Arria-formula Meeting on the Situation in Crimea
Tomorrow afternoon (21 May), Russia will be hosting an Arria-formula meeting via VTC on the situation in Crimea. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) is expected to provide introductory and closing remarks at the meeting. Briefings are expected from Asadullah Bairov, Deputy Mufti of Crimea; Anastasia Gridchina, head of the Ukrainian community of Crimea; Ervin Musaev, Deputy Director-General of the Crimean Tatar TV channel “Millet/People”; and Alexander Makar, presenter of the TV channel “Krym/Crimea”. The meeting will be open to members of the Security Council and other member states.
According to the concept note prepared by Russia, the meeting is envisioned as a follow-up to the 6 March Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in Crimea, organised by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US in partnership with Ukraine. In the concept note, Russia indicated that the 6 March meeting failed to provide the participants with clear information on the situation in Crimea, given that none of the briefers live in Crimea. During the 6 March session, it said that the organisers of the meeting had rejected its proposal for the participation of additional briefers from Crimea, including Bairov. Russia has argued that its meeting will provide an opportunity to hear from current residents and the representatives of different national groups living in Crimea.
This is the first time that Russia has organised an Arria-formula meeting in connection with the situation in Crimea, although other Council members have used this format to discuss this issue, starting in March 2014 at the outset of the crisis in Ukraine. Since then, an Arria-formula meeting has been held each March on the anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea. These meetings have usually been organised jointly among the P3 (France, the UK and the US) and EU members of the Security Council, in partnership with Ukraine. Most Council members have been generally supportive of holding such meetings.
In their statements, the briefers are likely to defend the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum in 2014 and the region’s subsequent accession to Russia. They may also argue that the Crimean population and ethnic minorities in the area enjoy a wide range of freedoms, speak their language and practice their religion freely, and in general, do not face persecution at the hands of the Russian authorities.
During formal Council meetings on the situation in Ukraine (rather than informal Arria-formula meetings), Russia has generally stayed away from discussing the situation in Crimea directly. Russia has objected to Council discussions on the situation in Crimea, which it considers part of its territory, and has maintained that the “way it [Crimea] became part of Russia was in full compliance with international law” under the “right of self-determination”. It has also opposed any Council outcome that would question the legal status of Crimea.
On the other hand, the P3 have condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and consider it a violation of international law. EU members of the Council share this view, and along with some others are likely to reiterate this condemnation, as well as raising concerns about the treatment of minorities in Crimea. They might also use this opportunity to recall the General Assembly resolutions that uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol. Ukraine is unlikely to participate in the meeting out of concern that Russia is using the discussion to legitimate its narrative of the situation in Crimea. It is possible that one or more Council members might also opt-out of the meeting due to similar concerns.