What Can Georgia Learn From Ukraine’s Crimean Platform Summit? – Analysis


(FPRI) — On August 23, the Crimean Platform Summit was held in Ukraine. Announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the initiative has the goal of coordinating international efforts to de-occupy the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014. Other countries struggling with Russian adventurism might serve to learn some lessons from the summit. One such country that could particularly benefit is Georgia, which struggles with maintaining the international community’s attention to the issue of the Russian occupation of its territories. Having supportive statements from multiple countries talking about this issue is something that Georgia desperately needs, and Tbilisi can learn from Kyiv’s efforts to garner support from the international community. 

What is the Crimea Platform? 

Zelensky first introduced the Crimean Platform in fall 2020. During his address to Verkhovna Rada on the internal and external situation in Ukraine, he stated: “The issue of Crimea has been returned to the international agenda. We are creating a ‘Crimean Platform’ format. This is a coordination of international efforts to protect the rights of Crimeans and deoccupy the peninsula. I have already discussed this initiative in detail with representatives of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey, and other partners. Many of them are ready to join and take an active part in it.” 

One of the main objectives of the summit is to mobilize a more effective international response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. It is a multi-level framework for devising actions that would raise the costs of Russia’s occupation and contradict Moscow’s thesis about the irreversibility of its hold on the peninsula. The initiative also includes the Crimean Platform Expert Network that will work closely with government representatives. The Network Forum launched on August 6, with 180 experts and scholars from 33 countries already expressing their willingness to join.

Representatives of 46 countries attended the summit, including 8 presidents, 4 prime ministers, and 17 foreign ministry heads or their deputies. Ukraine was able to deliver on the promise to gather high-level representation from a significant number of countries. The five priority areas for the Crimean Platform were: effectiveness of sanctions, protection of human rights, security of Azov-Black Sea region, overcoming the environmental and economic consequences of the occupation, and consolidation of the international policy of non-recognition. Summit participants issued a joint declaration, in which they condemned the “temporary occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea” and agreed to continue to impose “political, diplomatic and restrictive measures” against Russia. In addition to issuing a declaration, Zelensky opened a Crimean Platform office in Kyiv. According to Ukrainian authorities, Crimean Platform offices will open in several countries.

 Connection to Georgia’s Russia Problems

This platform is relevant to Georgia because two of Georgia’s breakaway regions are occupied by the Russian Federation. Regardless of how similar the cases of Crimea, Abkhazia, and Tskhinvali (so-called South Ossetia) might be, the bigger issue of Russian occupation is still prevalent both countries. However, unlike in Ukraine, the issue of Russian occupation does not appear to be at the top of Tbilisi’s agenda, and without a government-led initiative, only a small fraction of the international community remains concerned with Georgia’s frozen conflicts. Georgia would greatly benefit from creating a similar platform.

International Attention. The platform would be a way for Georgia to garner greater international attention for the Russian occupations. Georgia recently marked the 13th anniversary of the 2008 war with Russia. Even though “creeping occupation” continues on the de facto border with Tskhinvali, part of the international community has deemed the conflict frozen, and, as a result, there aren’t many venues dedicated to discussion of the issue. Peacebuilding efforts, too, are sparce and unsuccessful. Since 2008, 34 villages have been divided by the de facto “border” between Georgia and the Russian-occupied territories. Dozens of, sometimes more than 100, citizens are detained every year for violating the “border regime.” In 2018, for example, 100 people were detained by Tskhinvali authorities and 28 by those in Abkhazia. Moreover, the residents of different villages along the Tbilisi-controlled side of the boundary line told Amnesty International delegates that their standard of living significantly worsened since “borderization”[1] began in 2009 and intensified in 2013.

Currently, the only framework addressing the consequences of the 2008 Russo-Georgian conflict is the Geneva International Discussions (GID). It was launched in 2008 and is co-chaired by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN). GID holds four discussions every year, which bring together representatives of conflict participants. The discussions have been at a standstill for years with no tangible outcomes. The only other indication of the international community’s attention to Georgia’s occupied territories is the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), which was established in 2008. The mission is denied access to the occupied territories and is only operating in Georgia-controlled territory.

By creating the Crimean Platform and inviting world leaders to the summit, Kyiv hopes that Crimea is more frequently discussed by its friends and allies. Just to name few examples, First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova presented the Crimean Platform to the European Parliament and EU Member States Ambassadors. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba directly invited France to join the Crimean Platform. This approach is proving to be useful in keeping Russian occupation on the minds of the international community—a goal that Tbilisi should strive to accomplish.

Russian Threats. Looking at Russia’s reactions to the initiative, it appears that Moscow thinks that Crimean Platform damages its interests in the region. Russia’s reaction demonstrates the platform’s success and potential. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova published a statement in March 2021 criticizing the initiative: “All Kiev’s efforts to return Crimea to Ukraine are illegitimate and cannot be perceived as anything other than a threat of aggression against two regions of the Russian Federation.” Foreign Minister Kuleba claims that “Russia is discrediting the Crimean platform in every possible way and is making efforts to prevent countries from taking part in it.” Moreover, Russia has openly stated that it will consider participation “as an unfriendly move with regard to the Russian Federation and as a direct encroachment upon its territorial integrity.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the forum “Sabbath.”

Ownership of the Issue. The international community needs to see that Georgia itself is working hard to address and resolve Russian occupation. In recent years, Tbilisi has been less active in pressing the international community to address the issue. The Georgian government, in the past, has rallied its allies and friends behind the cause. For example, in 2010, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia appealed to legislative bodies of 31 countries and asked them to declare Georgia’s two regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as territories under Russian occupation. However, more recent actions point to Tbilisi caring less about the Russian occupation, which will not serve to help its cause in getting international support as is the case with Ukraine. In 2013, the Georgian Parliament introduced amendments to the 2008 Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories, making it less costly violate the law. According to the government-proposed amendments, instead of criminal punishment, a person would be subject to an administrative penalty involving a GEL 400 fine if they entered the occupied territories for the first time. Because of backlash from opposition parties and civil society, the proposed amendments were not made into the law. Moreover, the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation, and Refugees was dissolved in 2018. The State Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality still exists but with limited activities.

A new major platform would prove that Georgia is putting renewed effort in addressing the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. The platform could become an important way for Georgia’s allies and friends to provide it with support and to signal to Russia that the international community still condemns its actions in Georgia.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish well-argued, policy-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security priorities.

*About the author: Salome Pachkoria is a Research Intern at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She is a contributor to FPRI’s BMB Ukraine, a popular twice-weekly news brief that covers Ukrainian domestic and foreign affairs.

Source: This article was published by FPRI

[1] A process where Russia seizes additional land hitherto under Tbilisi’s control by installing border markers, fencing, and barbed wire along the Administrative Boundary Line. Watch this video to learn more.

Published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute

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