Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada today declared the Soviet deportation of the Crimean Tatars an act of genocide and announced that henceforth Ukrainians will mark May 18th, the anniversary of that deportation, as the Day of Memory of the Victims of the Genocide of the Crimean Tatar People.
That action is important both because the Russian occupiers have banned any commemoration of the May 18th date and because Moscow continues acts of genocide against the Crimean Tatars by killing or expelling many of them and by destroying or transferring to Russia their national monuments.
The last is especially important because many do not understand that such actions are defined as acts of genocide under international law. Two days ago, Lyudmyla Denysova, head of the Verkhovna Rada delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, pointed that out at a meeting of the PABSEC in Tirana.
She said the occupiers have been illegally removing museum collections from Crimea to St. Petersburg and noted that such actions are “a direct violation” not only of Ukraine’s rights but also of “the norms and principles of international humanitarian law,” a reference to the Genocide Convention.
Moscow clearly has not thought this through; indeed, Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov says that the Kremlin’s entire approach to Crimea has been improvised as it has gone along. He says that initially there was no plan to annex Crimea but rather to use “the Abkhaz variant.”
He says the Kremlin decided to annex Crimea in order to boost Putin’s rating, noting that the annexation is “the single popular theme among the people.” But Gudkov suggests that such popularity has proved short-lived because the authorities “did not calculate either the economic or the geopolitical consequences” of their action.
And while Gudkov does not mention it, those around Putin clearly did not and do not understand that by their actions in occupied Crimea now, they are in violation of the Genocide Convention. Kyiv, by its actions, has reminded the world of this sad reality.