Association of Reintegration of Crimea informed UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of Democratic and Equitable International Order Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana on the issues of systematic violation of universal and regional human rights and humanitarian treaties by Russia in the Crimea in the present conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ARC” reminded the Expert that the “policy” of Russia’s “authorities” during COVID-19 the pandemic created some new challenges for the residents of Crimea and for internally displaced persons (IDPs) from peninsula, as such “policy” bluntly violates the abovementioned multilateral humanitarian and human rights standards. In 2014 Russia started a “medical reform” in Crimea and implemented its “own insurance medicine model”. In 2020, this resulted in the absence of adequate quantity of medical personnel in Crimean hospitals that minimized the possibility of effective medical aid to the residents of Crimea, violated their right to health and right to life guaranteed by multilateral human rights multilateral. At the same time Russia as occupier-State has an obligation under Geneva Convention IV to ensure adequate medical aid to the population of Crimea, that is bluntly violated by its ineffective medical “policies”.

Association pointed for Dr. Sewanyana that since 2014, Russia bans usage of medical drugs certified by the Ukrainian authorities, including antibiotic and antivirus medicals produced in European countries and allowed for usage in Ukraine. Instead, Russia provided Crimean medical institutions and pharmacies with own-produced drugs, often of extremely low quality. Furthermore, Russian “authorities” ban citizens from carrying high-quality medical drugs from Ukraine’s mainland, which is punishable as “smuggling”, including “confiscation” of drugs. Such actions violate the right to health and right to life guaranteed by multilateral human rights treaties, as well as the requirements of the Geneva Convention IV to preserve legislation and public order on the occupied territory, including medical and pharmacy certification procedures.

And more, as “ARC” stressed in its submission, since 2020 Russia “banned” all anti-COVID vaccines in Crimea, except those which are produced in the Russia without internationally recognized certification procedure (like “Sputnik” vaccine). To make things worse, the vaccination of Crimeans by the Russian non-certified vaccine is de-facto “obligatory” for citizens. We pointed that such “policies” bear features of a medical experiment over the population of the occupied territory. This is another impermissible violation of the Geneva Convention IV. This also violates the rights of Crimeans to health, to life an to privacy, as well as prohibition of degrading treatment and enforced medical experiments, guaranteed by multilateral human rights treaties.

Association pointed that Russian “anti-COVID” “policy” in Crimea is discriminative for the citizens of Ukraine in Crimea who refused or could not acquire the so called “Russian citizenship” after 2014, when Russia started claiming “title over the Crimean peninsula”. Such Ukrainian citizens resided in Crimea before the attempted annexation or resettled to peninsula later due to Russian aggression on the East of Ukraine and to ongoing armed conflict there. Such Ukrainian citizens in Crimea are determined by the Russian de-facto “authorities” as “foreigners”, “migrants” and even “illegal migrants” who are obligated by the occupiers to apply for “residence permits” and “special permission” to work.

“ARC” stressed in its submission that Russia violated the right to freedom of movement by systematic blockade of all three checkpoints used to enter and exit Ukraine’s mainland due to “COVID-related quarantine measures”. But all Russian “policies and measures” “to minimize health risks associated with the COVID-19”  by blocking the visits of Crimeans to Ukraine’s mainland and of IDPs and other mainland Ukrainians to Crimea are not effective even potentially, since in 2020-2021 the Russia’s “authorities” organized mass visits of Russian tourists to Crimea (more than one million in the summer-2020), the resettlement of own residents to Crimea (more than sixty thousands of Russians have been resettled to Sevastopol alone in 2020), and by massive military trainings (more that twenty thousands Russian soldiers were re-dislocated from Russia to Crimea only in the first half of 2021) .

We pointed in submission that “measures” of Russia’s “authorities” in Crimea aimed at limitation of crossing the administrative line (ABL) were disproportional and bluntly violated human rights and fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Ukraine. They are not effective  and may be qualified as part of Russia’s social “iron curtain” and militarization policy in the peninsula. While limiting the crossing of the ABL, Russia’s “authorities” in Crimea, closely related with criminal groups in area of human trafficking, take part in or cover the transfer to Crimea working migrants from Russia, first of all in area of the illegal housing construction. These processes are lawless even under the “Russian legislation” implemented illegally in Crimea, so there are no “regularization programs” or “long-term solutions” in the peninsula for conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic .

“ARC” noted to the UN Expert that the solutions to overcome such obstacles in a fair and sustainable manner are reflected in the requirements of the UN, CoE and OSCE acts on Russia regarding Crimea. The avenues for realization of these documents must be discussed on the international multilateral level, including the “Crimean Platform”. In any case, a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response must reflect specific features of interstate conflict situations and illegal occupation of a foreign territory with effective control over its population. Our Association invited the UN Independent Expert to Ukraine, including Crimea, as Ukraine since 2014 agreed for any UN Human Rights Mechanism’s visit to its territory.