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How will cancellation of Friendship Treaty with Russia impact Ukrainians living there

Author : Mykola Hnatovsky

The agreement with Russia was aimed at developing friendly relations between the two countries
22:23, 4 September 2018

Open source

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reported having prepared the documents for termination of the Friendship Treaty with Russia. Such was the instructions of the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. If none of the parties informs the other side about the intent to cancel the treaty, the agreement will be automatically prolonged for another 10 years. For Ukrainians living in Russia, this step will not have any consequences. Their rights are guaranteed by other international treaties. Another question is whether Russia actually complies with them.

The majority of provisions in the Friendship Treaty (Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, 1997) repeats the norms of international law that continue to be obligatory for both countries. As for the rights of Ukrainian citizens staying in Russia, it is important to take into account that from the point of view of the international law, from the moment of Crimea’s annexation, the two states are in the armed conflict. And even in case it completely halts in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Ukraine regains control over its eastern border, the legal state of armed conflict with the Russian Federation will continue until it returns Crimea to Ukraine. Accordingly, the rights of Ukrainian citizens in Russian Federation and Ukrainian territories occupied by it, are guaranteed, first of all, by the norms of international humanitarian law, as well as a number of human rights conventions, which operate both in peace time and during an armed conflict. Among the most latter, the most important are the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, whose jurisdiction extends to the Russian Federation as a member of the Council of Europe, controls compliance to it.

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Ukrainian citizens in Russia and Russian citizens in Ukraine are ensured by the Geneva Convention (IV) of 1949 on the protection of civilians in wartime. Its provisions also cover the occupied territories. As the European Convention on Human Rights, this one also guarantees foreigners fundamental rights on the territory of one of the parties to the conflict: respect for human dignity and honour, right for a fair trial, appropriate treatment, etc.

The provision of the Friendship Treaty that the parties guarantee to the citizens of the other state the same rights as for their own citizens, except cases provided for by the national or international agreements, does not add anything essential to the provisions of the Constitutions of Russia and Ukraine regarding all the foreigners.

In other words, after the termination of this bilateral treaty, the norms of international law will still be in effect and guarantee the rights of citizens on both sides to the conflict. The internal constitutional provisions regarding the rights of foreigners will act in the same manner.

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The Friendship Treaty with Russia has served to develop the relations between the two countries deepens the strategic partnership. The document contains the possibility of creating appropriate mechanisms for this. In particular, it provides for the frequency of meetings between the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia - at least twice a year. It also provides for the establishment of joint commissions and other similar structures. Thus, this document is the basis for the development of friendly relations, which are no more after the start of an armed conflict... And if Russia does not respect the state sovereignty of Ukraine, its territorial integrity and political independence, if the Russian Federation has violated and continues to violate all the fundamental principles of the international law in regard to Ukraine, then there are no elementary basic prerequisites for friendship, cooperation and partnership.

In case of this treaty, the question arose before Ukraine whether it wished to prolong it. Obviously, if Ukraine had agreed to extend the treaty under current conditions for another 10 years, it would have put itself in a very strange position. Refusal to prolong the document is a forced and logical step. There is no need to be an expert of international law to state the violation by Russia of all the fundamental norms of the friendship treaty in conditions of armed intervention and occupation of the part of Ukrainian territory. In such a situation, it would be impossible to pretend that nothing happens, allowing the continuation of this agreement.

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