Delivered by Permanent Representative Ihor Prokopchuk at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting on 24 July 2014
We remain overwhelmed with shock over the crash of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane with 298 passengers and crew on board, which was shot down by the pro-Russian terrorist organizations operating in the eastern Ukraine. We strongly condemn this act of terror. This tragedy rippled across different continents, being a sad reminder that terrorism is a global threat which requires a unified global response. I avail myself of the opportunity to reiterate our deepest sympathy to the families of victims and our colleagues, whose compatriots were killed in this terrorist attack.
We are convinced that this tragedy would never have happened if the Russian Federation did not embark on direct aggression against Ukraine, occupying and annexing the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, and engaging in escalating tensions in Ukraine’s east through, in particular, procuring the terrorist groups with sophisticated weapons and mercenaries.
These actions by the Russian Federation violate fundamental principles of international law and the OSCE commitments, as well as endanger peace and security throughout the OSCE area, also by continuously enhancing the terrorist threat to Ukraine and the OSCE community.
While the authorities of Ukraine had taken immediate steps to ensure full and transparent investigation, we followed with concern the developments on the crash site, in particular the unacceptable behavior of the illegal armed groups, who impeded access of the OSCE SMM representatives and forensic experts to the crash site, moved and damaged debris and resorted to looting of victims’ belongings. We were outraged with undignified treatment of the victims’ bodies by the terrorist groups.
We were appalled as well with the “order” by terrorist “commander” Girkin (Strelkov), who instructed his accomplices to “donate” all valuables from the crash site to the “Defense Fund of the Donetsk People’s Republic”.
Regrettably, the Russian Federation did not exert its influence on these groups in order to keep the site and real evidences untouched, to ensure unrestricted access to the site of investigative commission and OSCE monitors and to hand over the flight recorders to the experts immediately after their finding.
Ukraine is seeking to fully facilitate the international investigation, including the activities of the foreign experts. The President of Ukraine offered the international experts his Presidential plane to get to Kharkiv with no delay. According to his order all military activities within a 40 km radius of the crash site were stopped.
We proposed to the Netherlands to take the lead in an international investigation into the shooting down of MH17.
We expect that full, thorough and independent investigation, as referred to in the OSCE Permanent Council Declaration of 18 July and UN Security Council Resolution of 21 July, will provide the international community with clear identification of those, who are responsible for this act of terrorism and they will be brought to justice.
During our special Permanent Council meeting on Friday we provided the delegations with a set of photo- and video-evidences, indicating that the pro-Russian terrorists, operating in Ukraine’s east, carried out the deadly missile attack on the MH17 airliner. Evidence also emerged that it was a surface-to-air missile, launched from BUK missile system from terrorist-controlled part of the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
However, this week we have witnessed groundless allegations by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, claiming the involvement of Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 attack aircraft in the crash. Even Russian military experts have been perplexed by this unprofessional claim.
We consider this groundless allegation to be a mere attempt to avoid responsibility for the thoughtless and criminal supplies of heavy and sophisticated weapons to the terrorist organizations “Donetsk people’s republic” and “Luhansk people’s republic”. They brought about the killing of hundreds of innocent people, Ukrainians and now of many other nationalities.
We stress that the jet fighters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were not in the airspace before, during and immediately after the crash of the Malaysian civilian aircraft.
We state with regret that even after the downing of the passenger aircraft, there is no indication that the Russian Federation has taken account of the grave volatility of the situation and opted for de-escalation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. Over the recent days, border guards and Armed Forces units, deployed in the vicinity of the state border with the Russian Federation were shelled from the territory of the Russian Federation with GRAD multiple launch rocket systems and mortars. Such cases were registered near Novoazovsk, Dubrivka, Amvrosiyivka, Herasymivka, Chervonopartyzansk, Stanychno-Luhanske, Shevchenkove,Dmytrivka, Dyakove. We registered 13 instances of heavy shlling from Russian territory in the period between 19 and 22 July.
According to the State Border Service of Ukraine the terrorist groups resort to shelling unpopulated areas of the Russian territory, while in response, the Russian troops open return fire at the positions of the Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Federation continues supply to the terrorist groups of new weapons and mercenaries. For instance, on July 20, a convoy of heavy armored vehicles attempted to cross the border near Izvarino.
The Russian Federation continues to amass its troops in the close vicinity to the state border with Ukraine. Over this week the Russian side has regrouped its troops across the borderline, bringing their number up to 41 000 soldiers. The group of the Russian troops includes about 150 tanks and 500 artillery systems, including multiple rocket launcher systems “GRAD” and “TORNADO”. The redeployed units include such which have their permanent stationing in Novosibirsk and Tatarstan.
Yesterday, two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets were shot down at the altitude of 5200 m.
The Russian Federation by all signs is heading for another dangerous turn to escalate tensions in the east of Ukraine. In this regard we reiterate our persistent call on the Russian Federation to reconsider the confrontational course and commit to de-escalation by preventing inflows of weapons and mercenaries to Ukraine from the Russian territory, halting provocative firing at Ukrainian positions and pulling the Russian troops back from the border with Ukraine.
Over the recent days the Ukrainian forces liberated a number of cities and villages from armed militants, including the terrorist strongholds of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, Dzerzhinsk, Soledar, Yuvileyne and Heorhiyivka.
The primary task for the Ukrainian forces and legitimate local authorities is to swiftly bring the peaceful life back to the liberated towns and make local residents forget about atrocities of pro-Russian gangs’ ruling. Following the liberation of Severodonetsk 4 hostages were released. Regrettably, two other people, who had previously disappeared in this city, were found dead with the signs of cruel tortures.
The Ukrainian forces take extensive measures to demine the infrastructure of liberated towns as it is a widely applied practice of the terrorist groups to damage as many facilities as possible when fleeing. As an example, two bridges over Borova River, connecting Rubizhne and Severodonetsk were blown up on July 22. Other bridges in Severodonetsk and neighbouring Lysychansk, still controlled by the terrorists, have been mined. Civilians, including children, continue to become victims of the mine warfare, unleashed by the terrorists. On July 20 in Lisichansk two teenagers were blown up by a mine, one of them dead.
This again underlines that the threats, stemming from the terrorist activities of pro-Russian gangs, remain high for the peaceful population of Donbas and adjacent Ukrainian regions. Illegal armed groups now move to Donetsk, Luhansk, Horlivka, Snizhne, Torez and some other cities in the region, sowing fear and terror in those localities.
The terrorist groups continue to commit grave crimes against life and property of peaceful residents. There are numerous cases of indiscriminate fire by the illegal armed groups, including from mortars and “GRAD” systems, causing casualties among civilians.
Hostage taking remains one of the main threats to civilians from the terrorist organizations “Donetsk people’s republic” and “Luhansk people’s republic”. According the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, 396 people are now held hostage, including 321 peaceful residents. Ukrainians and other nationals are being abducted and taken hostage. On July 21, for instance, terrorists abducted 9 students from Nigeria in the city of Luhansk.
We strongly condemn hostage taking and call for immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by separatists. We expect the Russian Federation to exert its influence on the illegal armed groups to facilitate the release.
On a constant basis the delegation of Ukraine has provided you with comprehensive information on the terrorist nature of the so-called “Donetsk people’s republic” and “Luhansk people’s republic”, huge sufferings they have inflicted on the Ukrainian people and now the international community as well. In this regard we reiterate our call on all participating States to recognize the “Donetsk people’s republic” and “Luhansk people’s republic” as terrorist organizations.
The Ukrainian Parliament on 22July made the same appeal to the European and international community, comparing the terrorist act over the Donetsk region of Ukraine to the Lockerbie bombing and the 9/11 attacks.
We remain seriously concerned over the deteriorating situation in the occupied Crimea in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
We condemn the on-going attacks on the Crimean Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. Since the occupation and annexation of the peninsula four churches in Sevastopol, Krasnoperekopsk, Kerch and Perevalne have already been closed. For now the occupation authorities attempt to close the church in the village of Mramorne, despite its location within the private area, along with a residence of ruling Archbishop Kliment.
Intimidation and harassment towards priests and parishioners are widely practiced in order to force the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate to leave Crimea. For instance, the residence of Archbishop Kliment in Mramorne was set on fire on 21July. We strongly condemn these attacks as violating one of fundamental freedoms – freedom of religion or belief that all participating States have committed to respect. We demand that responsible be brought to justice.
We remain seriously concerned over the destiny of four Ukrainian citizens, namely Oleg Sentsov, Oleksiy Chirniy, Gennadiy Afanasjev and Oleksandr Kolchenko, who were illegally arrested in Crimea under false charges of terrorism and later transported to Moscow.
At the Lefortovo court session in early July, resulted in extending pre-trial arrest of Oleg Setsov until 11October, Mr.Sentsov informed that he had been tortured during interrogations. We register no action by the Russian authorities in response to his complaint. Moreover, the Russian side by all means delays consideration of appeal of Mr.Sentsov against the Lefortovo court decision.
Despite our numerous calls on the Russian Federation, including those at the OSCE Permanent Council meetings, a Ukrainian consular officer has not yet been allowed to meet with the arrested Ukrainian citizens.
We refute as groundless allegations against those Ukrainian citizens. Their arrest is part of a campaign of intimidation against those who disagree with Russian's annexation of Crimea and oppose the Russian policy.
We reiterate our call to the Russian Federation to release those Ukrainian citizens immediately and provide their safe return to Ukraine.
I will conclude by reiterating our persistent call on the Russian Federation to return to the tenets of international law and fundamental OSCE principles, to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, to reverse annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
We urge Russia to underpin its declarations with concrete and meaningful actions, that would halt export of terrorism and support of terrorist organizations in Ukraine, that would provide for effective control along the Ukrainian-Russian border and put an end to military provocations, which had significantly increased in recent days.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.