By: Sara Bertoncelj (Nova24tv)
“What the recent calls from many European countries have in common, however well-meaning they might be, is that they do not answer the most important question: should we just take away Ukraine’s right to shape its own future?” several ambassadors were critical, who stressed, among other things, that Russia can end the war immediately if it stops its attacks and withdraws its troops from Ukrainian territory. With 141 votes, the United Nations General Assembly also approved a resolution reiterating the demand for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and calling for a just and lasting peace. The various calls for peace or negotiations are, therefore, now completely irrelevant – until Russian forces withdraw from Ukrainian territory, including Crimea. “The internationally recognised borders are the ones that Ukraine had at the time of its independence and at the time of its entry into the UN,” explained Dr Miha Pogačnik, who also commented on the recent address by Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the Russian aggression against Ukraine last Thursday, the President of the Republic, Nataša Pirc Musar, pointed out at the main event at the Presidential Palace that the war in Ukraine is a defeat of human society and a manifestation of the inability to resolve disputes peacefully, which is one of the fundamental principles of international law. However, according to her, peaceful settlement of disputes has not yet been given a chance in this war, the Slovenian Press Agency reported. “Not only as a mother who cares about her son’s present and future, and as someone who cares about the fate of the innocent, but also as a politician, I demand that the war be stopped, and that Ukraine be given what the United Nations Charter allows it. That is sovereignty and thus the ability to decide its own future,” she said.
“The speech made by the President of the Republic at the event at the Presidential Palace on the anniversary of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, while making some reference to the UN Charter and international law, is, in my opinion, an example of feigning ignorance, a cover-up of the fact that there is aggression, a failure to distinguish between the attacked and the aggressor,” said Dr Miha Pogačnik, an expert in international law. He added that, at one point, the President said that this is a consequence of the moves made by Putin and his associates, but that was then quickly diluted. According to Pogačnik, Pirc Musarjeva is calling for an end to the war, not an end to the aggression, which is a unilateral act by Russia, and which only Russia can stop. She stressed the importance of a peaceful solution, while overlooking the fact that the situation has long since passed the limits of the 6th chapter of the UN General Assembly Resolution (about the peaceful resolution of conflicts) and has thus, with its very act of aggression, entered Chapter 7 of the Resolution (Articles 42 et seq.). The President also ignored the UN General Assembly Resolution ES1-11, which clearly labelled Russia’s actions as aggression and imposed certain actions, and she also completely ignored the resolution of the European Parliament on the terrorist nature of the Russian regime.
“It is also interesting (given her reference to the UN Charter) to note that she used terminology that does not take into account the UN categories (be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, act of aggression, armed attack…), but instead revolves around the general concept of war with the hidden meaning that there are always at least two people involved a conflict,” Pogačnik said. He went on to point out that the emphasis on the suffering of people on one side and the other (young Russian soldiers, Ukrainian civilians, etc.) overlooks the multi-faceted nature of Russia’s crimes, from the crime against peace itself, i.e., the planning and actual execution of aggression against an independent and sovereign UN member state, through war crimes and crimes against humanity, and acts that can be classified as the international crime of genocide.
“She omitted the fact that the only state that has repeatedly, successively and in a connected manner flagrantly violated the fundamental principles and norms of international law in the current story is Russia and Russia alone, for which it has no legal basis whatsoever, while Ukraine is exercising its natural and positive-legal right of self-defence, to which it has an unimpaired right until the final repudiation of the aggression and the return of Russia to its internationally recognised borders,” Pogačnik stressed. There was no real and legal reflection on the admissibility and necessity of military aid to Ukraine, nor on sanctions against Russia in the context of the UN Charter scheme and international law. “In her speech, she mentioned no orientation towards further pro-action at the universal level (e.g., the mechanism of uniting for peace resolutions), and perhaps I also missed the reflection on punishing those responsible. This was just a ridiculously naïve and basically-worded demand made by the President, directed to some unknown recipient, to end the war,” he pointed out, adding that the matter is all the more striking because Pirc Musar most likely has advisers who – as can be seen from her speech – have already heard of the UN Charter.
Pogačnik also recently commented on a public letter from “concerned citizens,” in which Milan Kučan and his associates called for peace. “My opinion is that this letter by a group of citizens is strongly ideologically and politically motivated and that some essential things are being overlooked in this ideological and political engagement,” the international law expert stressed, further explaining that one of the overlooked facts is that Russia is the aggressor state and Ukraine is the victim. “And under international law, aggression is prohibited by a mandatory norm of international law – consequently, all achievements based on aggression are null and void, and against all, against ‘erga omnes’, that is, against the international community as a whole,” he explained. Russian territorial gains made on the basis of aggression – this applies to Crimea as well as to Donetsk and Lugansk – are therefore considered null and void under international law. It follows that this result is null and void anyway, and any peace talks will, of course, have to take this into account.
Let us be clear: this war could end at this very moment. Russia can end it immediately if it stops its attacks and withdraws its troops from Ukrainian territory.
“With the daily horrors that civilians are experiencing in Ukrainian towns and villages, it is understandable that people around the world are hoping for an end to the terrible violence. No one in the EU, the G7 or NATO wants war. The hope for peace, for a negotiated solution, for an end to the horrors and the immense suffering is as understandable as the concern that the violence will escalate, that it will spread to other countries. That is why a discussion on how to end this war is wanted and necessary in our democracies. However, those who call for an immediate end to military aid to Ukraine should be clear about what this means. They are suggesting that we should ignore the will of Ukraine, a country that is being destroyed by its neighbour. They are denying the Ukrainian people – who, with their determination, skill and resilience, have pushed Russia back further than anyone expected – the help and support they need to defend themselves. Instead, they are forcing Ukraine to enter into peace negotiations with an aggressor that makes recognition of its territorial annexations a precondition for these negotiations, contrary to international law. Putin has so far presented no viable option for diplomatically ending the war; for ending the suffering that he began in February 2022. On the other hand, Ukraine has put forward a ten-point peace proposal for the start of peace negotiations. So far without success,” Caroline Vermeulen, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium, warned in a letter signed by 16 other ambassadors.
Dejan Steinbuch commented on the letter in question on Twitter, writing: “Milan Kučan and his comrades have gotten slapped in the face like never before. But rightly so. The two letters they have written since the beginning of Putin’s aggression against Ukraine are disgraceful. For a wise man, which is what President Kučan is supposed to be, supporting the aggressor is unreasonable.”
Calls for peace do not answer the most important questions
In their letter, the ambassadors wrote, among other things, that recent calls from many European countries, however well-intentioned, have one thing in common – namely, that they do not answer the most important questions: should we take away Ukraine’s right to shape its own future? Would ending military support for Ukraine lead to peace or at least a ceasefire? Why should Russia stop its attacks while Ukraine’s partners are weakening the country’s defences by withdrawing their support, and when Putin’s publicly stated aim is the complete subjugation of Ukraine? “Not only is there no sign that Russia is seriously interested in negotiating or ending the war. On the contrary: with the killings in Bucha and Mariupol, the mass rapes, the torture and kidnapping centres, who seriously believes that Russia would be more willing to negotiate with an undefended Ukraine?” they asked, pointing out that this is very dangerous propaganda, but very effective for Kremlin, to list in a single sentence the EU, NATO or the USA countries on the one hand and Russia on the other, and to accuse all of them of not having a mandate for this war. By doing so, according to the signatories of the letter, the people who write such things consider it unacceptable to attribute to the former joint responsibility for the war and its continuation. This insinuation absolves exactly one actor of responsibility: the state that unprovokedly attacked Ukraine, that started this war and that keeps it alive every day. A country that is in flagrant violation of international law. A country that could have ended this war immediately. “This country is none other than Russia,” they stressed.
Practically the whole world is demanding the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian forces from the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine
In addition, last week, the UN General Assembly approved with 141 votes a resolution reiterating the demand for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and calling for a just and lasting peace. “Resolution A/ES-11/7 demands the immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of Russian forces from the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine (including Crimea), and stresses that the acquisition of territory by force is a willing and invalid act,” Pogačnik pointed out, recalling that the internationally recognised borders are those that Ukraine had at independence and at the time of its entry into the UN – so the Russians must also withdraw from Crimea.
“If we don’t stop Russia, it will increase the risks for every country in the world. The first step towards peace is simple – Russia must stop its attacks,” said the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, when endorsing the resolution, stressing that this is an illegal war that has affected the whole world. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it “an insult to the collective conscience of the world.” He added that Russia was violating both the UN Charter and international law. Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Eritrea, Nicaragua and Mali voted against the resolution and sided with Russia. India, Pakistan and China were among the abstaining countries.
Last week, China presented its position on the situation in Ukraine and published a 12-point document to resolve the crisis. Among other things, they called for an end to the war and the start of peace negotiations, considering dialogue and negotiations to be the only viable way out to resolve the “Ukraine crisis.” “The basic tone and underlying message of the policy is quite pro-Russian,” Li Mingjiang, professor of Chinese foreign policy and international security at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, assessed the Chinese peace plan. According to Pogačnik, the Chinese proposal was made in a politically opportunistic manner and in the context of its perception of the development of a certain situation regarding the Republic of China and Taiwan.