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Statement by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk on “Ongoing violations by the Russian Federation of the OSCE commitments in Ukraine”
27 March 2014 16:27

Delivered at 992th meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 27 March 2014

Since the first days of march we have engaged in intensive dialogue seeking efficient ways to respond to the most serious, since the end of the Cold war, threat to the regional, European and global security, stemming from violation by the Russian Federation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country through illegal occupation and later annexation of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Those actions by the Russian Federation constituted and continue to constitute a flagrant breach of imperative norms of international law, the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, bilateral and multilateral agreements, which guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity, inviolability of borders and non-intervention in its internal affairs. As such those actions were strongly condemned in clear terms by international partners of the Russian Federation, including in the OSCE.

On 13March 2014 the Government of Ukraine lodged to the European Court of Human Rights an inter-State application under Article 33 of the European Convention on Human Rights against the Russian Federation. The Court indicated the interim measures, immediately calling upon both parties to refrain from taking any measures, in particular military actions, which might entail breaches of the Convention rights of the civilian population, including putting their life and health at risk, and to comply with the obligations under the Convention, notably in respect of Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment).

Contrary to this call of ECHR and calls of the international community, the Russian Federation took further steps to illegally annex Crimea. Such territorial acquisition is null and void under international law as it results from an act of aggression against Ukraine and is based on illegitimate and illegal so-called “referendum” in Crimea of 16 March, which violated the Constitution of Ukraine and norms of international law. I would like also to bring it to the attention of the Permanent Council that the Venice Commission reached a unanimous decision at its 98th plenary session (March 21-22, 2014) that the so-called “referendum” in Crimea was unconstitutional and illegal. Moreover, the Venice Commission also concluded that the Russian Federation law “About changes to the Federal Constitutional law regarding the adoption of new subjects of the Russian Federation” contradicts international law, in so far as it violates the principle of territorial integrity, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of another country.

Dear colleagues,

I regret to inform the Permanent Council that the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has continued to deteriorate since our last meeting. The Russian troops have assaulted and stormed Ukrainian military bases, Navy and Border Guard units. In order to avoid deadly incidents and confronted with continuous provocations, intimidation and threats against Ukrainian servicemen the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine decided to carry out redeployment of Ukrainian military forces from the Crimea.   

Over the recent days the Russian side has assaulted and captured ten Ukrainian naval ships, including flagship vessels, corvettes, landing ships, minesweepers and submarine, which had been earlier blocked from exit into the open sea by sinking old Russian vessels. I would recall that three years ago one of the captured Ukrainian ships, the “Kostyantyn Olshanskyi” landing ship, saved 193 people, including Russian citizens, evacuating them from Libya.

This is the state property of Ukraine which has its established value. The illegal acquisition of the state property by a foreign state would lead to serious political and legal consequences. Ukraine reserves its right to resort to international judicial bodies to return the property and demand compensation from the Russian Federation. Lawyers can probably debate on how to qualify these actions in legal terms – as acts of state robbery or piracy – when the cases are taken up in courts. We call on the Russian Federation to refrain from further violations of international law and immediately return the captured vessels and military equipment safe to Ukraine voluntarily.

Following the assaults on Ukrainian military and navy facilities several Ukrainian officers were abducted or detained. After days of illegal detention with their whereabouts unknown, it was only yesterday that the officers were released. They report on measures of coercion from the Russian military.  

In view of Russian occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and capturing, among other facilities, of the Ukrainian Naval Headquarters, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine decided to cancel 14th activation of the Black Sea Naval cooperation group – BLACKSEAFOR. Illegal actions by the Russian Federation undermined the very foundation of the Black Sea security system, which has been developed over many years, while their negative and unpredictable implications may affect not only the Black Sea region but the entire Europe.

Ukraine continues to view with serious concern ongoing concentration of Russian troops in the Crimea as well as in close vicinity to the Ukrainian border in the east and north of the country. The Russian military formations deployed close to the border with Ukraine at a long distance from their permanent bases of stationing belong to Russian elite forces of paratroopers and motorized armoured brigades.

We are seriously concerned about deterioration of situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Concrete evidence of torture and abduction of the Ukrainian citizens has been registered, there is a wide-spread feeling of fear among the people on the peninsula. According to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, more than 3600 people from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea addressed Ukrainian authorities asking for assistance in leaving Crimea for other Ukrainian regions. Notably, nearly two-thirds of the refugees, most of them Russian language speakers, indicated preference for re-settlement to the western regions of Ukraine, proving again groundless the numerous attempts by the Russian media to play off Ukrainian ethnic communities and different regions against each other. All Ukrainian national TV channels and the local Crimean Tartar channel remain off the air in Crimea having been substituted by Russian channels. Pursuant to the outcomes of the visits to Ukraine in March of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and Representative on Freedom of the Media, including their expressed concerns after visiting Crimea, I wish to call on the Russian colleague to facilitate their access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to establish in an impartial manner the real situation on the ground.

I already registered at our previous PC meeting the serious concern of the Ukrainian side over the media policy by Russian TV channels, disseminating deceitful information on Ukraine and labeling Ukrainian people as “neo-Nazi”, “fascists” and “extremists”. I wish to reiterate again that there can be no justification for dangerous falsifications, distortions and policies of inciting hatred between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.

This week the Kyiv District Administrative Court suspended the broadcasting of four Russian TV Channels for the time of consideration of a lawsuit filed by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine on account of non-compliance of their programming with the national legislation of Ukraine, which bans incitement of inter-ethnic hatred. This ruling is in line with the national legislation and provisions of the 1950 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which, in particular, stipulates that the exercise of the freedom of expression “may be subject to … restrictions…, as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, territorial integrity or public safety…

Regrettably, we have also witnessed recently an increasing number of statements or commentaries released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation based on unverified and ungrounded information. This information is thoroughly checked by the Ukrainian side and has not found its proof. In this context I would also recall the last meeting of the Permanent Council of 20 March, when delegations around the table sympathized with the Ukrainian delegation over the shooting of a Ukrainian serviceman in Simferopol during the assault on a Ukrainian military facility. Then my distinguished Russian colleague asserted that the shooting had been carried out by a 17 years old sniper from western Ukraine, who was already detained. This information was not true. It was refuted on the same day even by the separatists-controlled so-called “Crimean prosecutors office”. In this connection I would like to call on the Russian colleagues not to use unverified and ungrounded information, which can only mislead our dialogue.

Ukraine continues to maintain the view that resumption of direct bilateral dialogue with the Russian Federation could be instrumental for clearing ungrounded allegations, de-escalating situation, resolving the crisis through diplomatic and political means on the solid basis of international law, bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Therefore, we welcome the fact that two Foreign Ministers met recently in The Hague. We are ready to furthering a direct dialogue with the Russian Federation on all issues of interest, dialogue based on those principles, that both Ukraine and the Russian Federation have committed themselves to abide by as UN member-states and OSCE participating States.  

Being fully committed to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Government of Ukraine demonstrates openness and transparency in relation to observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the national minority rights, on the territory of Ukraine. We believe that the OSCE engagement on the ground will contribute to dispelling concerns over alleged violations in this area and provide the OSCE participating States with reliable information.

In this regard we consider the active engagement of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, who is currently paying a visit to Ukraine, and her close monitoring of the situation on the ground, to be extremely important. The High Commissioner must have access to the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea.

The Human Rights Assessment Mission, consisting of the ODIHR’s and HCNM’s experts, which arrived to Ukraine upon invitation of the Government of the country, will be completing its work on the ground soon. We look forward to the report of the Mission, its conclusions and recommendations which will be thoroughly examined by Ukrainian authorities.

I wish to thank the Swiss Chairmanship for its tireless efforts leading to adoption of the Permanent Council decision of 21 March on deployment, upon request of the Government of Ukraine, of a special monitoring mission of international observers to Ukraine. The agreed mandate of the OSCE monitoring mission encompasses the entire territory of Ukraine, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which is an integral part of the Ukrainian State.  

We regard this special monitoring mission as an appropriate tool to collect information, report on the security situation, promote dialogue and reduce tensions.

Dear colleagues,

Later this evening, the United Nations General Assembly will be debating a draft resolution on “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”. The document is intended to confirm adherence to the fundamental principles of international peace and security. We therefore call upon the OSCE participating States to support the adoption of the aforementioned UNGA Resolution. 

Thank you.

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