We strongly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine because it constitutes a violation of the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation, and thereby against international law. This is an assault not only on Ukraine but the very foundations of international peace and security.
As we declared in our previous letter “Statement of Concerned Scholars on the Predicament of Crimean Tatars” in 20141, Ukraine had already been invaded on 27 February 2014 by Russia. Through orchestrating a coup d’etat in Crimea and an illegal and unlawful referendum, Russia announced the annexation of the peninsula on 18 May 2014. At that time, the West and the world declared that the annexation of Crimea is a blatant violation of the principle of territorial integrity and the way the territory was annexed does not fulfill the requirements of the principle of self-determination and democracy. The annexation also constituted a violation of the rights of the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea. However, the West did not take necessary actions to overturn the annexation. Russia continued its occupation of Crimea for the last eight years, attempting to change demographic realities on the ground by settling at least 500,000 Russians to the peninsula and engaging in widespread intimidation and human rights violations to cause Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians to leave the peninsula despite its obligation to obey Geneva Convention. Next, Russia also facilitated the separatist movements in the Donbas region of Ukraine with the involvement of its own military leadership and armory while not legally acknowledging its involvement, as part of a hybrid war strategy. Germany and France chose to engage in diplomacy with Russia in the Minsk process with no resolution while Russia continued to fuel a bloody war causing tremendous casualties. On 22 February 2022, Russia officially recognized break-away “Luhansk and Donetsk Republics”.
Today, Russia stages its third and most encompassing assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, building on its military bases in Crimea and Donbas. On 24 February 2022, Vladimir Putin declared that he aimed to destroy Ukraine’s military potential and change its geopolitical alignment, by implication transforming its regime type from a democracy into a client authoritarian state. At the same time with his declaration, he began to assault the country from three directions and by way of air, sea, and land, attacking both military and civilian targets, utilizing electronic warfare and cyber attacks, and malicious propaganda. These facts comply with the definition of war. Despite Russian rhetoric otherwise, the Russian military targeted Ukrainian civilian infrastructures such as kindergartens and hospitals and have already killed hundreds of civilians including children, and caused the flee of 150,000 refugees to the neighboring countries. Ukrainian civilians are also forced to take arms to defend their country, which has inferior conventional military capacity relative to Russia, nuclear power, and a militarized state.
By utilizing its veto power in UN Security Council, Russia prevented international preventive action against this aggression.
Unlike during the annexation of Crimea, in the current political climate, while it is harder for Russia to manipulate the information flow, it is our duty as academics to emphasize not only the illegality of Russia’s actions but also falsehoods in its historical narrative used as a pretext for its crimes. We will always be guardians of the principle that historical truth can only be attained by following scientific objectivity and historical methodology. Historical truth cannot be cynically bent to justify the subjugation of any minority or nation and the dismissal of their distinct culture and identity. On the contrary, history aims to ensure that injustices against other peoples are never forgotten and justice is served regardless of the time that has passed over historical crimes.
The Ukrainian government was elected through democratic elections, which were monitored by the international community and only Ukrainian people have a right to autonomously determine the direction of their domestic and foreign policy. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin does not represent the Russian people as he was not democratically elected. We stand in solidarity with the Russian protestors who risked their well-being to stand against this war. We warn that Vladimir Putin and all of his accomplices will be held accountable for the losses of life and crimes against humanity that will occur in this war as well as for those that have occurred in the ongoing occupations of Crimea and Donbas since 2014. We demand that in the negotiations after the war, Crimea’s status and Donbas region must never be compromised and sacrificed to Russia as a bargaining chip and the territorial integrity of Ukraine must be fully restored. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and the rest of the people who oppose the war. With this letter, we stand together with several other academic organizations that have openly condemned Russian violence and the invasion into Ukrainian sovereign territory.