Yesterday, a draft bill “On the Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine”, submitted by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, was sent for consideration to the relevant committee of the Verkhovna Rada. If it is adopted, the document would allegedly define the special legal status of certain ethnic groups, granting them broad cultural, economic, educational and linguistic rights. This sounds promising, but in fact – just another insinuation.
The fact is that, contrary to the title of the document, its content absolutely does not reflect and does not take into account the interests of the indigenous peoples living in Ukraine. The bill focuses exclusively on ethnic communities that have formed on the territory of the Crimean peninsula and now live in the Republic of Crimea. In particular, they are Crimean Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks. At the same time, the initiator of the draft law demonstratively does not classify the Russians, who are the largest ethnic group in Ukraine and originally inhabit its territory, as indigenous peoples. I regard this fact as an indicative manifestation of Russophobia, an act of destruction of the Russian cultural environment in the country.
I would like to note that Article 1 of this draft law deliberately emphasizes that only an ethnic minority that does not have its own state formation outside of Ukraine can be considered an indigenous people of Ukraine. This formulation runs counter to generally recognized international legal acts. For example, it does to the Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. It applies to ethnic groups united with a specific territory by historical hereditary ties. We are talking about peoples whose ancestors inhabited these lands during the period of conquest, colonization or the establishment of existing state borders. And which, regardless of their legal status, today retain their social, economic, cultural and political institutions.
The draft law submitted to the Rada is “dead” from a practical point of view. It is impossible to implement any of its articles for an obvious reason, namely, representatives of the ethnic groups, highlighted in it, are residents and citizens of another country.
I believe that the true goal of such an initiative is to rewrite history and to devalue the role of the Russian people in the formation and development of the Ukrainian state at the legislative level. This is another example of a total infringement of the rights of Russians in Ukraine. And in this case, there is every reason to use the UN legal mechanisms provided for the fight against discrimination against indigenous peoples.