Impressions from #Crimea (2/3) – Cheerful identity

As soon as you arrive on Crimea, you will notice the happy cheerful display of the Russian identity. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look. The Russian identity is proudly displayed in every thinkable way. Very popular are the shape of Crimea in the colors of the Russian Flag, of course the Russian Flag itself, the outline of Russia including the Crimean Peninsula and basically anything that carries the colors White, Blue and Red. The only thing that comes close to the popularity of the Russian colors and the Russian flag is the portrait of Mr. Putin. People wearing shirts and jackets with his image, books, magazines, paintings on the walls, Mr. Putin is everywhere. Where World War II made many Heroes of the Soviet Union defending and liberating Crimea, Mr. Putin has become the undisputed Hero of Crimea in modern times by making the reunification with Motherland Russia happen. The next popular image are the Polite People in any way, shape or form, which filled the streets of Crimea during the referendum which lead to the reunification with Russia. The reunification so many craved for, the reunification the Crimean Parliament worked for since 1991 but wasn’t heard by neither Kiev nor Moscow.

Not aware that any of my work on the Crimean Constitution and the right for self-determination would become reality in the near future, I participated in conferences on this topic in Yalta in 2010 and 2012. Where I now see proud display of the regained Russian Identity of Crimea, I didn’t see that level of display of Ukrainian Identity on Crimea back then. There was an Ukrainian flag every now and then, mainly on official buildings, schools and the entrances of hotels where many other colors were flying, including Russian flags. In 2012, just weeks before EURO2012 started, there were certainly more Ukrainian flags carried by football fans, just like there were Russian flags carried by other fans. But nothing of that compares to how Crimea is now expressing being part of Russia and being proud of that.
Continue reading Impressions from #Crimea (2/3) – Cheerful identity

Impressions from #Crimea (1/3)

After visiting Crimea in 2010 and 2012 before the reunification and again three times this year, I want to share my impressions and the differences I have observed first hand during this trips. These are my personal observations and impressions, describing what caught my attention. A personal experience, seen through my eyes. In following posts, I will share my observations and opinions about what I have seen and experienced after leaving the airport but now I have share my experience with the airport. The same airport that was once in Ukrainian hands and left my with the most horrible travel experiences I have made since I’m handicapped.

In the past, Ukrainian Air Lines left me fully exposed to my handicap in the worst travel experience since I became handicapped!

The first impression Crimea made on me this year is a very personal and positive experience which you might only understand when you depend on your wheelchair to be mobile and independent. To put this in the proper perspective, you need to understand that with my wheelchair I am fully independent except for those odd moments where I need someone’s help to overcome an obstacle. I work out and exercise a lot to be able to overcome as much obstacles as possible without any help because my independence is very important to me. My girlfriend sometimes complains that I’m so stubborn and refuse even her help when I’m convinced that I can handle the situation alone. Once, so long ago that it seems like a different lifetime, I could climb mountains and jump from staggering heights to land on my feet with my parachute and after that run for miles with heavy package without getting tired. Those days are gone and done, nowadays my wheelchair have replaced the legs that once carried me wherever I want to go and I am proud of being able to go (almost) wherever I want with my wheelchair. Almost like in the old days.

Continue reading Impressions from #Crimea (1/3)

Flight #MH17 – Countering the sickening blame games on this dark day

It has been a dark difficult day for me like for so many others today. Remembering the victims of Flight MH17, thinking about everything that was written and said about this horrible incident, including my own words. We wend to church today, my girlfriend and newly found family at my side. We mourned together, we prayed together. We were close, as family and that means more to me than I am able to express. Back at my aunt’s house, tears overwhelmed me and I cried, my family cried with me. Again I felt flashes of anger boiling inside me, feelings I don’t want to have but I can’t avoid. My aunt sensed it, held my hand and just sat there with me. I felt what it means to have a family on this dark sad day.

And then I got a message from my dear friend Anna, a shocking message which sums up all the damage done by all the blame games going on since the massacre of Flight MH17. She wrote me “Do you hate me today?”. I tried to call her immediately but she didn’t answer the calls. But she wrote another message. “Your press all say we did it. Please don’t hate me for this!”.

My dear sweet friend finally answered the phone after many tries.

I don’t hate you, how could I hate you? Why should I hate you, you are my friend!

But they all blames us for killing your people a year ago. They all hate us for it, you also.

I don’t care what they write or what they say and no matter what, I don’t hate you. You are my friend!

But what if it was us? What if we did this?

We both know it wasn’t you and we both don’t know who it was. We will have to wait what the investigations show and no matter what it will show, it wasn’t you.

Will you still talk to me when they say it was us?

When that happens, I will talk even more to you than I do now. You are my friend, we have been friends since we were kids.
Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Countering the sickening blame games on this dark day

Flight #MH17 – Who allowed this to happen?

There are ongoing investigation into the crash of Flight MH17 by JIT and DSB which might or might not identify who is responsible for the attack on the commercial airliner in 17 July 2014. But there is another question to be answered which might help saving lives in the future:

Who allowed this to happen?

A friend does trainings coachings on the topic of Health and Safety for companies and his booklet provides a practical checklist for incidents every manager should ask himself whenever an incident occurred.. Two questions from this checklist keep circling my mind in relation to the crash of Flight MH17:

What have you done to prevent this?

What will you do to prevent this from happening again?

Looking at the days before the attack on Flight MH17 and at the current situation in various war-zones and unstable regions around the world, the answer to both questions appears to be “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Who allowed this to happen?

Flight #MH17 – Investigations and jurisdiction

After the downing of Flight MH17 over embattled Eastern Ukraine on 17/07/2014, killing 298 civilians on board the plane, 3 (!) investigations were initiated by two separated bodies of authority:

  1. The Dutch Safety Board (DSB), under authority of the United Nations body International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and in agreement with the Ukrainian State Aviation Administration (SAA) and Ukrainian National Bureau of Incidents and Accidents Investigation of Civil Aircraft (NBAAII) , opened the Aviation Security Investigation for the incident in which it is to determine what caused the crash of Flight MH17 and is also expected to provide recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future. The DSB has published a preliminary report in which it excluded technical and human failure as possible causes for the crash. An updated reported was distributed to the participants, being:
    1. The Netherlands (*)
    2. Ukraine (*)
    3. Russian Federation
    4. United States of America
    5. Malaysia
    6. United Kingdom
    7. Belgium (*)
    8. Australia (*)
  2. The DSB under the same authority, opened an investigation into the decision making process under which the airspace over embattled Eastern Ukraine was not closed prior to the incident, despite multiple aviation incidents in which military planes have been shutdown from various flight levels in the days prior to the crash of Flight MH17.
  3. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) (*), per agreement between the member countries under the leadership of the Justice Department of The Netherlands, opened the criminal investigation into the crash of Flight MH17 in which it will seek evidence of the guilty party/parties and adequate evidence for prosecution.

Although these investigations by the DSB and JIT will have significant overlap in available data and resources, it is important to understand the difference. First and foremost, the DSB will focus on the Aviation Safety related issues of the incident and recommendation for prevention. This investigation is bound by the rules of and authorized by the ICAO, which also stipulates that all ICAO members are obliged to participate in and contribute to the investigation on request of the leading committee. ICAO also stipulates that all members are bound to recognize the final outcome of the investigation and the ruling by the investigative body. None of this applies to the work of the JIT!

Continue reading Flight #MH17 – Investigations and jurisdiction

Flight #MH17 – It happened before, a sad history of attacks on commercial airlines

It has been almost a year since Flight MH17 was attacked and brought down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 innocent civilians on board the commercial airliner. Although we are still under shock of this horrible incident and the next of kin of the victims are still struggling with the traumas of this dramatic event, this is by far an unique incident. It happened before and it might happen again. This is an overview of the sad recent history of attacks on commercial airlines:

  • Iranian Air Flight 655 was shot down on 03/07/1988 by the USA, killing 290 innocent civilians on board.
  • Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 was shot down on 04/10/2001 by Ukraine, killing 78 innocent civilians on board.
  • Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on 17/07/2014 killing 298 innocent civilians on board and it is still to be determined who is responsible for this incident.

These flights have several facts in common:

  • All flights were registered standard commercial flights flying within their agreed flight path under internationally recognized Air Traffic Control.
  • All flights were transmitting international standard identification codes which clearly identified them as commercial flights.
  • All flights were shot down by military air defense systems.
  • At first, those responsible for this horrible incident denied responsibility…

Flight MH17 has however some facts which set it aside from the 2 other very traumatic incidents: Continue reading Flight #MH17 – It happened before, a sad history of attacks on commercial airlines

Why Crimea is not Kosovo – a follow up on The Kosovo Precedent

A follow up to The Kosovo Precedent and to answer the many questions about the relevance of the Kosovo Precedent to the case of Crimea.

The Kosovo Precedent in its legal component does not apply to Crimea and its democratic decision to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation as part of Russia for the following reasons (see also Crimea’s peaceful struggle for independence):

  1. The ruling on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Kosovo applies to regions of countries which have no Constitutional provisioning for a seceding process or are bound by a Constitutional body which would demand a majority ruling of the entire country without reflecting the regional interests and cultural backgrounds as is the case with the Ukrainian Constitution. The Autonomous Republic Crimea did and does have a ratified Constitution which does provide for the democratic process of referendum to change the state of the Republic and does authorize the parliament of the Autonomous Republic Crimea to initiate such process.
  2. The Autonomous Republic Crimea was prior to its occupation by Nazi Germany and its Allies during World War II, a Soviet Republic and as such the Autonomous Republic Crimea was already entitled to decide on its own future by the means of referendum under the Soviet Constitution as well as the Soviet decree by which other Soviet States were entitled to hold such referendums which let to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In short, Crimea was already provisioned for this process by its ratified Constitution and confirmed status as (former) Soviet Republic whereas Kosovo did not have such provisioning to which the “Kosovo Precedent” applies. But as explained in my previous post, there is more to the Kosovo Precedent: the use of military force by a foreign nation. Continue reading Why Crimea is not Kosovo – a follow up on The Kosovo Precedent

The Kosovo Precedent and what it means for Donbass and the rest of the world!

A Precedent is in most legal systems a binding ruling by an authorized Higher court which sets a framework for future cases with identical or at least very similar conditions and circumstances. Most published Precedents consist of the ruling itself and a detailed explanatory annotation to how and under which conditions this ruling should apply to future cases. A formal Precedent is seen as the application of the applicable laws and rules to a particular combination of conditions and circumstances. In future cases, the parties involved can plea to have this Precedent applied to the case at hand, or of course, argue that conditions and circumstances differ to the extend that this Precedent should not apply to this particular case.

In principal, a Precedent is valid until it is either overruled by a higher legal authoritative institution or when a Precedent is developed which specifies further conditions and circumstances to which it should apply. Depending on the legal system, the authoritative value Precedents can vary but most countries only accept rulings by Higher Courts as binding authoritative Precedent, referred to as Case Law. Rulings by Lower or Common Courts can be applied to similar cases but have no binding authoritative value, meaning that they are not binding for the Courts.

Beside the legal way of creating and applying Precedent Rulings and Cases, there is also the practical variation of Precedent Cases. In such practical Precedents, there is no actual ruling by a Court on the particular case. What is referred to as the Precedent is the mode of operation, actions and activities or lack thereof by a certain party under certain circumstances and conditions which would, following the principals of the Legal application of Precedents, also apply to other parties which conducted in the same manner and under the same or similar conditions and circumstances. Although such practical Precedents are not documented and annotated, it is common practice to argue that when Party A can or can not, then Party B can or can not as well under the same conditions.

What is commonly referred to as the “Kosovo Precedent”, actually consists of 3 components:

  1. The advisory opinion on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo by the International Court of Justice.
  2. The practical Precedent created by the deployment and use of foreign military force to implement the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo.
  3. The practical Precedent created limiting the jurisdiction of the responsible Tribunal to the native forces, individuals and authorities involved in the conflict and thereby excluding the foreign forces involved in the conflict from the jurisdiction of the responsible Tribunal.

Continue reading The Kosovo Precedent and what it means for Donbass and the rest of the world!

The Odessa Massacre – How History repeated itself!

When Nazi-Germany attacked Europe, it had clearly separated strategies for Western Europe and Scandinavia on the one hand and Eastern Europe on the other hand. The Western European Nations were to be conquered and submitted under the rule of German Supremacy and cleansed of all unwanted populations, the so called “subhumans”. The strategy of Nazi-Germany for Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries was based on the believe that the population would rapidly accept the German rule and the Arian-supremacy. For Western Europe and Scandinavia, Nazi-Germany set out these objectives:

  • Cleans all countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
  • Submit France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia in a Blitz-Krieg and place these countries under German ruling with focus on acceptance of being part of the 3rd Reich.
  • Defeat England within 6 months.

For Eastern Europe, Nazi Germany set out an entirely different strategy. Eastern Europe was what Nazi-Germany considered “Lebensraum”, badly needed place to extend the 3rd Reich eastwards and benefit from its fast agricultural potential, resources and workforce. After concurring the Eastern countries, the intention of Nazi-Germany was to have the Slavic race serve the Nazis as labor force. Hitler and his likes determined that to submit the Slavic populations and countries, they would have to achieve the following major objectives:

  • Cleans Slavic countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
  • Reduce the Slavic population to the required amount as workforce.
  • Defeat the strongest opponent in Europe: The Soviet Union.

These different objectives explain the brutality with which Nazi-Germany and its Allies operated in Eastern-Europe and the parts of the Soviet Union it conquered in the first year of their eastbound quest. The further east the Nazi-German troops wend, the harder the unbridled brutality against the population became, reaching the climax in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. And puzzling in any way imaginable, the further east the Nazi-Germans and Allies conquered countries, the stronger the propaganda of “liberators from the Soviet Union” seemed to work. Especially in Western-Ukraine, the Nazi occupiers were welcomed and millions joined the armed forces as volunteers. Continue reading The Odessa Massacre – How History repeated itself!

Gorlovka or what is left of it

Last week I was planning to write about Gorlovka, one of many friendly places I visited during the summer of 2012. Not a big city with flair and extravaganza and no ambition to become such a place. Just a typical town for this region. Schools, small and large businesses, students, bars, restaurants, churches, a famous cathedral. Nothing out of the ordinary and still very special. Special because the place is filled with friendly people. Or to be more precise, was filled with friendly people. Since the uprising in South-East Ukraine against the regime in Kiev, Gorlovka has been the center of war. Shelling of houses, buildings, infrastructure and even churches has become an almost daily routine. In the past days, the violence against this once peaceful town has escalated again and lives were lost, again. Children died and others were badly wounded.

I wanted to call a friend’s friend of whom I know he still has family living in Gorlovka but then my blood froze and I feared to hear bad news again. During my trip in 2012, I met so many friendly people of whom I don’t even know now if they are still alive. One evening, we ended up in a bar and watched the football game of the European Championships. We had a couple of beers, we ate some local food, we talked with many people. About the game, about the weather, about my wheelchair, about music. Smiling grim looks when I told them my father was Czech because the Czech Republic won the finals from Russia in hokey, followed by becoming “nascha Pavel” and a round of free beer when I added that my mother was Russian. Explaining that some day I will learn to speak Russian and the challenge to start right there at that moment. My friend from Moscow and our exchange student from Lugansk joking that they should learn to speak proper Russian themselves first and as always the classical joke “visit Russia before Russia visits you”.

Continue reading Gorlovka or what is left of it