The Kremlin is trying to have the Crimea and Donbas sanctions lifted or eased. The Russian leaders are irked at personal restrictions for Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and the sanctions that ban the supply of equipment and technologies to Crimea. Moscow is attempting to manipulate Ukrainian laws via its straw men and venal judges.
RUSSIA THREATENS TO GO TO INTERNATIONAL COURTS
The so-called Russian government of the occupied Crimea intends to file lawsuits to international courts, demanding that the sanctions imposed over the peninsula’s annexation be lifted. This follows from an interview of Aleksandr Molokhov, chief of the juridical group in the “representation” of the annexed Crimea under the president of Russia. In his words, the first suits may be prepared as early as next year. “We are making efforts, and we are sure to do so [prepare the suits. – Author] if not this then next year. We are working in two directions, the first of which is to appeal against personal sanctions,” RIA Novosti quotes Molokhov as saying.
He claims that Russian lawyers are also working on lifting or easing the sanctions imposed over the occupation of Crimea. Molokhov notes that the Kremlin’s difficulty is that the Russians are going to bring suits to international courts, including the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, which requires essential financial expenses. For the time being, they are negotiating this matter with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This is not the first time Molokhov and the Crimean “government” as a whole is discussing the prospects of a legal action against sanctions in international courts. In early November, at the so-called Forum of Crimea’s Friends held on the annexed peninsula, Molokhov announced the formation of a special juridical group “to combat sanctions.” Then he recalled two international entities – the abovementioned European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. Russian emissaries continue to allege that the Crimean “referendum” was legitimate. Therefore, the US and EU sanctions must be lifted. At the same time, Russian lawyers and diplomats do not specify when the first suit will be filed.
HOW SANCTIONS AFFECT THE KREMLIN
Kicking off the so-called “Russian spring” in Crimea and the Donbas, Vladimir Putin failed to take into account the economic consequences of his aggression. The Russian government’s actions in the first months after the annexation of Crimea clearly show that Moscow had no plans at all about maintaining the occupied territories in the conditions of sanctions, trade blockade, and Russian economic backwardness. Crimea’s water blockade by Ukraine was the first serious blow. Before the annexation, the Northern Crimean Canal met about 85 percent of the peninsula’s industry, farming, and household water requirements. The blocking of the canal caused an acute shortage of water in Crimea. Today, Crimea receives potable water from 15 reservoirs that depend on precipitation and underground sources. The area of irrigated Crimean steppes has been reduced greatly. Farmers have to bore wells, which results in groundwater depletion and soil salinity. Without the Dnieper water, the peninsula may face an environmental disaster. The mineralization of water in the center and the north has already exceeded the norm two or three times. Moscow is unable to meet Crimea’s need for water without the participation of Ukraine. The Crimean “government” has discussed the plan of building a water pipeline from Kuban. The project was abandoned because that region itself suffers from water shortage.
The next blow was sectoral sanctions of the West and the trade blockade of the territory. Deprived of a land boundary with the neighboring Russia, Crimea has in fact become an island. This triggered a hike of prices for foodstuffs and manufactured goods. In some cases, prices skyrocketed by 250-300 percent compared to 2013. Before the “referendum,” Russian politicians and propagandists lured Crimeans with “high wages” and generous social benefits. Today, the average wages in Simferopol are about 250-300 dollars per month. Before the annexation, incomes were almost the same, while prices were essentially lower. The Russian authorities promised to create a lot of new jobs in Crimea but also failed to do so. Russian big business, retail chains, and state-run banks are giving the peninsula a wide berth because of sanctions. The only cell phone operator is the Russian MTC that works through bogus firms.
The Russian leadership does not care about the way the Crimeans live. Moscow is only interested in the development of its military base, which needs Western technologies and domestic production of electric power, gas, and oil. After Ukrainian activists had cut off power supply to Crimea, the invaders faced an acute necessity to build their own thermal power plants on the peninsula. The so-called Putin’s energy bridge from Kuban turned out to be a commonplace publicity stunt. Launching the “bridge” was just for show. Putin and local officials alleged that the republic had gained “energy independence,” but the “energy bridge” went out of order several time last year. The system could not carry the load.
Moscow is trying to solve the problem by building two power plants, but the project is moving on extremely slowly. The point is that Russia has no equipment and technologies of its own. The attempt to deliver German Siemens turbines to Crimea caused a grandiose scandal. German journalists found out that Putin had personally promised the company management that the turbines would not go to Crimea, but he lied for the umpteenth time. Although the Russian authorities made it clear that the turbines would remain in Crimea, this will not solve the problem. They need servicing, but Siemens specialists are unlikely to come to Crimea, even on condition of complete anonymity, after a scandal like this. Besides, American and European sanctions forced the Russian monopolist Rosneft to freeze its Black Sea projects.
All the attempts of Moscow to “sell” its ostensible assistance to the West in the solution of the Syrian question or to “exchange” the Donbas for Crimea have failed with a bang. The Kremlin’s attempts to interfere into the US elections resulted in more stringent sanctions against Crimea and increased the chances of Ukraine receiving lethal weapons from the US. The Kremlin knows only too well that it is so far impossible to resolve the “Crimean question.” This is why Russian officials are saying they intend to file lawsuits to international courts.
IS THE KREMLIN ACTING VIA UKRAINIAN COURTS?
Borys Babin, Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, said in a commentary to The Day that the Russians could achieve certain success in European courts. ”It is no wonder that the Russians hope to have the sanctions lifted on the international level because they are already doing this in a Ukrainian court,” the official pointed out. The point is that the Kyiv District Administrative Court overruled in early November the decision of the Ministry of the Economy of Ukraine to impose sanctions against the Ukrainian branch of a Russian maritime shipping company. The ruling was published on the website of the General Register of Judicial Decisions. The entity in question is Maritime Register of Shipping in Ukraine which belongs to the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.”
Prosecutors found out last March that the entity had been doing business on the occupied peninsula in spite of the legal ban. On the basis of the military prosecution office’s materials, the Ministry of Economic Development imposed restrictions on the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping and its branches in Ukraine. Now the Kyiv Administrative Court has lifted sanctions against this entity. The ruling says that the Maritime Register of Shipping in Ukraine did not violate the laws of our country. The Military Prosecution Office has announced that it does not accept this ruling and intends to file a petition of appeal.
According to our sources in the Ukrainian government, the water blockade of Crimea may be the next object of a “judicial attack.” The Russians are going to use as a cover the private enterprises that have allegedly suffered from the blocking of the Northern Crimean Canal. The Kremlin has two options to solve the water problem of Crimea: to blackmail Kyiv with the escalation of the Donbas hostilities or to resort to craftiness. The latter envisions a number of political and legal measures to discredit the Ukrainian state, leadership, and legal system as a whole. One of the Ukrainian officials told The Day that the Russians are making use of venal Ukrainian judges and lawyers. “The intention is to file lawsuits to commercial courts on behalf of private enterprises that have allegedly suffered from the water blockade. They will be claiming damages associated with the blockade of the canal. The Russians need this kind of court rulings to wave them in Brussels or Strasbourg and say: look, Ukraine itself admits that its actions were illegal,” the interviewee said.
Moscow’s plan is simple: to get the sanctions lifted or essentially eased without having to withdraw from the occupied Ukrainian territories. It is to this end that a large number of the Kremlin’s agents in Ukraine and the West are working.