Statement by Human Rights Organizations on the Remark by the President of Bulgaria Regarding the “Russianness” of Crimea

19 / 11 / 2021

As we learned from Bulgarian media, the current President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, made a number of statements during the presidential debates. Those statements question Bulgarian politics of non-recognition of the Russian occupation of Crimea. In particular, President Radev stated that Crimea “is currently Russian,” that sanctions against Russia are not effective and that “Russia is a very important factor in a fight against world terrorism.”

The Ukrainian human rights advocacy community understands that the presidential elections in Bulgaria are an exclusively internal affair of this state. We are not planning to make any statement in support of or against any of the presidential candidates. However, because statements by President Radev infringe on the Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, undermine the joint EU policy of non-recognition of the Russian occupation of Crimea, and despise the victims of the Russian occupation of the Peninsula, human rights organizations of Ukraine believe it is necessary to condemn these statement.

Bulgaria is one of the states that has consistently supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. For instance, Bulgaria voted in favor of the Resolution by the UN General Assembly 68/262 “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine.” Every year Bulgaria votes in favor of Resolutions by the General Assembly that relate to the situation with human rights in the occupied Crimea, as well as to militarization of Crimea and parts of the Black and Azov seas. Bulgaria also votes in favor of prolongation and reinforcement of sanctions against Russia. Those sanctions were implemented in response to the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine. Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Svetlan Stoev, participated in the Summit of the Crimea Platform that took place on August 23, 2021. With regards to this, the statement by the Bulgarian President about the “Russian Crimea” seems uncoordinated with the foreign policy of Bulgaria towards the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict; this statement undermines the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine as well as friendly relationships and partnership between Bulgaria and Ukraine.

Sanctions that have been imposed against Russia by the EU member states and other countries serve as a restraining mechanism against the further Russian aggression against Ukraine. Those sanctions are also one of the forms of responsibility of Russia for violating basic principles of the international law, fixed in the UN Charter and in the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and blatant violations of human rights, perpetrated by Russia and its occupying administrations in Crimea and Donbas. No norm of the international law forbids Bulgaria or any other country to impose stricter sanctions against Russia, in case there is any doubt about the effectiveness of the current sanctions mechanism.

Finally, the statement that cooperation with Russia is necessary to fight international terrorism seems unfounded as well. Over the last few months, representatives of the Afghan Taliban movement visited Moscow several times and conducted negotiations with the Russian diplomats. This happened despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the Taliban as a terrorist organization back in 2003. Meanwhile, the Russian occupying authority uses its anti-terrorist legislation in order to persecute Crimean Tatars for even the smallest disagreement with the Russian political repressions in Crimea. At this time, 80 Crimea remain behind bars for politically-motivated accusations of terrorism. A significant number of those prisoners are civic journalists, human rights defenders, or activists who used to help victims of political persecutions in Crimea.

Based on this, human rights organizations call on the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria to:

  • Strongly condemn the statement by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria and presidential candidate Rumen Radev regarding the “Russianness of Crimea”;
  • Make a clear statement that would reflect an official stance of the Republic of Bulgaria  regarding the situation on the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol;
  • Consider the extension of the list of persons who appear under sanctions for being involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of human rights on the temporarily occupied territory of AR Crimea and Sevastopol;
  • Consider the imposition of additional sectoral sanctions against Russia in response to the continued Russian aggression and occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and parts of Donbas, as well as Russian military activeness in the Black Sea region.

NGO “CrimeaSOS”

Center of Civil Liberties

ZMINA Human Rights Center


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