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12 April 2019

Discussion on the Crimean Crime consequences for international law and politics

On 11 April, Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania held a discussion entitled “Crimean Crime Consequences for International Law and Politics”. The basis of the discussion was a 2017 book The Case of Crimea’s Annexation under International Law. A few years ago this collection of documents was published by the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding (Centrum Polsko-Rosyjskiego Dialogu i Porozumienia), the Polish Institute of Legal Sciences (Instytut Nauk Prawnych Polskiej Akademii Nauk), and Scholar Publishing House.

The National Library places a great focus on disseminating the cultural heritage and literary achievements of our friends in Ukraine and try to draw public’s attention to the dramatic state of affairs in the country. The discussion held at the library was one more international event that contributed to raising awareness about Ukraine and its case.

The event attendees and speakers were greeted by Urszula Doroszewska, Poland’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Lithuania, and Marcin Łapczyński, director of the Polish Institute in Lithuania and advisor to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland.

The discussion participants pointed out that the annexation of Crimea caused major concerns in Central and Eastern Europe. Russia’s position towards international law and territorial integrity of its neighbours has become an urgent political, legal and research problem.

On 21 March 2014, the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol were annexed by the Russian Federation. This was preceded by a chain of the events that lasted for less than one month and evidently involved Russian armed forces. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation received a request for an opinion on the constitutional legitimacy of the treaty on the annexation of Crimea on 18 March 2014, and issued its opinion the following day, 19 March 2014. The annexation of Crimea was completed on 21 March 2014. The court’s opinion was a direct instrument facilitating the internal legalisation of the annexation of part of the Ukrainian territory which constitutes an international crime. It is an unprecedented event, since, for the first time in history, the whole constitutional court was used for the commission of the gravest international crime – the crime of aggression.

The occupation and annexation of Crimea were denounced by the international community as a grave breach of ius cogens obligation of non-use of force (aggression). Such a breach triggers a corresponding international obligation erga omnes not to recognise the purported statehood of an effective territorial entity created in violation of the fundamental norm of international law, as well as not to recognise any territorial acquisition that is a result of that breach. Various international organisations and bodies have adopted resolutions proclaiming the illegality of the annexation of Crimea and confirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

The participants of the event held at the National Library addressed the following questions:  What are the legal ways out of this situation? What can and cannot be expected from international law? Is an international order possible without international law?

The discussion participants included Dr. Ernest Wyciszkiewicz, Director of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding; Dr. Łukasz Adamski, Deputy Director of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding; Prof. Dagmar Richter (Saarland University, and University of Heidelberg); Prof. Władysław Czapliński (University of Warsaw); and Dr. Šarūnas Liekis (Vytautas Magnus University). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Andrzej Pukszto (Vytautas Magnus University).

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session.

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