Delivered at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 8 May
This Permanent Council meeting takes place amid ongoing violations by the Russian Federation of OSCE principles and commitments, annexation of the part of the territory of Ukraine – the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and deep concerns over deteriorating situation in the regions of east and south Ukraine over the past week that results from illegal actions supported by Russia.
Ukraine has been and remains committed to the implementation of the Geneva agreement of 17 April 2014.
We have informed the Permanent Council on several occasions about concrete and meaningful steps undertaken by the Government of Ukraine to implement in good faith the provisions of the Geneva agreement, including through active campaign to seize illegally-held arms from the population, developing a draft amnesty law for those who disarm and free illegally seized buildings, launching an inclusive political dialogue on constitutional reform and decentralization.
At the same time, failure by the Russian Federation to demonstrate effective commitment to the Geneva agreement not only impeded its implementation, but accompanied further escalation of situation in eastern regions of Ukraine. Expansion of activities of illegal armed groups, with Russian agents at their core, through endangering the lives of civilians, hostage-taking and torture, continuing seizures of administrative buildings created an atmosphere of terror and violence among population and undercut the letter and spirit of the April 17 Geneva statement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We express our gratitude to all participating States who shared the grief of the Ukrainian people over the tragic events in Odessa on 2 May that took lives of 46 people and left hundreds injured.
A thorough investigation, under civil society monitoring, has been launched to establish and bring to justice those responsible for the tragic events in Odessa. Pending the outcome of investigation, it is already obvious that a provocation was well-prepared in advance and carried out by those aiming at undermining the stability in the Ukrainian south as it had been earlier done in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. A group of provocateurs, acting within the crowd of pro-Russian protesters, attacked a peaceful march in support for united Ukraine, held by local residents and football fans of Odessa and Kharkiv teams. Using firearms, including assault rifle, provocateurs killed 5 and wounded 13 pro-unity people which triggered further escalation into the tragedy in the Trade Unions Building. The entire picture of what happened will be clear after investigation is completed, yet it is also evident now that the police failed in its task of safeguarding public order. The chiefs of Odessa police have already been sacked from their positions and are now under investigation, together with a number of other police officers, in connection with those tragic events.
We strongly condemn the pro-Russian provocations in the Ukrainian cities aimed at inciting hatred among Ukrainians and destabilizing the situation in a bid to disrupt the early presidential elections in Ukraine scheduled for 25 May 2014. The disruptive forces are plotting provocations, particularly tomorrow as Ukrainians will mark the Victory Day. The Government of Ukraine is taking steps to prevent these provocations. It also called on the citizens to refrain from participation in mass public events.
The Ukrainian government has acted responsibly throughout the crisis. The policy of restraint continued even after the occupation and annexation by the Russian Federation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea which flagrantly violated the fundamental principles of international law and the core OSCE principles and commitments. We have always sought peaceful solutions.
While the Ukrainian authorities offered and continue to offer amnesty to those who disarm, vacate illegally seized buildings and did not commit capital crimes, the armed extremist and subversive groups, led by Russian agents, in Donetsk and Luhansk regions continued to perpetrate crimes, including murder and hostage-taking of opponents, abduction of civilians, journalists, law-enforcement and international representatives, armed attacks on governmental buildings and weapons storages. The purpose of such groups is to further destabilize situation by paralyzing activities of local administrations and public services, spreading weapons among criminals and, thus, turning the territories where they operate into areas of lawlessness and fear.
Under these circumstances the Ukrainian special forces resumed on 2 May the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation in Donetsk region, aimed at neutralizing the terrorists and their armed accomplices. Since the resumption of operation growing evidence emerged that the Ukrainian forces faced well-trained and heavily armed professionals, who by no means belong to “peaceful local population”. In particular, three Ukrainian helicopters Mi-24 were shot down by MANPADS of Russian origin and Mi-8 transport helicopter sustained damage from ground fire. According to military experts, attackers applied professional tactics of double shot, which allows circumventing helicopter’s thermal trap.
The use of such sophisticated weaponry against Ukrainian forces reaffirms the assessment that the illegal armed groups in the east of Ukraine include professionals equipped, financed and directed from Russia.
Allegations by the Russian Federation which has described the anti-terrorist operation in the eastern Ukraine as a “punitive military operation against local population” are groundless and false.
Special forces are acting against those who committed and continue to commit crimes, pose armed resistance, ignore legitimate demands to free all hostages, disarm and vacate seized buildings. Not a single participating State will allow its towns to be overrun by armed militants. It is not only the right, but responsibility of the Ukrainian Government to uphold the rule of law, protect the citizens of the country and their rights and freedoms. In the last week illegally armed groups and local criminals in Donetsk and Luhansk regions arsoned cars and buildings, looted bank offices and shops, hijacked cash-in-transit van with 1 million hryvnya inside, causing the banks to limit their operations, robbed car dealerships of many new cars.
These are just few examples of criminal activities of those whom Russia portrays as peaceful people. We are also concerned, that, along with criminals, the Russian agents engaged outspoken Russian neo-Nazis into the subversive activities in Ukraine’s east. One of the latest evidence is the intercepted conversation between the leader of neo-Nazi Russian National Unity movement Barkashov with his Donetsk supporter and activist of separatist movement Boytsov on conducting and falsifying the so-called referendum on 11 May. We have reposted this interception with English and German subtitles on the Delegation’s web-page.
The anti-terrorist operation is conducted with extraordinary restraint to avoid casualties among civilians, although thus increasing the risks for the law-enforcement servicemen. At the same time, terrorists and armed militants show utter disdain for human life setting their firing positions in multi-story residence buildings, opening indiscriminate fire, cowardly using the cynical practice of “human shields”. In particular, on 3 May amid the conversation between Ukrainian servicemen and unarmed local residents in the village on Andreevka near Slavyansk, the terrorists opened fire from behind the civilians, killing two and wounding 12 Ukrainian servicemen.
We strongly refute as groundless all allegations by the Russian Federation on engaging foreign specialists and paramilitary structures to the anti-terrorist operation. It is conducted by special units of the Ministry of Interior and Security Service, the National Guard with participation of the Ukrainian Army units as auxiliary forces.
We welcome the release on 3 May of the inspectors of the OSCE military verification mission under the 2011 OSCE Vienna Document and accompanying Ukrainian escort team. Their release, preceded by intense consultations and suspension of the anti-terrorist operation, was a result of coordinated efforts, undertaken by the Ukrainian Government, security and law-enforcement bodies, regional administration, Russian mediator and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission.
Those responsible for the capture and detention of the unarmed monitors should be held accountable for their actions, as well as those who continue such unlawful acts in the country.
We consider the case of the release of military observers to be an example of the ability of all parties concerned to implement the Geneva agreements of 17 April 2014. We expect the parties to the Geneva agreements, including the Russian Federation, will remain resolute in striving for release of other hostages, still held by the terrorists. According to Ukrainian law enforcement bodies, no fewer than 30 people are still held hostage by the terrorist groups across Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Those, whom the Ukrainian forces succeeded to release, for instance, miner Oleksandr Vovk, abducted in Novogrodovka, Donetsk region on 4 May, informed of beatings and torture.
We have already drawn attention of the Permanent Council to the fact that provocations by the pro-Russian armed activists directly affect the situation with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine, which are now affected in the eastern part of the country.
Following illegal annexation by Russia, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is facing numerous humanitarian problems. One of them is the problem of internally displaced persons. So far nearly 5 000 Crimean Tatars had to leave the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian mainland following the illegal occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
On 3 May Mustafa Dzhemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars, was denied access to Crimea when he tried to enter it by land. Before that, on 2 May, Mr Dzhemilev was denied entry in Moscow airport.
We strongly condemn such actions of Russia and the occupying authorities in Crimea. They violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of indigenous people, stipulated by international law, in particular by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Such actions are a manifestation of xenophobia and intolerance which are now instilled by the occupying forces in Crimea.
In this regard let me recall that at the last week’s Permanent Council meeting the distinguished Ambassador of the Russian Federation refuted the existence of entry ban for travel of Mr.Dzhemilev to Crimea. In light of the recent developments I would like to seek clarifications from my Russian colleague on which grounds the leader of the Crimean Tatars has been denied entry to his native soil.
Let me inform the OSCE delegations that Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev spoke today at the informal meeting “Human Rights Situation in Crimea, Ukraine”, jointly organized by the delegations of Ukraine and the Republic of Lithuania. The meeting aimed at shedding the light on the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine, in the sphere of the human rights, including minority rights.
As we approach the early presidential elections to be held in Ukraine on 25 May 2014, I would like to reiterate Ukraine’s firm commitment to ensure free, fair and transparent early presidential elections in accordance with the OSCE and international standards. We welcome broad international observation of these elections and note that it will be the largest ever election monitoring mission by the OSCE.
We call on all participating States, including the Russian Federation, to support the presidential elections of 25 May which will enable the people of Ukraine from all regions to elect their leader freely and fairly through democratic process.
Ukraine welcomes and supports the significant role of OSCE in international efforts aimed at de-escalation of situation in and around Ukraine. Particularly important will be those efforts of the Organization that will contribute to assisting continuation of nation-wide dialogue in Ukraine, effective implementation of the mandate of OSCE SMM, as well as deployment of international observers to monitor the presidential elections in Ukraine on 25 May 2014. Today the Swiss Chairmanship will present in Kyiv its ideas on pursuing de-escalation measures in line with Geneva agreements.
Let me concluding by reiterating our call on the Russian Federation to fulfil its responsibilities and comply with international obligations and OSCE principles and commitments, to implement its part of the Geneva agreement to deliver upon commitment to support immediate de-escalation, to withdraw its subversive groups from Ukraine, to pull back its troops from the borders with Ukraine and to work towards resolution of the crisis around Ukraine with full respect for Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.
In this regard let me recall that at the last week