Global civil society alliance CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and calls for a swift, unified and targeted international response on Russia.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of 24 February has already seen several cities targeted, including the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and others. The invasion constitutes a serious crime under international law, has untold human rights implications and threatens to undermine the international order. The international community should condemn, in the strongest terms, Russia’s aggression and insist on respect for international norms.
Coordinated and swift international response needed
The attacks on Ukraine are unjustified and must be met with a swift response from the international community. This should include targeted sanctions on President Putin and his close associates.
The international community needs to rally together and condemn Russia’s aggression in the strongest terms, on the basis that Putin’s trampling of international norms endangers all nations. In the face of these unprovoked attacks, states should cease all trading activity that benefits Russia’s military infrastructure and President Putin’s associates.
European states in particular, including the 27 members of the European Union and others including the UK, should act in a unified and concerted manner and demonstrate solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
European Union countries also have a responsibility to accept and respect the rights of refugees who may be forced to flee from Ukraine in the coming days and months. They must respond with empathy and compassion.
“The attack on Ukraine is entirely unprovoked. It constitutes the international crime of aggression, and it is a severe violation of the territorial integrity of an independent country. The international community now faces a huge test to rally in support of the Ukrainian people facing an invasion from hostile Russian military forces controlled by President Putin. It is vital that civil society is involved in conflict resolution, humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts from the outset to prevent further loss of life and swiftly bring the invasion to an end” said Susan Wilding, Head of CIVICUS’s Geneva Office.
Putin’s disdain for international law and the United Nations
These acts of senseless aggression against Ukraine demonstrate Russia’s disrespect for diplomacy and its complete disregard for international law. In a show of its contempt, the attacks on Ukraine were ordered by Russia even as the Security Council was holding an emergency session, chaired by Russia based on its rotating presidency of the Council. The implications of this are obvious: Russia has little regard for the institutions created to promote world peace.
Despite several meetings by multiple heads of state and government with President Putin and calls to de-escalate mounting tensions, Russia proceeded with the invasion. Russia’s status as a UN Security Council Permanent member means the Security Council can do little to respond to Russia’s aggression. This sorry state of affairs should hasten movement towards Security Council reform.
Russia’s quest to subject its neighbours under strict control
The attacks on Ukraine have been preceded by several inflammatory actions, including recognising two breakaway Russian controlled areas of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, and the deployment of Russian troops in these zones. These actions demonstrate that Putin expects to maintain a Cold War-style sphere of influence around Russia’s borders. He intervened decisively to prop up a fraudulently elected dictator in Belarus, and in return, troops have crossed from Belarus into Ukraine. In January, Russian troops were deployed to suppress a protest movement for political and economic change in Kazakhstan.
Human rights defenders, journalists and the civilian population must be protected.
The protection of human rights defenders, journalists and activists should be a priority, in line with international law. In Russia’s previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014, many journalists were killed in the line of duty and others were taken hostage. Human rights defenders and journalists have a responsibility to document human rights violations, a role which is critical for the international community to hold the perpetrators responsible. In a letter to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights a few days before the Russian invasion, the United States expressed serious concerns about information in its possession that Russia has created lists of people including journalists, activists and minority groups who they plan to kill or send to camps. All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to protect human rights defenders, journalists and civilian populations and guarantee the free flow of humanitarian aid where necessary.
The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space - the space for civil society - in Russia as repressed