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A literacy lesson for Sergey Lavrov

“…none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine…” the text of the Budapest Memorandum reads
17 January, 18:07
Sketch by Viktor BOGORAD

Russian government officials continue to brazenly revise international treaties. Perhaps someone will say that after their aggression against Ukraine, there is certainly nothing strange about this. On the one hand, this is true, but on the other, such falsehoods still need to be recorded and responded to adequately.

On January 15, head of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference that Russia had neither used nuclear weapons nor threatened Ukraine with them. “We have repeatedly answered questions, including those regarding the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, according to which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, and Russia pledged not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. I remind, we have never used or threatened Ukraine with nuclear weapons, so there was no violation of the Budapest Memorandum,” Lavrov asserted.

This statement of the head of the Russian MFA, in fact, repeats his earlier pronouncements. However, Lavrov added something new this time. He claimed that it was Ukraine that violated the Budapest Memorandum by allowing the Maidan protest to occur. According to him, Ukraine, in parallel with the Budapest Memorandum, undertook, in a separate statement, not to “encourage racist, neo-Nazi, xenophobic tendencies, and what happened after the Maidan was a flagrant violation of these commitments by our Ukrainian neighbors.”

It looks like the mention of the “neo-Nazis” is nothing new either. However, this statement was made for the first time in such a combination. Now, let us turn to the essence of what was said. First, did the Memorandum cover exclusively the use of nuclear weapons? Secondly, what exactly has Russia violated? And thirdly, did any parallel declarations and commitments on the part of Ukraine exist at all?

The day before Lavrov made his statement, head of the Ukrainian representation in the working group on security issues of the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk Yevhen Marchuk provided comprehensive answers to these questions on his Facebook page.

“Here are two articles from the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which was signed by Russia,” wrote Marchuk. “‘Article 2. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.’ That is, the signatories, including Russia, reaffirm their obligation – an obligation, not an assurance.

“Reading further: ‘Article 4. The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (995_098), if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.’ Pay attention, please, to Art. 2: ‘...none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine.’ That is, none whatsoever (!), and not just nuclear ones, and that assurance is repeated thrice. Meanwhile, Article 4 contains the commitments of signatories, that is, including Russia, to immediately get the UN Security Council to help Ukraine ‘if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression...’

“Russians, including Lavrov, make speculative statements targeting ignorant people and asserting that the Memorandum allegedly involves no obligations of signatories, but only assurances, and they say the Memorandum also refers only to assurances not to threaten with nuclear weapons. As we see, the meaning of the text of this international document is, in fact, different,” emphasized Marchuk. “Yes, some articles of the Memorandum do use the words ‘reaffirm their commitments,’ as if it was not an obligation, but a mere reaffirmation of commitment... Though it looks like leaders of the five nuclear world powers and the permanent members of the UN Security Council treat it as empty words. But for us, for Ukraine, it is important that Article 2 of the Memorandum says clearly that they ‘reaffirm their commitment (!!!) to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine...’

“Unfortunately, I did not participate in the drafting of the 1994 Memorandum or in the procedure of its signing. It had to be that way. At that time, the situation in Crimea had already reached the boiling point. But had I participated, I would have definitely offered a different version. However, we today have to deal with it as it is. Today, Ukraine can, by stressing Article 2 of the Memorandum, which clearly specifies the commitments (!!!) of the signatories, insist at all international levels on getting them to fulfill their commitments. Of course, we need to do it with competent and comprehensive reasoning. Russia will oppose it strongly,” added the politician.

Regarding alleged annexes to the Memorandum, he also wrote: “As far as I know, there were no annexes. The US promised to help with the disposal of heptyl. And they did provide substantial help, including financial assistance. Meanwhile, Russia compensated us for the nuclear material in the removed warheads by supplying an equivalent amount of fuel to five Ukrainian nuclear power plants for free. This fuel lasted for about a year and a half. However, it applied to strategic munitions only. Besides, Russia assumed the costs of transportation, because it is a very tedious and dangerous procedure.”

“It is difficult to comment on the statement made by Lavrov, because it is a mixture of lies, vulgarity, and disregard for common sense, not to mention international law,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2007-09) Volodymyr OHRYZKO commented for The Day. “The foreign minister should have been the first to print out this text and read it, although such things should be known by heart. The Memorandum clearly states that the signatories guarantee the territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders of Ukraine. And when Lavrov speaks about some separate commitments of Ukraine, he should show where it is written in the document. We quote from the document and from what exists in reality, while he quotes from his own fabrications. Today’s Russia has caught up with Hitlerite Germany in the degree of cynicism and falsehood, if not overtaken it. The only difference is that their predecessors ended their careers in Nuremberg, while these people belong to The Hague.”

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