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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The coronavirus disease pandemic does not prevent Putin from creating arbitrariness in Crimea

On March 24, 2020, Russian President, Vladimir Putin signed a decree concerning property rights in the occupied Crimea. According to this document foreigners, both individuals and legal entities, deprived of the right to own land on the territory of the occupied Crimea. However, it is not about the entire territory of the peninsula, in general, the restrictions apply to the border and coastal areas. This list includes 8 of the 12 municipalities of the city of Sevastopol, and 19 of the 25 municipalities of Crimea. The ban does not apply to three districts of the occupied peninsula - Pervomaisky, Krasnogvardeysky and Belgorodsky, as well as Verkhnosadivska village council and Nakhimovsky district of Sevastopol. All of the above districts do not share borders with the mainland of Ukraine and have no acess to the sea. Should we remind you that Ukrainian citizens are foreigners for the occupiers. Actually, Ukrainians are being deprived of the right to own their property, which they acquired before the occupation.[1]

In turn, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine called on the international community to increase pressure on Russia, including by imposing sanctions in response to the decree of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin on depriving Ukrainians of land ownership in the occupied Crimea. This is reported by the Press Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The signing of the decree is another illegal step by Moscow to seize objects of Ukrainian state and private property on the territory of the illegally occupied Crimea, a gross violation of Ukrainian legislation and international humanitarian law. Ukraine uses all the possibilities of international law and international courts to cancel the decree and bring Russia to justice for this offense," the report said.[2]

The Prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea opened criminal proceedings due to the decree of Russian President, Vladimir Putin on the deprivation of the right to own land in the occupied Crimea. It also investigates the fact of the appropriation of state and private property in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, which is a violation of international humanitarian law, namely article 147 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 and art. 46, 53, 55, 56 of the Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land of the 1907, and is also a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (art.8 (2) (a) (IV)). [3]

The U.S. and EU embassies joined the condemnation of the brazen actions of the Russian Federation. On March 26, 2020, the United States Embassy in Kyiv noted that Russian President, Vladimir Putin's decree on land ownership gives more grounds for sanctions. "The new «decree» of Russia, which restricts ownership of the majority of land in Crimea, allowing it only to Russians, only strengthens the basis for international sanctions. We firmly repeat again: Crimea is Ukraine," Washington's diplomatic representation said in a statement.[4]

On April 1, 2020, the EU Embassy reacted to Vladimir Putin's decree in this way: "The European Union does not recognize the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, which is a clear violation of international law. Therefore, the European Union does not recognize this decree, which is another attempt to forcе the integration of the illegally annexed peninsula into Russia. Crimea is part of Ukraine. The decree is a violation of international humanitarian law, as it enshrines Russian citizenship on the peninsula. This can also lead to unjustified deprivation of property," the report said. It is noted that the EU continues to expect that Russia will stop violating international law in Crimea.[5]

Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Refat Çhubarov in an interview with the "Crimea. Reality" project stated that Putin's decree on land ownership rights in the occupied Crimea aimed at accelerating the colonization of the peninsula. "They are creating a supposedly legal mechanism that, in their view, should create conditions for the accelerated relocation of Russian citizens to Crimea. What do they lack for this now? Lack of resources and land? Does Russia have not enough resources to accommodate everyone they want to relocate? They want to create conditions for Russians to relocate themselves. To do this, they need to create a market of cheap, "free land", Çhubarov said. He is convinced that the Crimeans, who were forced to have Russian passports after the annexation of the peninsula, are under the threat of the seizure of their lands. In addition, Çhubarov is convinced that "Russia will try to oust all undesirable people from the Crimea with this decree, consolidate its military presence on the peninsula and attract investment, since the decree will allow the seize any land plot".[6]

Expert from the Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) Alexander Sedov pointed out that valid documents for land ownership in Crimea are only documents issued in Ukraine, since the Crimean Peninsula is its integral territory. This fact is enshrined in several UN resolutions and other international documents, and, accordingly, Ukrainian property documents are considered valid by international courts. According to the human rights defender, any restriction of property rights obtained before the occupation is a gross violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.[7]

Consequently, the Russian Federation once again took the opportunity to emphasize the "Russianness" of the Crimean Peninsula using the tactics of its famous predecessor – the Soviet Union. The good news is that this decree immediately provoked an extremely negative reaction from both Ukraine and international actors. However, the continuation of the policy of applying a new package of sanctions against Russia is although a correct but insufficient solution that can effectively counter such brazen actions of the Russian Federation.


[1]КрымSOS. Крымская земля vs иностранцы. Разбираем новый указ Путина:

[2]Дзеркало тижня. МЗС України вимагає покарати РФ за указ Путіна про землю в Криму:

[3]РБК-Україна. В Україні відкрили справу через указ Путіна щодо володіння землею в Криму:

[4]Радіо Свобода. Посольство США: указ Путіна щодо землі в анексованому Криму підсилює основу для санкцій:

[5]Радіо Свобода. У ЄС прокоментували указ Путіна щодо землі в анексованому Криму:

[6]Газета «День». Чубаров про указ Путіна щодо прав власності на землю в окупованому Криму: "Це прискорення колонізації Криму":

[7] Центр журналістських розслідувань. Правозахисник: Указ Путіна про заборону українцям володіти землею в Криму дискримінаційний: