Arria-formula Meeting on the Situation in Crimea
Tomorrow morning (17 March), Russia will host an Arria-formula meeting via videoconference on the situation in Crimea. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) is expected to provide introductory and closing remarks at the meeting. Briefings are expected from: Chingiz Yaqubov, the Chancellor of the Crimean Engineering and Pedagogic University (CEPU); CEPU students; Anastasia Gridchina, the Head of the Ukrainian Community of Crimea; Roman Chegrinets, the Head of the Crimean regional national-cultural autonomy, “Belarusians of Crimea”; Ludmila Radeva, Vice-Chair of the regional Bulgarian national-cultural autonomy of Crimea, “Paisius of Helindar”; and Vera Pautova, the Head of the Educational Center for Children and Youth Creativity.
This will be the second Arria-formula meeting on Crimea in five days. Tomorrow’s meeting is envisioned as a follow-up to the 12 March high-level Arria-formula meeting on Crimea organised by Council members Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US. Russia maintained that the briefers at the 12 March meeting could not present an accurate account of the situation in Crimea, given that none of them resided there or had been there since 2014. During the meeting, Russia claimed that its proposal to include additional briefers had been denied by the organisers, citing this as one of the main reasons for organising its Arria-formula meeting on Crimea. According to the concept note prepared by Russia, the meeting’s objective is to provide comprehensive information on the situation in Crimea from current residents of Crimea.
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 do not face persecution at the hands of the Russian authorities.
Council members whose positions are closely aligned with that of Ukraine have used the Arria-formula format to promote discussions on different aspects of the situation in Crimea starting in March 2014. Since then, these meetings have been held each March on the anniversary of the Russian annexation of Crimea. They have usually been organised jointly by European members of the Council and the US, in partnership with Ukraine. Most Council members have been generally supportive of holding such meetings.
This will be the second time that Russia has used the Arria-formula meeting format to initiate discussion on the situation in Crimea. Russia hosted a similar meeting in May last year. However, during formal Council meetings on the situation in Ukraine, Russia has generally objected to any Council discussions specifically on the situation in Crimea, which it now considers part of its territory. Russia has also opposed any Council outcome that would question the current status of Crimea.
It seems unlikely that Ukraine will participate in the meeting out of concern that Russia is using the discussion to legitimise its narrative of the situation in Crimea. Should they participate in the meeting, the European members of the Council and the US are likely to use this opportunity to reiterate their established position on the annexation of Crimea, which they consider a violation of international law.