On 1 March 2014 at 17.21 (Kyiv time), the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (the Council of the Federation) unanimously supported the appeal of the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, on sending a “limited contingent of military troops” of the armed forces of the Russian Federation into the territory of Ukraine.
This decision was taken in breach of the United Nations Charter, the Declaration of Principles of International Law of 1970, the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe of 1975, the Agreement of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine of 1997, and multiple other international treaties. At the same time, the refusal of the Russian Federation to conduct preliminary consultations with Ukraine and the guarantor States of its territorial integrity (United Kingdom, United States, France and China) reveals a blatant disregard for its obligations under international law as secured in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.
While making a decision to bring armed forces into the territory of an independent sovereign State and one of the founders of the United Nations, the Council of the Federation distorted the meaning of international law norms relating to the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of citizens located outside the territory of their State and where a military intervention by their nationality State is justified. In accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine and relevant norms of international law, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine and one of the administrative-territorial units of Ukraine. We would like to stress that no duly authorized national, foreign or international institution has declared any violation of human rights on the territory of Ukraine, or specifically in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which would have required the intervention of any subject of international law or the international community. Thus, the appeal by the self-proclaimed heads of one of the administrative units of Ukraine – the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to the Russian Government requesting military help is unlawful, and any decisions taken based upon it are void.
In light also of the principle of good faith in the interpretation of treaties, we claim a material breach of the Agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the Status and Conditions of the Presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the Territory of Ukraine signed on the 8th of August 1997 (the force of which was extended in April 2010), in particular, Article 6, paragraph 1 of the Agreement stating that military forces of the BSF of the Russian Federation "operate in areas of stationing in strict accordance with the national legislation of the Russian Federation in respect to the sovereignty of Ukraine, observing its laws and refraining from interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine". Article 8, paragraph 2, under which military forces of the Russian BSF may "carry out military exercises and other training operations within the educational centres, landfills, position and dispersal areas, shooting ranges and, except for prohibited areas, in the designated airspace areas with the concurrence of the competent authorities of Ukraine", has also been breached. According to the information we possess, no such agreement with the competent authorities of Ukraine has been reached by the relevant authorities of the Russian Federation. However, Russian troops – which confirmed their own citizenship to the media – have left their adopted position in violation of the Agreement.
Therefore, members of the Ukrainian Association of International Law regard the actions of the Russian Federation as an act of aggression and consider it to be a crime under international law. We call to your attention that under international law, any State which has violated peremptory rules of general international law incurs international responsibility. Moreover, those persons responsible for committing a crime of aggression can incur individual criminal responsibility under international law.
The neglect of fundamental principles of international law by the Russian Federation will inevitably lead to significant political, economic and military setbacks in our globalized world, as well as to the disruption of the situation both in Eastern Europe and within the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation is invoking the imaginary breach of collective rights of communities in Ukraine and the region as an excuse for military aggression. This approach is very likely to be applied in further cases of military intrusion in the internal affairs of other States of the multinational Russian Federation. This scenario can also be exploited by other States for intervention into Russia's own affairs and support for separatist movements within its component regions.
Therefore, the actions of the Russian Federation provide legal grounds for Ukraine to have recourse to its inherent right to individual or collective self-defense, as set out in Article 51 of the UN Charter. It seems reasonable for the Ukrainian government to urgently hold consultations with States that could stand by Ukraine's side in order to balance out the external aggression. Taking into account the numerous violations of multilateral and bilateral treaties by the Russian Federation, Ukraine is also entitled to provisionally cease the fulfillment of any of its obligations under bipartite treaties with Russia, including the agreement on temporarily basing the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.
The policy of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine is undermining the international legal framework, along with their bilateral relationship. It threatens the overall system of international law that has to be protected by international lawyers worldwide.
International law has always been and shall remain a tool and a forum for the peaceful settlement of disputes between States. Any kind of intervention by one State in another's internal affairs is unacceptable and must be condemned by the global community.