Delegates vote on the Final Declaration, 9 July 2015. (Source: OSCEPA.org, courtesy of Hanne Salonen / Parliament of Finland)
Article by: Paula Chertok
Today, Thursday, July 9, 2015, the last day of a four-day conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the OSCE’s founding document, the Helsinki Final Act, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted the 2015 Helsinki Declaration, containing the Assembly’s wide-ranging policy recommendations and pronouncements for the OSCE and its 57 participating States in the fields of political affairs and security, economics, the environment and human rights.
Of the many topics addressed in the Declaration’s 141 clauses, the issues surrounding Russia’s aggression in and around Ukraine were among the most strongly worded. In particular, the Assembly approved a resolution to accompany the Declaration that is a direct condemnation of Russia’s violations of core OSCE principles in Ukraine.
Interestingly, the Russian delegation registered but was a no-show for the 2015 Annual Session in Helsinki, Finland. Nor did they notify the president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly that they were not going to attend. Even Greece’s delegation notified the Chair of its absence, it was noted, unlike Russia.
Some of the most interesting debate centered on Russia’s absence in relation to the clauses concerning abductions and illegal detentions of Ukrainian citizens by the Russian Federation, including pilot Nadiya Savchenko, filmmaker Oleh Sentsov and others. Since Russia wasn’t there, a delegate from Kazakhstan articulated the objections. He stated that the Assembly ought not to be debating the Resolution at all because the Russian delegation was not present. He went on to say: “when a Resolution is offered from one side of a conflict, it cannot be objective. Since the Russian delegation isn’t here to present its side of the conflict, the Resolution cannot be considered objectively. Therefore it shouldn’t considered. We need both sides of the conflict to be objective.”
It was here that Ukrainian delegate Mustafa Nayyem, journalist, activist and now politician, made an impassioned speech, picking up on the Kazakhstani delegate revealing words. Below is a full translation of Nayyem’s remarks:
Forgive me please, but I’d like to ask, what two sides of the conflict are you referring to? If you acknowledge Russia as ‘the other side ‘of the conflict, then you must also acknowledge that Russia has interfered in the conflict in Ukraine.
We’re talking about our citizens who were abducted from our territory by foreign forces. Nadiya Savchenko wasn’t in Russia, she was abducted from our land. In fact all those people who now find themselves in Russia were taken from our territory by the armed forces of a foreign government.
What other side of the conflict do you need, tell me please? These people are now sitting in Russian prisons. I want to emphasize again, what happened to the Russian delegation is precisely because the conflict happened. We didn’t forbid them from coming. They have many deputies who could have come. A portion of them fall under the sanctions, it’s true, but it’s also within their rights to send whomever they deem necessary.
Furthermore, about dialogue, we are willing to have a dialogue. We are open to dialogue. We attend negotiations, despite the fact that our territory is occupied. Yet the Russian delegation affords itself to be insulted because a portion of their delegation – and I underline a portion, only 6 people – couldn’t attend. So they turn around and leave.
And even as they leave, every single day our territory is being attacked, our citizens are being killed. This is a not made up story. These are not fairytales. Everyday corpses are being brought back to their homes in Ukraine. These people are dying by Russian weaponry. Show me the supermarket where separatists are able to buy tanks and rockets on Ukrainian territory. Where are they getting these weapons?
Let’s not be hypocrites. Either we acknowledge that Russia is indeed the other side in this conflict, in which case we can address the matter differently. Or we don’t acknowledge that Russia is the other party in the conflict and then, excuse me, but these are our citizens who were abducted and they have diplomatic immunity.”
The Resolution was adopted 96 – 7, with 32 abstentions. The full text of the Resolution, as well as speeches, photos and videos are available here.