As “ARC” experts have repeatedly written, insufficient attention to budgetary and financial “Crimean” issues can lead to the catastrophic consequences. Especially when it comes to human and peoples’ rights issues in the context of interstate conflict. Therefore, it is necessary to explore aspects of the mechanisms and procedures for spending the Ukrainian state budget on relevant issues, especially in the current situation. It can be stated that long before the Russian occupation of Crimea, the “burden of mastering” the relevant budget funds was placed on the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine (MSPU).
It was this state central body that was then appointed as the chief administrator of the relevant budget program according to the established budget expences classification code (CPECC) 2501120. And in order to streamline this difficult activity, the Ukrainian Government by its Resolution of June 9, 2011 № 647 approved the Procedure for usage the state budget funds for resettlement and arrangement of deported Crimean Tatars and persons of other nationalities .
Linking the support of Indigenous Peoples with aspects of the deporteed persons’ rights, which seemed logical to Ukrainian officials before the occupation of Crimea, later played a series of vicious jokes with governing offices, when the peninsula was illegally captured by Russia. After all, first, the budget of the ‘deportees’ program was formed exclusively at the suggestion of regional authorities (the main customer was the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where the relevant Republican Committee was responsible for such financial planning, and Sevastopol and Kherson Region officilas requested some funds also). And, secondly, the deportees’ statute covered at least formally not only by Crimean Tatars but also the Crimean ethnic minorities – Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks and Germans. On the other hand, the issue of support for the endangered indigenous peoples of Crimea (Karaites and Krymchaks) was not covered by this program at all (because those ethnic groups were not deported).
At the same time, the distribution of these funds was carried out without a proper legal basis, in the absence of a relevant law on deportees. Prior to its adoption, the State Budget of Ukraine annually allocated significant sums of money under CPECC 2501120 program due to the opportunities provided by the part 7 of Article 20 and by the paragraph 16 of the Transitional Provisions of the Ukrainian Budget Code . It is possible that such “manual regulation” of the significant funds’ distribution was then beneficial to some officials both in Kyiv and Simferopol.
It is noteworthy that the Procedure of 2011 stated that “budget funds are used primarily to complete the construction of facilities with a degree of construction readiness of more than 70 percent in accordance with the titles of facilities planned for commissioning this year”. This was to become the main item of expenditure. However, of course, houses are not built so quickly, but in order not to return unused money back to the budget, in 2011, few months after the adoption of Resolution № 647, the MSPU made several interesting changes to the Procedure. It established that budget funds under the program of CPECC 2501120 could also be directed to publication the literature in the languages of repatriates and to financial support for the media broadcasting the language of deportees. In fact, this covered the financing of a number of publications and certain programs of TV and radio broadcasting on channels, that were in communal or republican ownership.
After the occupation of Crimea begun, the special Law of Ukraine of April 17, 2014 № 1223 on the restoration of the rights of persons, deported on national grounds, was approved . This law established state guarantees for the restoration of the rights of such deported persons, created conditions for ensuring their livelihood, providing the social, cultural and educational needs. Thus, Ukraine received an additional legal basis for the implementation of the CPECC program 2501120. At the same time, under the occupation of Crimea, these funds could (hypothetically) be spent to support deportees displaced from Crimea, to support deportees living in mainland Ukraine until 2014 (primarily on the south of Kherson region), as well as to find mechanisms to protect the rights of deportees in the Crimea.
The complexity of such tasks did not stop the compilers of the Ukrainian State Budget, and in the period 2016-2018, under the budget program CPECC 2501120 “Resettlement and Arrangement of Deported Crimean Tatars and Persons of other Ethnoses Who Were Deported from Ukraine” the MSPU spent 149.6 millions of Ukrainain hryvnias (UAH). First, let’s try to understand the interesting destiny of these funds.
It should be noted at once that those funds were not aimed at ensuring the activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (CTP) or the work of the Council of CTP Representatives. It should be recalled that this Council was introduced as a mechanism for organizational and material support of the Mejlis by the Ukrainian State. In particular, according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine of April 3, 2015 № 194/2015, the Chairman of the Mejlis was appointed as Chairman of this Council, and exactly he had to approve the staff of the Council, to make changes to it, to manage the Council  (which did not happen for the next six years, but not through the fault of the State of Ukraine). Perhaps the current situation, when the Mejlis (as a Council) cannot receive official State support, is again very beneficial to someone. And relevant financial and mediating role of certain Delegate of the Qurultay of the CTP, subsequently elected to higher positions, will be the subject of next expert analysis (if the authorized public services are obviously not capable to do it).
However, the strategic goal, stated in the program 2501120 for 2016, sounded like providing social protection to persons deported on ethnic grounds. The purpose of the program was to implement the state policy to restore the rights of persons, deported on ethnic grounds . Of course, under the restoration of rights, in particular the right to information, you can pull up a huge dimension of costs. Therefore, this opportunity was used by the chief administrator of budget funds, when MSPU decided to spend the major share of allocated funds to “support the presence of the Ukrainian State in the information space of the temporarily occupied territories” in the Crimea .
For this purpose, the Government Resolution № 303 of April 20, 2016 changed the above-mentioned Procedure of 2011, referring the expenditures of the program CPECC 2501120 for “providing financial support to LLC “Television Company “Atlant–SV” as a recipient of budget funds”. This money was transferred to “Atlant–SV” for a TV channel with the “ATR T” logo, namely for the “payment of satellite communication services and part of the debt for such services, which was formed till February 2014, for rent and purchase of television equipment, rent of premises, payment for services for the use and acquisition of copyright objects” .
You do not need to be an expert in budget relations to understand that the financial support of “ATR T”, which accounted for 87.6 % (124.3 million UAH) of budget funds under the program 2501120 during 2016-2018, is not relevant ensuring social protection and in general has little in common with the legislative competence of the MSPU. During the same period, only 12.4 % (17.6 million UAH) were to be allocated to tasks, directly related with the social and socio-cultural needs of deportees .
We must note that the Charter of the MSPU, approved by the Government of Ukraine on June 17, 2015 № 423, was not fully corrected with Article 10 of the Law № 1223. This concerned the definition of the MSPU as a state central body that ensures the realization of state policy in the field of the rehabitilation of the rights of deported persons, but not in the field of the protection of their rights. At the same time, the financial support to broadcasters has never been the responsibility of the MSPU , which was “not noticeable” until 2014, as 2501120 program funds for deportees’ information needs were then allocated at the regional level primarily, and they were not transferred to the private broadcasting companies. However, these funds continued to be allocated until 2020 .
The processes of such “fundraising” were reflected, among other things, in the Report of the Ukraine’s Accounting Chamber, approved by its Decision of April 23, 2019 № 10-3 and we have to quote it . According to this Report, the allocation of funds in the period 2016-2018 under the State budget program 2501120 was accompanied by significant violations. In particular, the Ministers of Social Policy and Finance, signing the relevant orders, violated the requirements of Part 8 of Article 20 of the Budget Code of Ukraine and paragraph 6 of the Rules for Drawing up Passports of Budget Programs and Reports on Their Implementation, regarding deadlines for submission and approval of budget program passports. After all, by example, in 2016, the Passport of the budget program 2501120 was approved 19 calendar days before the end of the budget year only, which contradicted the paragraph 17 of part 1 of Article 116 of the Budget Code. Let’s reveal a little secret that no one was punished for it, as well as for the inefficient use of program 2501120 funds.
After all, it was the delay in approving budget program passports and allocating funds that made it practically impossible to use such budget funds. In particular, in connection with the approval of the passport of the budget program 2501120 only in December 2016, 10 millions 798 thousands UAH, which were intended for the reconstruction of schools and water supply networks, were reallocated to other budget programs. And funds for the production and purchase of textbooks and literature in the language of repatriates in the amount of 1 million 455 thousands UAH were returned to the State budget. In a similar 2018 situation in the Kherson Region, due to miscalculations of the Department of Construction and Infrastructure Development of the Kherson Regional State Administration, 15 millions 100 thousands UAH of program 2501120 were not mastered. As a result, the school of aesthetic education was not built, then Kherson Regional State Administration recalculated such project cost to 4 millions 500 thousands UAH. But the re-submission of this school’s funding was not taken into account by the Ukrainian Government, because, at the suggestion of the MSPU, these funds were redistributed by the Ministry of Finance …to provide financial support to the abovementioned “Atlant–SV” .
However, some attempts to “cut” funding for the program 2501120 date back to 2017. According to the MSPU, the financing of deportees’ resettlement and arrangement was planned to be reduced almost 100 times, to 300 thousands UAH per year . But the Government did not take such measures and the declining figures went up again. According to budget requests, the cost plans for the program 2501120 were to be in 2020 – 20 million 340 thousand UAH; in 2021 – 45 million 340 thousand UAH; in 2022 – 45 million 340 thousand UAH . Until 2020, these funds were consistently spent on the needs of “Atlant–SV” for the TV channel “ATR T”.
At the same time, at least the formal inconsistency of such expenditures with the needs of ensuring the information rights of the Crimean Tatar People became quite obvious. For example, in the five years since the Law № 1223 entry into force, only a few hundred persons out of more than 7,000 CTP representatives residing in the Ukraine-controlled territory were recognised officially as deported on ethnic grounds. At the same time, some persons of other (non-CTP) ethnic origins received such status during this period .
At the same time, “ATR T” became the only TV channel that in 2016-2019 received state support for its activities under the program 2501120. That is, it became a monopolist in such area and therefore had to provide information services to all deported persons and groups. The Passport of the budget program 2501120 for 2016 stated that “the range of coverage the persons, deported on ethnic grounds, with information services was assumed at the level of 100 %” . At the same time, “ATR T” broadcasts only in Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian and Russian.
However, these aspects, although indicating violations of budget legislation, can be considered formal, due to the indisputable urgent duty to protect the rights of the CTP under occupation. As the budgetary issues are the only subject of this study, its author does not dwell in detail on the person of the head of “ATR T” TV channel Islamov Lenur Edemovich, who is the founder, main owner of “Atlant–SV” (97.3 % share) and chief director of “ATR T” channel . Suffice it to point to the so-called “appointment” of Lenur Islamov by the occupying power as “acting Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Crimea” in April 2014 and his subsequent “dismissal” in May 2014 in favor of Ruslan Balbek, “appointed” by the invaders to the same place . It is also enough to add that on issues of his Russian citizenship Mr. Islamov, responsible by a “strange coincidence” in the spring of 2014, (according to a number of publications) for “aid to deportees” in the “government” of Sergei Aksyonov, advises us “not to look at the passport, but on deeds” .
It should be noted that in fact Mr. Islamov has been operating with significant funds from the Ukrainian budget since 2017, allocated precisely to support the CTP. At the same time, it is obvious that the owner only, not the MSPU, determines both the informational and economic activities of the private “ATR T” TV channel. In particular, during this period, this TV channel introduced paid services, including for the Crimean residents , as well it sought financial support actively and traded in souvenirs. Under such conditions, it is not surprising that the already mentioned Accounting Chamber’s Report, 2019 on the program 2501120 funds’ spending became resonant. According to this document, the “regulatory unresolved issues related to the financial support of TV and radio companies” operating in the Crimea made the negative impact on the implementation of this budget program. As a result, the Accounting Chamber’s Report noted, “funding the budget program activities actually began only in December of the respective year and from year to year it was accompanied by the non-implementation of planned measures, by the redistribution and non-use of budget funds”.
As this Report added, the MPSU, as the chief administrator, did not ensure proper control at all stages of the budget process. As it was proved by the Accounting Chamber, this has led to inefficient use and management of funds, as well as to the failure to achieve certain objectives and performance indicators of the program 2501120. Indeed, this is the main thing for public funds, as measuring the qualitative and quantitative performance of private TV broadcasting is quite difficult, especially when such funds are the only part of its revenues. This situation led to the fact that officials from the Ukrainian control bodies pointed out on new violations of budget legislation periodically ; , “Atlant–SV” funding was suspending, while the significant part of society demanded to the State resume the support for “ATR T” immediately.
However, other recipients the State funds from the MSPU, primarily socially vulnerable categories, also could not understand the priorities of the Ministry. For example, in 2019, in addition to spending UAH 35.2 million on “ATR T”, MSPU spent UAH 26.76 million on prosthetic, orthopedic and medical rehabilitation care for its specialized Research Institute, and MSPU also spent in 2019 644.1 thousand UAH only on training the staff of the social security system protection of the whole of Ukraine ; .
At the same time, this problem is systemic in nature and the Accounting Chamber has already written about it in its another Report, dated November 8, 2016 № 23-2, devoted to the analysis of the Ministry of Information Policy. As it was stated in that document correctly, in the conditions of a hybrid information war in Ukraine, the Strategy of Informational Space Development of Ukraine was not developed. The Report added that the draft Concept of Information Security of Ukraine was developed by the Ministry of Information Policy, but it was not submitted to the Government of Ukraine for approval. As a result, as the Accounting Chamber stated, it was impossible to develop and adopt a relevant state program to combat internal and external informational threats .
It should be added that the draft of such Strategy has been unsuccessfully developed since 2014 , and the Doctrine of Information Security of Ukraine was approved by the Decree of the President of Ukraine of February 25, 2017 № 47 instead of the mentioned draft Concept . In addition, in 2015, the “Multimedia Platform of Foreign Broadcasting of Ukraine” was created, which in 2015 received 23.6 million UAH budget funds. At the same time, the question was periodically discussed – whether it would be more useful for the State, in its information and financial challenges, to create a state TV channel to ensure the presence of information in the occupied territories than to provide annual support to private commercial enterprises . In addition, as it was already mentioned, the content of the program 2501120 should prompt officials to reconsider the proportionality of the distribution of state support to deportees, so that such funding does not relate primarily to the “resettlement and arrangement” of employees of “ATR T” exactly.
Probably this situation led to the fact that the funds for this program 2501120 were not allocated at all in the State Budget of Ukraine, 2020. At the same time, the Ukrainian governing authorities stated that the main support for “ATR T” will continue to be provided by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine (MCIPU) under the budget program CPECC 3801020 “Production and Broadcasting of Television and Radio Programs for State Needs and Support of the State Foreign Broadcasting System of Ukraine”. The total cost of this program was estimated at 442 million 643 thousand UAH . Among other things, this situation has led to the fact that in the State Budget for 2020 and later, funds for the actual needs of deportees in the Ukraine-controlled areas (both placed there until 2014 and internally displaced persons) ceased to be allocated at all . By the way, the real needs of these deported persons have not been properly clarified by authorities.
According to the annual Passport of the budget program under CPECC 3801020, approved by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture in February 2020, out of the initially planned 437.7 million UAH, expenditures for the needs of “ATR T” in the amount of 50.34 million UAH were envisaged. As at the beginning of 2020 such expenditures were not in line with the budget legislation at all – in relation to them there was a note “before the decision of the Government on financial support of the TV channel” in this Passport of such program. Neither the needs of the deportees nor the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine were mentioned among the grounds for the implementation of budget program 3801020. The goal of state policy in this area was that “Ukrainians are more likely to encounter manipulative and fake news, messages and materials”, and the purpose of the budget program was to halve the amount of manipulative content and content of the aggressor state .
It should be noted that, although the issues of “ATR T” in the program 3801020 appeared in 2020 for the first time, the allocation of funds for this program continued since 2015 according to the Procedure for the Funds’ Usage, approved by the Governmental Regulation of October 28, 2015 № 915. Traditionally, the Ukrainian National Information Agency “Ukrinform” and the already mentioned State Enterprise “Multimedia Platform of Foreign Broadcasting of Ukraine” were the only two recipients of budget funds of this program. As an example, UAH 483.2 million was allocated for these two structures in 2018 . Under such conditions, it remains unclear why (if it was necessary) the relevant needs of “ATR T” did not refer to the program 3801020 immediately, since its inception in 2015. It should be noted that the expected changes, mentioned in the Passport of the program 3801020 were actually introduced into the legislation, by the resolution of the Government of Ukraine of May 6, 2020 № 346.
This act stated that “Atlant–SV” is the recipient of budget funds in terms of financial support for the TV channel with the “ATR T” logo, and that these funds are used on a non-refundable basis to pay for satellite services, rental of television equipment, rental of premises, payment for services for the use and acquisition of copyright objects. Such funds were to be distributed between “Ukrinform”, “Multimedia Platform of Foreign Broadcasting of Ukraine” and “Atlant–SV” “in accordance with the justifications, submitted for the need for funds and with detailed cost estimates”; and “Atlant–SV”’s plan for their usage has now to be agreed with the Ministry . After that, another Governmental Regulation, dated June 17, 2020 № 488 removed mentions of the “Atlant–SV” financing from the Procedure of 2011, and therefore from the powers of the MSPU and from the 2501120 program. However, the development of this situation is still not completed. After all, in 2020 there was a discussion about the transfer of the functionality of state support the television and radio broadcasting (and hence in the issues of “ATR T”) from the Ministry of Culture and Informational Policy (MCIP) to the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine (MRTOTU) .
This was confirmed by the state budget for 2021, where the program 3801020 was reduced to 157.8 million UAH, and the program itself was renamed to “Collection, Processing and Distribution of the Official Information Products” . At the same time, funding for program 2501120 was not resumed in 2021, instead a new program 3901080 “Ensuring Information Sovereignty of Ukraine, Development of Indigenous Languages Residing in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol and Abroad Broadcasting Financial Support” was created under the MRTOTU, for which a little more than 348.7 million UAH have been allocated so far. From the title of this act, it is obvious that, if budget support, provided for “ATR T”, will maintain, it will be carried out just under this program. It is noteworthy that in 2021, as before, the financial support of the state enterprise “Crimean House” under the budget program 3801480 will remain in the MCIP competence (in 2021 it will be allocated 4 million 598 thousand UAH, and in 2020 – 4 million 257 thousand UAH were allocated to this goal) .
Thus, currently Ukraine’s state budget support for the realization of the Crimean Tatar People’s collective rights is limited. The cessation of funding for the actual needs of deportees, including residing in the Ukraine-controlled territory, as well as the general shortcomings of Ukraine’s information strategy are the key challenges for this issue.
The medium-term prospect of state funding the certain private TV channels for the organization of Crimean Tatar broadcasting objectively will not be the effective mechanism of support the Crimean Tatars’ rights to information, and the policy on this issue of the Ministry of Reintegration has not yet been formed. The issue of forming a public (state) Crimean Tatar media is not even being discussed at this moment, and after the start of such possible discussion, it will be apparently blocked politically due to the “Atlant–SV” activities.
Other potential areas of budget funding for the needs of the Crimean Tatars are also impossible until the approval of the relevant law on the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine or at least until the resumption of the Council of Crimean Tatar People’s Representatives. Active blockade of all these measures by certain individuals objectively contributes to the tasks of the aggressor State, while the Ukrainian authorities cannot take these steps on their own, without the consent of the Crimean Tatar People. Exit from this “vicious circle” of budget support for the Indigenous Peoples’ rights should be the subject of separate studies.