Crimea Conflict on the Chessboard

Crimea Conflict on the Chessboard

| 40 | Chess Event Coverage

The Ukrainian Chess Federation has sent an open letter to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) “in respect of the exclusive jurisdiction” and “to express grave concern on increased number of serious violations of FIDE rules and principles by the FIDE Secretariat.”

In other words: the Crimea conflict between Ukraine and Russia has now become part of chess politics as well. 

This week received an open letter by the Ukrainian Chess Federation (in PDF here), addressed to FIDE. The issues discussed seem to be the result of the tense relations between Ukraine and Russia, and their national chess federations.

First, the UCF urges FIDE to “express its position as to the organization of chess tournaments on the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) and city of Sevastopol.” Since FIDE holds the principle that only one national chess federation is recognized on the territory of a state, the UCF claims that it still holds exclusive jurisdiction over the territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, even after its annexation by Russia in February. 

The UCF wrote a proposal to the FIDE General Assembly that will be held 11-14 August in Tromsø, Norway and referred to the UN resolution about the Crimea conflict:

In accordance with the Olympic Charter and Chapter 02 of FIDE Statutes, one of the fundamental principles of FIDE is that only one national federation should have the principal authority over chess activities in each country. Taking into account that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol remain integral parts of the territory of Ukraine in accordance with the resolution of UN General Assembly meeting of 27 March 2014 and international law, FIDE affirms that the Ukrainian Chess Federation remains exclusive authority over chess activities under FIDE auspices conducted in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol (Crimea region).

The Ukrainian Chess Federation remains the only national chess federation validly formed in Ukraine. FIDE will consider any attempt by another national chess federation to organize chess tournament under auspices of FIDE or otherwise exercise its jurisdiction in the territory of Crimea region as contrary to the Statutes of FIDE and the Olympic Charter.

However, on the official Agenda for the General Assembly this proposal by the UCF was not included. The UCF claims that it was sent to the FIDE Secretariat as early as 5 May 2014 (the open letter has “2013” but that must be a typo), well in time for the Agenda's deadline. And according to the FIDE Statutes, it therefore has to be included in the Agenda:

“4.11 Proposals of members or FIDE officials or organisations, or affiliated international organisations admitted under Art. 2.8, which are to be included in the agenda for the General Assembly, should reach the Secretariat not later than three months before the beginning of the General Assembly, together with the reasons for the proposals.

Proposals submitted within this time limit must be included in the agenda for the General Assembly.”

The open letter describes the communication between the UCF and FIDE in this matter:

(...) FIDE Secretariat stated first that “Proposal N 1 is not for FIDE, as this is your internal issue” and subsequently that “Proposal 1 is political and thus should not be on the Agenda” and, therefore, such proposals must be excluded from the Agenda. Thus, the FIDE Secretariat (more precisely the FIDE Executive Director Mr. Freeman) violated mandatory provisions of the FIDE Chapter 04 (article 4.11) as it is not within the authorities of FIDE Secretariat to make such a decision and the Secretariat simply is not authorized to take the functions of the General Assembly in assessing the content of the proposal.

All attempts to receive comments of Mr. Freeman in respect of mandatory nature of the provision relating to the inclusion of the proposals into Agenda remained unattended. The only comment was that “As FIDE Secretariat, we are responsible for the Agenda” which is a far-reaching and dangerous conclusion beyond any reasonable interpretation of the functions of the FIDE Secretariat. 

FIDE claims that the issue is political, while the UCF claims it is not. This can be debated, but the UCF seems to have point when they claim that the issue is not “internal.” More than one national chess federation is involved: both the Ukrainian and Russian chess federations.

Lately, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has made the impression that he has excellent relations with the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and so it won't be a surprise when future events held in Crimea will be rated as Russian events. Now that the UCF proposal is not on the General Assembly Agenda, the matter cannot even be discussed.

FIDE's policy isn't different from those of other big sports organizations, such as FIFA or UEFA, who tend to avoid intervention and prefer to remain on the sidelines. When former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was imprisoned shortly before Euro 2012, which was staged in Ukraine and Poland, UEFA officially took “no position.”

The UCF's open letter ends with an issue that is not directly related to the Crimea conflict, but again the UCF and the RCF are involved. It is about a possible transfer of world #7 on the women's rating list, Kateryna Lagno, from the Ukrainian Chess Federation to the Russian Chess Federation. Until this moment it is unclear under which flag she will play at the upcoming Olympiad, but since the UCF is against the transfer, it is unlikely that she will be play for Russia in Tromsø.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is one that affects the whole world, and now it is also fought over the chessboard. At the risk of using a terrible cliche, the two countries definitely seem to have reached a stalemate position.

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