U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE James S. Gilmore said this during an online meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on Thursday, May 21, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
"The Russian authorities continue conscription of individuals from Crimea into Russia’s armed forces. Compelling persons protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention to serve in the forces of a hostile power is a grave breach of the Geneva Convention, and a violation of the obligations that the Russian Federation owes under its subscription to the Geneva Convention. Once again, a violation of international norms and behavior and commitments that the Russian Federation has made and now violates," he said.
He recalled that since 2015, Russia has conducted annual spring and fall conscriptions in Crimea. A failure to participate, to submit to those conscriptions is punishable by a criminal penalty. An August 2019 report by the UN Secretary General stated that at least 18,000 men in Crimea had been conscripted under threat of criminal prosecution into the Russian Armed Forces, some of whom were assigned to military bases in the Russian Federation. The Russian government reportedly conscripted 2,600 individuals into its armed forces in the fall of 2019 and plans to conscript 3,300 more this spring, which would bring the total number conscripted by Russia to nearly 24,000 citizens of Crimea.
“Although Russia attempted to disguise its military occupation of Crimea with a hastily organized sham referendum in March 2014 and other efforts, States have overwhelmingly rejected this charade, including in multiple UN General Assembly resolutions. Crimea is part of Ukraine, despite the Russian Government’s efforts to pretend otherwise," the ambassador stressed.
Russia’s belligerent occupation of Crimea must be conducted in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention and customary international law applicable to belligerent occupation. Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an Occupying Power “may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces.”
Russia has engaged in exactly this type of behavior. In addition to forcing thousands of residents of Crimea into its armed forces by implementing a law that punishes by criminal penalty failure to participate in compulsory military service in the Russian armed forces, Russia has pursued criminal charges against those who resist.
“Russia’s conscriptions of residents of Crimea into its armed forces are inconsistent with international humanitarian law applicable to belligerent occupation. We call on Russia to end immediately its campaign of conscription of residents of Crimea, cease its other abuses, and return control of the peninsula to Ukraine. The flagrant violations of international law must stop,” the U.S. ambassador stated.
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