UN officially recognized Russia as an occupying power in Crimea

70 countries voted in support of the resolution "Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)." Photo: UN press center 

Crimea, More

On 19 December, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution dedicated to the human rights situation in occupied Crimea. This is the first UN document to recognize Russia as an occupying power, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol – as occupied territory.

The Russian Federation is officially recognized as an occupying force by UN. On 19 December 2016 the resolution initiated by Ukraine on November 15 was approved at the UN General Assembly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stated

The resolution is called “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. It provides a clear definition on the status of Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as part of the territory of Ukraine, condemns the temporary occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and does not recognize its attempted annexation by the occupying State.

70 countries supported the document, 26 were against it and 77 abstained. The ones who voted against: Angola, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Philippines, Russian Federation, Serbia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. 

On 15 November, this resolution was adopted by the UN’s human rights committee. 41 states joined the list of co-sponsors. Then, 73 countries voted in support of the document which recognizes the Russian Federation as an occupying power, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as a temporarily occupied territory, for the first time in official documents of the UN, and demands that Russia upholds its obligations as an occupying power. In addition, the resolution confirmed the territorial integrity of Ukraine and denounced an attempt to annex the Ukrainian peninsula.

Read more: UN committee adopts resolution recognizing Russia as occupying power in Crimea


The resolution сondemns:

  • repressions and abuses against the inhabitants of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, particularly Crimean Tatars, and demands releasing illegally imprisoned Ukrainian citizens;
  • the ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis;
  • violations of the prohibition under the Geneva Convention of 1949 of forcing the occupied population to serve in the army of the occupying state;
  • the establishment of Russia’s justice system on the peninsula, which negatively impacts the human rights situation.

It demands Russia upholds its obligations of an occupying power under international law – to ensure that human rights are not violated. The document also urges the Russian Federation to grant international human rights mechanisms, in particular the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, unimpeded access to Crimea in order to monitor the human rights situation and asks the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a separate thematic report on the situation in the peninsula.

Read also: Russia bans Crimean Tatars by banning the Mejlis

Ukraine’s representative to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, quoted the words of Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chyigoz, one of the many Crimean Tatars who Russia’s occupation authorities imprisoned in Crimea under political motives, from the tribune in an emotional speech.

“The words of Ahtem Chiygoz which he said from this tribune, that ‘the world is on the threshold of choosing between democratic principles and economic benefits’ is important for each of the Crimean Tatars, who have made this choice. Our representative recalled that ‘those who remain silent are accomplices in the crimes,’ and that we do not need to hear silence at the General Assembly. Therefore, ‘it is necessary to light a candle of hope, and vote for a resolution that will be a candle of hope for the people who live in the Crimea’,” Crimean Tatar activist Tamila Tasheva wrote about his speech.

Ukrainian officials have welcomed the resolution as an important diplomatic, political and legal mechanism by which Ukraine protects the rights of citizens of Ukraine on the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea.

In February 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula with the help of unmarked soldiers. An unlawful “referendum” to secede from Ukraine was held on 16 March 2014. Its results are unrecognized by most of the world’s countries.

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