Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk to the 993th meeting of the Permanent Council, 3 April 2014
Since the first days of March we have engaged in intensive dialogue within the OSCE and other international fora seeking effective response to the gravest threat to regional and global security that stemmed from illegal occupation and later annexation by the Russian Federation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in Ukraine. We have witnessed strong international support by the international community to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and broad international condemnation of the actions by the Russian Federation that violate imperative norms of international law, the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, as well as its own binding bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Adoption on 27 March 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly of a Resolution on “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” sent a clear message by the world’s community that Russia’s aggressive actions are unacceptable. The UN General Assembly’s resolution demonstrated full support of Ukraine by the international community in the face of armed aggression by the Russian Federation and the annexation of the territory of the country: 100 countries voted for the resolution, and 47 countries became its co-authors.
This resolution not only confirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, but also provides protection from any illegal attempts to change the borders of Ukraine, including by means of the threat or use of force. The international community unequivocally reaffirmed the inadmissibility of acceptance of any changes in the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol based on the illegal so-called “referendum” of March 16.
Regrettably, despite numerous calls of the international community the Russian Federation continues to fail to comply with its international obligations and commitments.
We register with concern that the Russian Federation takes further steps aimed at consolidating its illegal presence on the territory of Ukraine through establishing governmental bodies to run the occupied Crimea and forcing the local population to acquire Russian citizenship. This week the Russian Federation unilaterally denounced four agreements with Ukraine on the temporary stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine, claiming a fundamental change of circumstances and impossibility of implementation of the agreements. This action contravenes the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties and once again reveals the Russian Federation’s contempt for the generally recognized rules of international law.
Ukraine did not violate the terms of these agreements. It was the Russian Federation which first breached those agreements and then illegaly annexed the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, thus flagrantly violating international law. This was confirmed by the UN General Assembly resolution "On Ukraine's territorial integrity" dated 03/27/2014 and by the Venice Commission. In accordance with Articles 61 and 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the Russian Federation is not entitled to invoke the impossibility of realization, or a fundamental change of circumstances, as the grounds for termination of the agreement, if such action is the result of that party’s lack of fulfilling the obligations of the agreement in question or other international obligations.
I regret to inform the Permanent Council that the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea continues to deteriorate, thus having a significant negative impact on day-to-day life of the people in Crimea and leading to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Abduction and illegal forced detention of Ukrainians have proved to be a practice in occupied Crimea. We call on the Russian authorities to release those people immediately.
The Permanent Council has earlier been informed about the murder of the Crimean Tatar activist Reshat Ametov, who was found dead with signs of torture in early March in Simferopol. Several days ago a video evidence emerged that confirmed his kidnapping by a group of people, uniformed as so-called “Crimean self-defense forces”. There has yet been no progress in investigating this murder and bringing the responsible to justice.
We are seriously concerned about the intention declared by the Federal Migration Service of Russia to force all people that are not Crimean residents to leave the peninsula until mid-April. This unlawful step towards Ukrainian and foreign citizens, who reside in Crimea on a legal basis, would constitute a serious violation of their freedom to choose the place of residence as well as of their right to work.
Feelings of fear and uncertainty are reportedly growing among the people on the peninsula. The tourist season which is a backbone of local economy is already under threat. Disruption of economic ties with other Ukrainian regions seriously affects most of Crimean businesses, including famous wine-making industry.
There are ongoing concerns about protection of rights of various national minorities residing in Crimea. All Ukrainian national TV channels still remain off the air in Crimea having been replaced by the Russian channels. Pursuant to the outcomes of the visits to Ukraine of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and Representative on Freedom of the Media, including their expressed concerns after visiting Crimea, I reiterate my call to 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. We also call on the Russian Federation to facilitate access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by international observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine which must have access throughout the country in accordance with their mandate. We regard this mission as an appropriate tool to collect information on the ground, report on real situation, promote dialogue and reduce tensions.
During our previous meetings calls were made by delegations, in particular the delegation of the Russian Federation, to ensure thorough investigation of the tragic events in Kyiv on 18-20 February 2014 which resulted in murder of over one hundred people. The investigation of those events and bringing responsible to justice is a priority for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. In this connection I wish to inform that the law-enforcement bodies of Ukraine have detained a group of persons suspected in mass murder during those days.
In pursuance of justice, we also took note of the most recent statement by a high-level official of the Russian Federation that the Russian side possessed evidence of complicity of certain groupings to snipers’ shooting. Therefore, we would like to request the Russian side to share with the Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies this evidence for the purposes of investigation.
Furthermore, criminal proceedings have been launched in my country in relation to the citizen of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on suspicion of committing the mass murder. Ukraine has requested INTERPOL to issue an international wanted persons alert for the arrest of Mr.Yanukovych. As this citizen fled to the Russian Federation, necessary documents have been submitted by the Ukrainian authorities to the relevant Russian authorities for his extradition. We count on his extradition by the Russian Federation without further delay which would also be indicative of the genuine interest of the Russian side in the thorough investigation of the committed crimes and bringing those responsible to justice.
In addition, I would like to inform the permanent Council that the law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine are taking further coordinated measures to disband paramilitary formations, collect illegally possessed firearms as well as prevent provocations instigated at public assemblies, in particular by Russian citizens that belong to ultra-nationalist and radical-extremist Russian groups and movements. As one of the most recent examples, on 31 March the Security Service of Ukraine detained a Russian citizen Oleg Bakhtiyarov, one of the leaders of the Eurasian Youth Union of Russia, who offered money and recruited 200 people for storming buildings of the Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv. Other Russian ultra-nationalists are deported from the country on the account of their unlawful activities on the territory of Ukraine.
Ukraine stands fully committed to ensure efficient implementation of its OSCE commitments and has placed a priority on nation-wide dialogue, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, free and fair elections, as well as the political inclusiveness.
The Ukrainian Government has embarked on comprehensive reforms to consolidate democracy and rule of law, ensure economic growth and eradicate corruption. Among the most recent steps let me note the amendments to the national legislation for introducing effective democratic mechanisms of public access to information, which further enhance government transparency in Ukraine.
A new national Constitution will serve as a solid foundation, guaranteeing irreversibility and strengthening of our democratic choice. The draft is now under preparation in the Ukrainian Parliament and will be released in mid-April. It is envisaged that the Constitutional amendments will contain provisions for decentralization of power which will enhance the state governance and increase the competencies of the regions. This approach is fully consistent with the expectations of the Ukrainian society. Recent authoritative polls have shown that 61.4% of the Ukrainians see their country as a unitary state while only 12.5% of respondents consider that Ukraine should be federalized. On 1 April the Government adopted the Concept on Reforming Local Self-Government in Ukraine, which is centred on decentralization of power. The concept contains provisions for forming executive power in the regions through local elections and for reallocating tax funds for use by local communities.
Ukraine is fully committed to conducting free, fair and transparent early presidential elections on 25 May in accordance with OSCE commitments and international standards. We deem large-scale international observation to be highly important in the context of achieving this goal. The OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission already started its work in Ukraine on 19 March.
The deadline for submitting candidacies for the post of the President of Ukraine has expired. 46 citizens of Ukraine, representing the entire political spectrum, including all political parties in the Parliament, expressed their interest to run for the Presidential position.
Ukraine highly appreciates the strong stance that the OSCE participating States have expressed regarding the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. At the same time we are convinced that continuous vigorous efforts are needed within the OSCE – the largest regional security organization - to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as one of its participating States.
We reiterate our call to the Russian Federation to comply with its international obligations and OSCE principles and commitments, in particular concerning respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other participating States.
Under the current circumstances, Ukraine reserves its right to resort to the relevant international judicial bodies, including the International Court of Justice as the principle judicial organ of the United Nations, to restore its sovereignty over Crimea, as well as to return the property and demand compensation from the Russian Federation.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.