Mar 14, 2022

Protect Crimean Tatars and UNPO founders: Statement of the UNPO Presidency on Russian colonial expansionism

Following reports of Russian military attacks on Crimean Tatar activists in Ukraine and amid fears that the Russian Federation's illegal war in Ukraine could spread further to UNPO founders in the post-Soviet space, such as Estonia, Latvia, and Georgia, the UNPO Presidency has released a statement condemning the Russian Federation's colonial expansionism and calling on more to be done to protect Crimean Tatars in Ukraine and occupied-Crimea, as well as continued efforts to guarantee the sovereignty of states that achieved independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.  The UNPO Presidency is the UNPO's elected governing body and is made up of 11 UNPO members from the Afrikaners, Brittany, the District of Columbia, East Turkestan, Iranian Kurdistan, the Khmer Krom, Ogaden, the Oromo, Taiwan, Tibet, and Western Balochistan.  The UNPO has been warning of attacks on the Crimean Tatars by the Russian Federation since the 2014 illegal occupation of Crimea. The UNPO General Secretary has previously issued a statement explaining why Russia's justification for the war, and its recognition of two supposedly independent republics in eastern Ukraine, was based on falsehoods and the instrumentalization of the right to self-determination for Russia's colonial ambitions.

Statement of the UNPO Presidency on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) was founded in 1991 during the second great wave of decolonization of the 20th Century.

Our history is irrevocably intertwined with this period and the democratization and decolonization of the world following the fall of the Soviet Union. Our founding members included the predecessors to Soviet-occupied nations, including Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as the long-suffering Crimean Tatar people.

We are immensely proud of the role that we played, however limited, in the establishment of these new democracies. We remain firmly of the belief that global peace can only be achieved when the world respects the equal right to self-determination of all its people.

The Crimean Tatar people were founding members of the UNPO in February 1991. Their membership preceded the formal independence of Ukraine in August of that year. Thus, through the history of the organization we have observed the extent to which self-determination has been accorded to the Crimean Tatar people, first while a free part of Ukraine, and, since 2014, as a territory illegally-occupied by the Russian Federation.

While it is true that during this time, the UNPO has criticized the government of Ukraine for its failures to fully accord the right to self-determination of the Crimean Tatar people and pushed for more autonomy for them, at no point did the Crimean Tatar people suffer as they have done since the illegal occupation by the Russian Federation. The work of the UNPO Secretariat has highlighted that the Crimean Tatar people have been targets of Russian attacks and repression both within Crimea and outside of it, particularly in places that they have fled in Ukraine.

We are intensely concerned with the safety and well-being of those Crimean Tatars who have found safety elsewhere in Ukraine and, for whom, the present Russian invasion presents a dire threat. We stand with the Crimean Tatars in the face of this latest threat. And we call on all actors to provide them safe haven, including evacuation and asylum.

We are also profoundly concerned for all citizens of Ukraine. The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and the false pretexts on which it has been based repudiate the most basic principles of international law and violate the right to self-determination of the people of Ukraine. It is rolling back the clock to a time in human history before the second wave of 20th Century decolonization, when over half the world’s population lived under authoritarian rule and the world was in mortal danger of conflict between large, nuclear-armed powers.

The right to self-determination obliges all states to ensure its respect everywhere, which includes following internationally-accepted rules and processes. This was not respected in Crimea in 2014, and is not being respected in Ukraine today. As a result, the international community is obliged to act, not least to prevent the further spread of Russia’s colonial expansion and provide a measure of additional safety and protection to the UNPO’s former members in the post-Soviet space, each of whom have fully exercised their rights to self-determination.

To that end, we call on the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military from Ukraine, including Crimea, and for the international community to take the toughest possible economic and diplomatic measures against the Russian Federation, isolating it internationally, until it does so.