Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin display's Viktor Yanukovych's letter requesting Russia's military help at a meeting of the UN Security Council, March 3, 2014.
Why is the Prosecutor General of Russia denying the fact that Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych had sent a letter requesting the dispatch of Russian troops to Ukraine? After all, in the first days following the beginning of the aggression, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador at the time, spoke about this letter at the UN Security Council. In fact, he gave a copy of this letter to the UN Secretariat. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine succeeded in obtaining this copy. But this was not as the result of some special operation; the “Churkin” document was forwarded to him by the UN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also has claimed that he responded to the request of the “legitimate president of Ukraine.” Although he did not display the letter, he expressed no doubt about the existence of the document. Why is the Prosecutor General of Russia now denying that this letter exists? Why is Yanukovych himself refusing to admit that he signed it?
This is because at the time when the letter was displayed at the UN and when it was being discussed on TV channels, it was strictly a question of propaganda. It was an attempt to convince Russian viewers and the international community that there had been no invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops. That Vladimir Putin had responded to the request by the legitimate leader of the neighboring country. And that Russia was helping this leader — and the Ukrainian people, of course — to restore order.
Russia’s legal responsibility
But now comes the time for legal responsibility. It turns out that Yanukovych had no independent authority to appeal to the leadership of a foreign country for military aid, and there were no legal grounds for sending troops to Ukraine. In any case, the letter of the former president does not provide the grounds. But it is the obvious grounds for bringing Yanukovych himself to justice.
And this is when another tactic appears : that there was no letter at all. That the letter displayed by Churkin did not exist. That the letter discussed by Putin and Yanukovych did not exist. That no one has a clue about any letter.
This proves again that the Kremlin understands perfectly that international law is not propaganda. It is possible to say anything at all on TV, but when it comes to justice, Moscow’s entire defense crumbles like a house of cards. And the issue is not even the future court decisions. The issue is that the Russian leadership relies exclusively on political expediency in its decisions while wanting to appear blameless from the legal point of view. But that is not the way things happen.
Yanukovych is lucky to be alive
As for Yanukovych, he is simply lucky. Lucky that after his appeal to Putin requesting military aid he was given the chance to live comfortably on the funds stolen from Ukrainian citizens and to speak out either to confirm or to deny this fact.
The head of Afghanistan Hafizullah Amin was much less fortunate. After he signed the documents the Kremlin needed to send Soviet troops to Afghanistan, he was killed during a special operation, along with his family and allies. No one has ever seen the document that Moscow used as an excuse to deploy the “limited contingent” of Soviet troops to Afghanistan.
Compared to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev, the Russian President Vladimir Putin is a very great humanitarian.