U.S. Explanation of Vote on Agenda Item 5, Part I (G) at the PX 201st UNESCO Executive Board
Paris, April 28, 2017
Echoing the joint statement delivered by Sweden at last month’s information session concerning Crimea, the United States joins members of this Board in restating our unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty over its entire territory. We once again condemn Russia’s occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol, and call on Russia to return control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
We also recall UN General Assembly resolution 68/262, which calls upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies – which includes UNESCO – not to recognize any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of the invalid referendum held in Crimea in March 2014.
The United States sees a clear role for UNESCO to address this dire situation, particularly as Russia restricts the enjoyment of freedom of expression, including for the media, and jeopardizes journalist safety through political prosecutions and denials of due process in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
We reiterate our particular concern about journalist Mykola Semena, whose politically motivated trial has been repeatedly postponed, and call on the Russian occupation authorities to drop the unsubstantiated charges against him and to lift the travel restriction imposed upon him.
Actions by the Russian occupation authorities have also resulted in an increasingly repressive environment for Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians who face decreased educational opportunities to study in their native languages and experience infringement upon their exercise of freedom of religion or belief.
We therefore highlight the April 19 decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which orders Russia to “refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions [including the Mejlis;” and to “ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.”
Given the ongoing grave problems caused by Russia’s actions, UNESCO should undertake adequate monitoring, both indirect and direct, of conditions on the peninsula in its areas of competence. We wish to underscore that certain provisions of UN General Assembly resolution 71/205 also address matters within UNESCO’s areas of competence.
The United States expresses our strong support for this important resolution and we look forward to near-term implementation by UNESCO, in full and timely cooperation with Ukraine, of measures that would facilitate additional fact finding on this matter.