Brussels, Belgium – The European Parliament has declared Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” saying that Russia’s atrocities against Ukrainians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure violate international and humanitarian law.
Parliament’s move on Wednesday “>was welcomed by Ukrainian officials, who have been pressuring European Union and NATO countries to label Russia a terrorist state.
“Russia is a terrorist state: confirmed by the European Parliament. Russia has a history of acts of terror against sovereign states, support for terrorist regimes and organizations, including Wagner, terror war in Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. tweeted as he thanked the European Parliament for its “clear stance” towards Russia.
However, the European Parliament’s Russia label is not legally binding.
The EP Plenary has 🗳️voted and declared 🇷🇺 Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism
— Audiovisual Service of the European Parliament (@europarlAV) November 23, 2022
“The EU does not have a centralized list of state sponsors of terrorism or an equivalent mechanism. Therefore, there will be no immediate legal consequences. The European Parliament has limited influence on foreign policy decision-making, which is under the control of the 27 EU member states,” Sajjan M Gohel, a counter-terrorism expert and visiting professor at the London School of Science, told Al Jazeera. Economics (LSE).
Parliament’s statement “is largely a symbolic indictment of Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” he said.
While the statement mainly focused on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Parliament also called on EU leaders to include the Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group of mercenary fighters, known for some horrific atrocities in Syria, and the 141 .º Russian Special Motorized Regiment, the Kadyrovites. for brutal operations in Syria and Ukraine, to the EU terrorist list.
She is ready it was established by the bloc in 2001 as a counter-terrorism initiative in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York.
So far, the EU has declared 13 individuals and 21 groups and entities, including ISIL and al-Qaeda, terrorists and imposed sanctions on them.
Members of the European Parliament hope their stance on Russia, announced at their headquarters in Strasbourg, will spur a move towards a legal structure that would allow states to be labeled sponsors of terrorism and then put Russia on the list.
Bruno Lété, a senior fellow at the US German Marshall Fund in Brussels, told Al Jazeera that Parliament seeks to isolate Russia internationally.
“First of all, through this announcement, the European Parliament wishes to put pressure on EU member states to take a stronger stance towards Russia, compared to their allies across the Atlantic who have not yet called Russia a terrorist state,” he said.
“Secondly, there has been much talk about the creation of a separate court to investigate war crimes and human rights violations committed by Russia in Ukraine. Parliament’s declaration could speed up that process,” he added.
The Kremlin angrily retaliated.
“I propose to designate the European Parliament as a patron of idiocy,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
Hours after the declaration, Moscow launched a series of missiles across Ukraine, a sequence of events not lost on Ukrainian ministerial adviser Anton Gerashchenko, who tweeted: “Rockets hit Kyiv just after the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
The rockets hit Kyiv just after the European Parliament recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Confirmation received. pic.twitter.com/cwpI7ZJEKK
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) November 23, 2022
Meanwhile, the European Parliament’s website faced a “sophisticated cyber attack”, according to Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
“A pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility. Our IT experts are resisting and protecting our systems. This, after we proclaimed Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
My answer: #SlavaUkraini,” he said in a tweet.
Oleg Ignatov, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Russia, told Al Jazeera that Moscow was unlikely to respond in kind, as the label is merely symbolic.
“Moscow would be more hurt if this recognition came from the United States. Such a decision would have concrete legal consequences. Then people could sue the Russian state in American courts and claim compensation from the Russian state’s money and property abroad,” he said.
Divisions in the European political spectrum
Russia is the first state to be declared a sponsor of terrorism by the European Parliament.
But the vote was not approved unanimously, and members of the right-wing political blocs within the European Parliament refused to consider Russia affiliated with terrorism.
An overwhelming number of legislators, 494, voted “yes.”
But 58 voted “no” and 44 abstained.
“Resolutions can only be adopted based on support and voting. Even here… we see that the political spectrum was quite divided,” Lété said.
“The central parties, the middle parties, the liberals, the socialists, all voted overwhelmingly.
“But [on the] extreme spectrum, you see that sometimes it was less.”
He said a similar voting pattern would likely emerge if European officials tried to lump other nations into the same group.
“I think it is the same for… Syria or other countries. Everything depends on the political support for such a resolution. And I don’t see it happening right now for these other countries.
“You know, I think with Ukraine, there is a very strong emotional bond and reaction here in Europe, less so with countries that are further away.”
So far, Washington’s terror list lists Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Iran as countries that “repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism.”
Ignatov explained that US President Joe Biden’s administration has resisted labeling Russia, as this would likely close the channels for dialogue with Moscow.
“Moscow has admitted that it could break diplomatic relations with Washington if it makes such a move. Washington wants to leave the way open for Russia to get out of the war in Ukraine through diplomacy,” Ignatov added.
It is unclear what the European Parliament’s move may mean for the EU and the continuation of the war in Ukraine.
While the leaders of the Baltic nations (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland have called on the rest of the EU to label Russia a terrorist state, a unified decision has yet to be made.
“All EU nations overwhelmingly support Ukraine. But basically, the vision on how to reach peace is sometimes different. We see the countries are closer [in distance] Russia, like the Baltic countries and Poland, want Ukraine to win the war. While France or Germany want peace. And of course these are two very different strategies, two very different visions,” Lété told Al Jazeera.
He added that in the future, the European declaration could make it more difficult for EU nations to abandon sanctions against Russia if a peace deal is pursued.
“But peace depends on events on the battlefield, and not on such statements,” he said.