01 March 2022

Vladimir Putin has defied International Law

After the terrifying events that shacked the world on the past 24th of February and which continue to do so every single day that passes, nations are afraid and incredulous at the perspective of an escalating armed conflict. This attitude of the citizens can be totally justified considering the figure of Vladimir Putin, who has always presented himself as merciless and not trustworthy, now increased by a manipulative and deceptive speech laden with hidden geopolitical intentions.

What is new about this conflict relies on the brand new XXI century peculiarities… Not only in terms of mass media communication, where people haven’t stopped making memes and validating and sharing mostly post-truth information, but also within the framework of an existing UN Charter binding to both sides;

To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace. (Article 1, about the purposes of the United Nations).

This is, members to treaty have agreed to avoid the use of force at any cost and rather solve disputes through dialogue and negotiation

But Putin has misapplied international law (IL). After the beginning of this illegal invasion that has taken place within the frontiers of neighbouring Ukraine, the speech of Russian president has shown a deep disconnection between what has been said and what it really means. EU vs disinfo, a task force to better address the Russian disinformation campaigns that affect the European Union, has provided the following comparisons from Putin’s discourse: 

- First, the justification the invasion under the “self-defence of Russia” pretext, which could be a fair interpretation of IL, being the only situation under which use of force is permitted by the UN Charter. Nevertheless, the reality has been an attack of a sovereign state that hadn’t pose any hazard.

- Second, Putin assured a “limited military operation”, except for it turning into an all out attack with missile strikes, air and land invasion, civilian targets, cities and infrastructure devastated.

- Third, “no occupation” has actually been transformed into an intent to occupy as much as possible, trying to place Ukraine under Kremlin’s control indefinitely.

- Fourth, “de-Nazification of Ukraine” seems more like a Stalinist kind of repression, of those legitimately elected officials of a sovereign country. 

- Fifth, promising “holding elections for a new government” means gun-point fake democracy to place Kremlin loyal puppets in power. 

In addition, other sources claim that Putin has justified the attacks under the intention of “defending pro-Russian population living in Ukraine that had been suffering from genocide”, appealing to Article 51 of the Charter. Moscow has for 8 years’ time been protecting this population grating them Russian nationality and citizenship, however the recent measures adopted don’t match IL; rescuing citizens trapped or in danger in another country is recognized as a form of legitimate defence, but these interventions are strictly limited to evacuating citizens, not pulling down governments. The Article 51 in question, mentions the role of the Security Council in the context of a major crime such as genocide, that converges with international maintenance of peace and security; 

[…] Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council […] (Art. 51, UN Charter). 

IL offers a space to collect potential accusations of responsibility for internationally wrongful acts of Ukraine, appealing the Security Council that holds jurisdiction to condemn the crime of genocide before the International Criminal Court, and not, by any means, grants Russia the justification for use of force against territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Besides, the fact that Russia is one of the five countries with veto power at the Security Council, complicates what could be the intervention and outcome of the conflict at the hands of the UN. Therefore, what is left is for countries to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions, as has already been done by the US and Europe, for instance intense devaluation of the ruble, exports, expulsion from SWIFT, Eurovision contest or FIFA championship.

Vladimir Putin has wrongfully applied IL and illegally invaded the sovereign nation of Ukraine; António Guterres, Secretary general of the UN has made his point at the UN headquarters in New York City “The use of force by one country against another is a repudiation of the principles that every country has pledged to uphold. This applies to the current military offensive. That's wrong. It goes against the Charter (of the United Nations). It is unacceptable. But it is not irreversible”.

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