The European Parliament has sent a powerful message to the Kremlin on Wednesday about its international isolation and about the future legal consequences that its war of aggression in Ukraine may have. The European Parliament has approved by a large majority a resolution that designates Russia as a State promoter of terrorism for its “inhumane and brutal” acts on Ukraine and its citizens. The declaration is not binding, because the European Parliament does not have a legal framework that protects this type of blockade of Moscow, but it has a great symbolic charge. And more so at a time when the army of Russian President Vladimir Putin is charging hard against the Ukrainian energy infrastructure, in the middle of winter. “Deliberate attacks and atrocities carried out by Russia against the civilian population, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law amount to acts of terror against the Ukrainian population and constitute war crimes.” , highlights the resolution, which calls on the Twenty-seven to follow the line and declare Russia a “promoter of terrorism.”
As MEPs voted on the symbolic resolution, the Kremlin has once again deliberately targeted power plants in Ukraine, where there are already massive blackouts and serious transportation problems are starting to take place; a maneuver by Russia to try to subdue the population in this way after the severe setbacks suffered by the Moscow troops. More than 10 million Ukrainians (a quarter of the pre-war population) lost power earlier in the month as temperatures began to plummet. The Russian attacks have caused damage to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure for more than 1.9 billion euros, according to data from the Government of President Volodímir Zelenski.
The declaration of the Eurocámara, promoted by the groups of the right, goes in a different line from the one followed by the United States. Until now, despite the claims of some congressmen, the Joe Biden Administration has refused to declare Russia a “promoter” of terrorism, arguing possible unintended legal consequences for its system. The US State Department considers four countries — Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba — to be state sponsors of terrorism, which means they cannot export defense materiel and are subject, for example, to financial restrictions. Bringing in Russia would result in more sanctions and probably in freezing the lines of diplomatic communication that still exist between Washington and Moscow.
A similar framework does not exist in the EU, says Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian MEP from the European People’s Party, and one of the drafters of the resolution. “Russia is not only a State that sponsors terrorism, but a State that uses terrorist means,” concludes Kubilius. “The recognition of this fact by the European Parliament sends a clear political signal. Europe, the Europeans, do not want to remain passive and impassive when their great neighbor violates all humanitarian and international norms”, he remarks.
The precedents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland
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The Ukrainian president has repeatedly called on the EU and other Western allies to declare Russia a “terrorist state.” “It must be isolated at all levels and held accountable to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and around the world,” the Ukrainian leader said. The resolution of the European Parliament is a novelty for the bloc, but it follows in the footsteps, instead, of several national parliaments: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have in recent weeks designated Russia as a state promoter of terrorism in statements that are also non-binding . Resolutions that the Kremlin has defined as “Russophobic” and “discriminatory”.
The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe asked its 46 member states (among which Russia is no longer included) last October to declare the Eurasian country, under the government of Vladimir Putin and his security apparatus, as a terrorist regime. Russia represents, says the resolution of the European Parliament approved this Wednesday, “a risk to the security of the entire European continent and the international order based on rules”, the text abounds, which has been promoted by parliamentarians from the European People’s Party (EPP), the group of the liberals Renew Europe and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). The Social Democratic group, which at first was reluctant to the resolution because it considered that it did not have great practical effects, has finally voted in favor of the text. “With its terror strategy, Russia seeks to frighten the civilian population, violating international law and human rights. It is important to register all actions because Putin and those who help him in his actions will have to give an account in The Hague Tribunal for war crimes, ”remarks Iratxe García, president of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
MEPs accuse Russia of creating a global food crisis and weaponizing hunger and point to the Kremlin army as responsible for the murders of thousands of civilians, hundreds of children, summary executions, rape, torture, large-scale arrests, deportations forced. “These brutal and inhumane acts are causing death, suffering, destruction and displacement,” says the text, which has gone ahead by 494 votes in favor, 58 against and 44 abstentions.
Russia has reacted angrily, for years, in addition, the Kremlin has refused to discuss seriously with the EU because it has always preferred bilateral talks, under the premise of “divide and rule”. “I propose to designate the European Parliament as a sponsor of idiocy,” said the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zajárova, on her Telegram channel.
The resolution comes at a time when some voices are demanding that the EU analyze what relations with Russia should be and when the European Commission, which has already approved eight packages of sanctions against Russian individuals and companies for the invasion of Ukraine, is contemplating taking forward a ninth; with more and more complications to find new substantial sectors to sanction and to reach a unanimous agreement of all the Member States.
The EU has a list of terrorists, but does not allow the inclusion of States; only from specific people and organizations. A point that Kubilius and other MEPs believe should be reviewed; however, this would require unanimity. The MEPs also demand that the Russian group of Wagner mercenaries – which has played a prominent role in the invasion of Ukraine, but which has been well known for its presence in African countries, Venezuela and Syria – be included in the list of terrorist organizations; also to the groups led by the Chechen forces of Ramzan Kadírov (such as the one known as the Kadirovites, the special motorized regiment 141).
The resolution of the European Parliament heats up the debate on relations with Russia on the table, but it also puts the focus on the present and future repair for Ukraine. With it, says the Estonian MEP Riho Terras, the formulas should be carried out to use the Russian properties and assets frozen in the EU in the recovery fund for Ukraine.
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