Valery Grebenyuk *: Violation by Russia of Fundamental Normes of International Law after World War II: View from Ukraine


Minister Ogryzko, esteemed colleagues, esteemed participants of the conference!

At the height of World War II, when mankind had already experienced all the horrors of war and was obsessed with the idea of peace and began to reflect on how to avoid conflicts and wars in the future, a document called the Atlantic Charter appeared (14 August, 1941), which not only provided the ideological basis for the future coalition, defined general principles of the national policy of their countries - the principles on which they set their hopes for a better future for the world, but also became the basis for the United Nations Declaration, and later the UN Charter.

Taking into account historical experience and vision of the future world order, it was in the UN Charter that the fundamental principles that should stand for the guard of peace and the progressive development of humanity mutilated by two world wars were consolidated.

The UN Charter is binding on all states, and its preamble reads:


•to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and

•to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and

•to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and

•to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


•to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

•to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

•to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and

•to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


UN Purposes are set out in Article 1 of the Charter: 1) to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace; 2) to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace; 3) to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; 4) to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

According to Article 2 of the Charter, the Organization and its members shall act in accordance with the following principles to achieve these objectives: 1) the sovereign equality of all members of the Organization; 2) fulfillment in good faith of obligations assumed by them; 3) settling international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; 4) refraining in international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations; 5) all Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter; 6)ensuring that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles; 7) the United Nations is not to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.

However, unfortunately, this has not been the case.

The issue of violation of fundamental norms of international law after World War II by Russia became apparent and without exaggeration began to become relevant the moment when the head of the Soviet delegation Andrey Gromyko signed the Charter of the United Nations on 26 June, 1945. Figuratively speaking, it began when the inks did not even have time to dry up.

Not much time elapsed and the Soviet Union began a slow, but sure, about-turn to its imperial policy at the world stage. Under the slogans of peace, prosperity, and equality the USSR began to creep aggression against the norms of the world order it endorsed itself and, as it was mentioned, consolidated in the UN Charter.

The problem is too enormous in time and space, so I will dwell only on some points. For a better understanding, it is worth dividing it into several areas or problems, each of them being immense.

First, it is the external aggression of the Soviet Union and Russia against sovereign nations, their territorial integrity.

Obviously, this should start with the problem of the Northern Territories of Japan. I think Professor Yoshiko Okabe will dwell on this.

Attempts to prevent the establishment of a democratic and strong German state through the 1948 blockade of West Berlin launched by Stalin and attempts to cause a humanitarian catastrophe. It is appropriate to recall here that in order to impede the air corridor of the Allies, the Soviet MIGs resorted to peculiar psychic attacks accompanying the Anglo-American Douglases. 70 years have elapsed, and Moscow methods remain the same. I mean the current psychological tricks of Russians in relation to NATO aviation over the Baltic, Black and North Seas, etc.

War of 1950-1953 in Korea. In fact, it was the UN Force War against the Soviet Union and China.

Suppression of the revolution of 1956 in Hungary through direct military aggression of the USSR and the overthrow of the legitimate government of I. Nagy. On 4 November, his government was overthrown as a result of the Soviet troops offensive on Budapest. Fighting with the participation of 17 Soviet divisions continued until 10-11 November. About 3 thousand persons perished as a result of Hungarian events (about 2,400 Hungarians and about 600 servicemen of the Soviet Army). More than 190,000 Hungarians emigrated.

The Prague Spring 1968 - the period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia from 5 January to 20 August, 1968, culminating in  bringing Soviet troops and those of the Warsaw Pact into the country.

This is only direct interference of Moscow in internal affairs of other states, along with the so-called international assistance to Afghanistan, Angola, and other countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

At the present stage, Georgia and Transnistria should certainly be added.

And there is undoubtedly an unprecedented and cynical military aggression against our state, with which Russia has violated the post-war security system in Europe after the annexation of the Crimea and military invasion of the territory of Eastern Ukraine and created a dangerous precedent for the redrafting of state borders in the 21st century.

The intensification of the authoritarian regime, the revanchist spirits of the ruling elite and the violent attempts to restore Russia's influence at the territory of the former Soviet Union have become a security threat to the whole world.

Unprecedented neglect of international law by the Russian government has led to large-scale tragic consequences, first of all for Ukraine: murders and torture of servicemen, public activists and civilians; kidnapping and fabricated criminal prosecution of Ukrainian citizens; catastrophic socio-economic situation in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Russia's support for terrorist groups in the east of Ukraine was the cause of a large-scale air crash - the fall of the Malaysian Boeing of the MN17 flight hit by a Russian missile.

The investigation proved the involvement of Russian military formations in the operation, which resulted in firing residential areas in Mariupol by Grads in January, 2015. 29 persons were killed by shelling, 92 were injured.

Violations of the fundamental norms and principles of international law with regard to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states by the USSR and Russia have been taking place against the background of repressions and mass violations of international humanitarian law, fundamental human rights and freedoms within the Russian Federation.

Hence, I would put second the humanitarian perspective and humanitarian expansion (which hide fairly extensive and well-formed network of ideological and organizational factors starting from spreading former communist ideology - to today's idea of the Russian World, or opposing Western values in order to undermine and split the society in this or that country).

As far as it concerns Ukraine, it is worth giving an example, that as of 2014 more than 650 pro-Russian non-governmental organizations operated in this country, the purpose of which was undermining the society and initiating conflicts in various spheres of public life.

The ideology and propaganda of the so-called Russian World is particularly dangerous. Where Russia comes up with the idea, there is always war, destruction, poverty, blood and thousands of innocent victims.

 Third, these are economic wars of Russia. Gas, commodities, metals, agricultural products.

Finally, these are Russia's destructive activities within international organizations. In our opinion, precisely because of the position, or rather, the active work of Russia, the United Nations has actually has turned today from a tool for peacekeeping only to a discussion platform. The same applies to the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations, where, using various methods, Russia has been neutralizing the statutory instruments of these organizations. It concerns the impact of Russia to the Supervisory OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, non-payment of dues to the Council of Europe and efforts to split the Organization and neutralizing its potential.

Today Russia is using all these as elements of dully worked out hybrid war in view of its experience.

Hybrid aggression of Russia against Ukraine is carried out in four main areas: political, economic, information, and military. Today, Russia uses our state as a kind of testing area, which tests not only new weapons but also methods and means of conducting a modern (hybrid) war, which, by its political and informational aspects, has already gone beyond Ukraine and has touched practically the entire Europe and has reached the shores of the United States.

Turning closer to the topic, I would say: a legal one should be added to the elements of the hybrid war that will increasingly be used by Russia to justify its aggressive behaviour at the international arena, or will be directed to putting barriers to the legal and political assessment of Russia's actions in terms of its violating fundamental principles and norms of international law.

 To my personal opinion, both the Minsk Agreements and the Minsk process should be considered in this vein, into which, I am sure, Russia deliberately built two legal elements at the initial stage that a priori could not bring that process to a positive logical conclusion.

First - a legal nature of the Minsk Agreements. Apparently they have to be considered in law manuals.

Second - the structure of the Minsk process, which contains elements of blocking the adoption of certain decisions.

Is the response of the world community to these threats adequate? The answer is obvious - no.

In fact, it is not really known whether, in fact, Kaiser von Bismarck said precisely that in the 19th century: "No treaty with Russia is worth the paper on which it is written", but I think he would have put it exactly in the same way today.

Thank you for your attention.


* Information about the author:

Dr. Valery Grebenyuk, Ambassador, Diplomatic Advisor, Security Service of Ukraine

The article is based on the address at the International Conference " Violation by Russia of International Law: Consequences for the World"

10.07.2018 08:00:00