help from the member states is for intervention in Ukraine.

Borys Tarasyuk explained that the facts on the ground gave away Putin's ambitions for Ukraine. He said that according to Ukrainian officials, Russia has positioned troops over Ukraine's eastern border which he described as very serious. He explained that even when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, Russia could not accept any separation with Ukraine. Only Ukraine, he said, out of all the other former Soviet Republic countries had resisted Russian control and conducted its own foreign policy without Russian input. Tarasyuk said that Putin can be stopped by two ways; the condemnation of his own people and by the international community. He said that there are expectations on OSCE but that this course of action is dependent on Russian approval.

He outlined that diplomacy was Ukrainian's preferred method in the face of Russian aggression but noted that lack of this prior to invasion. Tarasyuk said that sanctions may be harmful to the people of Europe and Russia, but that this was not too high a price to pay against the threat of further invasion. He also clarified that the president of Ukraine was not deposed, but that he fled and left the country when Ukraine was most vulnerable. The former president intentionally left the country to avoid implementing the agreement reached that would change the constitution he added. He also said that the current Chinese position was not currently known on the situation. He also said that the Ukrainian parliament's minorities representative would come and address the European parliament to give an overview of the minority protection in the country if necessary. He explained that a national law was rejected in Ukraine, covering language rights, because it was held to be too narrow and overly biased toward Ukrainian and Russian speakers. This was a democratic decision he said and must be respected as such. Ukraine is a signatory of the UN charter on minority rights he iterated.

Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) thanked the speaker for his time and worthwhile submissions.

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