Council of Europe’s Venice Commission releases opinion on Ukrainian “transitional period” bill for Crimea and Donbass

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 28, 2021

The developments around the Ukrainian draft law On the Foundations of State Policy for the Transitional Period are a matter of concern. The bill, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada in August, contains a number of grotesque provisions “regulating” the way people live in Crimea and Donbass after those regions, allegedly “occupied” by Russia, are reintegrated in Ukraine. The bill ignores the results of the Crimean referendum that supported Crimea’s reunification with Russia, as well as the Minsk agreements, which require Kiev to grant Donbass a special regional status. The Kiev regime only sees as much as it can see, judging by some of its representatives. In other words, the document shows complete disregard for the interests of Crimea or Donbass residents and confirms that Kiev wants land, not people.

The Ukrainian authorities sent this draft law to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission in an attempt to give their “lawmaking” some international legitimacy. The Commission members, ignoring the opinion of their Russian colleague, released an opinion on the bill on October 18, 2021. Those European “legal experts” failed to even ask any fundamental questions about the bill’s relevance from the international legal and political reality perspective, nor did they show any interest in how it relates to the Minsk Package of Measures. They seemed more interested in the content of specific articles and in issuing instructions on ways to camouflage their inconsistency with international law and the Ukrainian Constitution, to make the new law less vulnerable to criticism. It is not surprising that this approach was perceived with enthusiasm by the Ukrainian leaders.

Russia views the Venice Commission’s opinion as being at odds with the principles of democracy and rule of law it champions, which should underpin the work of that consultative body of the Council of Europe. We note with regret that the Commission opted for encouraging Kiev in sabotaging the Minsk agreements. The Commission members who approved the opinion on that provocative Ukrainian bill have in fact signed off on the Kiev authorities’ final renunciation of the Minsk agreements. Could they be unaware of the consequences of such a step? I do not think they could. They are lawyers after all, so they should know. Someone had to tell them that the Minsk agreements were binding after they passed the UN Security Council. They are not just a deal between the parties. It is a document backed by a UN Security Council decision. The enactment of the law I have mentioned will not change the status of Crimea as a Russian region, which is obvious and unconditional, but will mean a derailment of the peace settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Paradoxically, the very agencies that were created to strengthen peace, law and democracy are not contributing to the peace process, but instead are turning a blind eye to violations of the law and refusing to recognise the results of a democratic expression of people’s will.

Source: web-page of the Russian Foreign Ministry