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Power cut-offs in Crimea raise an old disarming question

November 23, 2015

In a very sporadic and ad hoc fashion, throughout 2015 this blog has made numerous comments suggesting that the State get to grips with the illegal actions of certain groups employing the use of firearms and explosives on occasion that clearly falls far outside of the rule of law.

For example “…Right Sector (or anybody else) cannot be allowed to shoot people or blow up police cars without legal consequences…” from an entry in July.  There are several other entries during the year that call for the disarming of illegally armed entities (whatever the brand), and some thoughts upon just how to go about it.

And lo now in Kherson Oblast there is the downing of power lines to Crimea via explosives causing a blackout across the peninsula.  Readers may be right to point out that the Geneva Convention puts the onus on the Occupying Power (Russia) to keep the lights on (certainly in some facilities).  Indeed Russia would (unlawfully) consider Crimea as its territory, thus it is no less obliged to keep the power on for “its” citizenry.

Crimea, like the rest of Ukraine, is not unused to power outages or cut-offs.  The Kremlin has turned off the gas on more than one occasion over the years during the winter months, and Ukrainian power outages are hardly unheard of.  Only a sustained disruption will go beyond a collective “tut” within society.

It is perhaps right to bemoan what appears to be the absence of a “Crimean Strategy” by the Government of Ukraine.  If there is a “Crimean Strategy” then the Ukrainian leadership, as with so many other matters of import, has spectacularly failed to inform the Ukrainian constituency of its existence.  Even if the State policy more or less boils down to sustained international and domestic rhetoric, Crimea orientated sanctions, and then “wait” – then it should be communicated along with the reasons why.

It is certainly right to bemoan the failure to communicate any State “Crimean Strategy” if one actually exists, for it has led to an unofficial blockade of the peninsula, and now the demolition of power lines by “activists”.

Crimea

Yet the most concerning issue these events raise remains the fact that the State has still not taken on the issue of illegally held weaponry (firearms and explosives), nor those groups that commit acts that fall squarely outside the rule of law.  There has been absolutely no attempt to address the issue since absorbing of those willing into the military, national guard and police.  Those now armed or employing the use of arms and/or explosives outside of the institutions of State are clearly acting unlawfully.

As uncomfortable and prickly as it may be politically, the issue has to be tackled.

That is not to say the blockading of Crimea by protesters has to stop.  It may not be State policy to blockade Crimea – but it may be that State policy is not to interfere with a lawful protest that results in great difficulty in the transit of anything to and from Crimea.  The point being it must be and remain lawful to be tolerated (or tacitly/deniably encouraged) by the State if official State policy is not to blockade for political reasons.

If State policy is to stop the supply of electricity to Crimea so be it.  If State policy is to continue to supply electricity to Crimea, fair enough.   What cannot be State policy is the allowing of activists to illegally blow up the power grid to Crimea and dictate policy to the State through entirely unlawful acts.  The State is obliged to tolerate peaceful protest, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and all fundamental human rights, as well as those it has undertaken via domestic statute, as well as regional and international instruments – it is not obliged to tolerate gross violations of the law, indeed it is obliged to effectively deal with such incidents.

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” – Sir Karl Popper

The issue is that even if Kyiv was considering cutting the electricity supply to Crimea, it can hardly do so now lest it be seen to bow to the illegal actions of a small number of “activists” targeting and demolishing State infrastructure.   It is a precedent that it simply cannot be seen to be set.  Neither can it be seen to tolerate (once again) absolute criminality.  Whatever the justification felt in carrying out the act, it does not equate to legitimisation.

There is a growing and ever increasing urgency for the State to deal with the illicit arms and explosives within its territory, and the groups (of whatever brand) that employ their usage outside the confines of the law.

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