Viewpoint: The status of Crimea: political rhetoric or legal case?

Dr Gaetano Pentassuglia is a Reader in International Law and Human Rights at the University of Liverpool’s School of Law

“President Putin’s historic speech delivered to both houses of Parliament in support of constitutional amendments to enable Russia’s annexation of Crimea is arguably the best illustration so far of Russia’s ambivalent understanding of the crisis from the perspective of international law.

“Where does the general interest lie for Putin? His reading of the referendum seems to suggest that the vast majority of Crimeans want to join Russia. No account is given of those many Crimean Tatars Ukrainians and even ethnic Russians who voiced their opposition to the referendum and declared their intention to boycott it.

“President Putin refers to people’s ‘fundamental interests’ being protected by the referendum with a view to endorsing an overarching view of ‘the people of Crimea.”

“It is presumably in a similar vein that President Putin points to constitutional flaws in the transfer of Crimea from Russia back in 1954. But in terms of international law, Russia’s disregard for treaty obligations recognising Crimea to be part of Ukraine as well as Ukraine’s territorial integrity more broadly, cannot be justified by arguments relating to alleged constitutional irregularities within the Soviet Union.

“Parts of the state population such as ‘national minorities’ have never been regarded as entitled to unilateral independence or secession. Rather, contemporary self-determination is essentially understood as an all-emcompassing process of participation and accommodation within the state, including remedial elements for identity-based groups. In this sense, there cannot be any ‘people of Crimea’ for the legal purpose of secession – only groups within Crimea to be accommodated within a wider territorial unit”.

To read the full version of this viewpoint visit this webpage. 

Read Dr Gaetano Pentassuglia’s contribution to The Conversation, on Crimea and self-determination, here






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