Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 20 November 2014
On-going build-up of military power by the Russian Federation and illegal armed groups in the east of Ukraine, following Russia’s illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, continues to pose grave risks to the security of Ukraine and Europe.
We reiterate that such actions of the Russian Federation constitute acts of aggression which is a serious crime under international law.
We deplore that the Minsk agreements continue to be violated by the Russian-backed militants and Russia itself as one of the signatories of those agreements. The developments on the ground over the past week have shown again the absence of interest on the part of the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it supports in de-escalation and peaceful settlement in line with the signed agreements.
Violations by militants of the ceasefire regime are registered on a daily basis. Shelling of the residential areas and the positions of the Ukrainian forces remain the main threat to life of peaceful civilians and Ukrainian servicemen. Over the period from 14 till 19 November 22 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 47 wounded. Civilian population, in particular children, remains defenceless against the terrorist attacks. Among many tragic incidents, on 14 November in the village of Tryohizbenka, Luhansk oblast, 3 local residents, including a 9-years old girl, were killed as a result of mortar shelling from the militants’ positions near the village of Vesela Izba in 21 km east.
Concentration of illegal armed groups, reinforced with Russian regular troops, continues in the areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Debaltseve and Mariupol. Ukrainian positions and settlements located in these areas are subject to the most intensive attacks and shelling from mortars, howitzers and GRAD multiple rocket launcher systems.
We are seriously concerned over the humanitarian situation in the terrorist-controlled territory of Donbas. Unlike the rest of Ukraine’s territory, including liberated areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the situation there is spiraling out of control. Local residents, deprived by terrorists of jobs, payments and essential services, have been driven to despair. Mass protests against the terrorist rule spread in settlements across the territory, which is temporarily out of the governmental control. In Sverdlovsk, Luhansk oblast, about 2000 people demanded the Russian Cossacks to get out of the town. Crowded meetings took place in Torez and Yenakiyeve, where locals protested against the so-called “Donetsk people’s republic”, which brings the region to the brink of ruin.
On numerous occasions the Delegation of Ukraine emphasized the crucial importance of resuming the efficient control at the Ukrainian-Russian border for ensuring sustainable cease-fire and de-escalation on the ground.
Currently we continue to register increased inflows of Russian military personnel and hardware to Ukraine’s territory. Over the period of 15-17 November columns of more than 100 vehicles, including tanks, APCs, MRLSs and heavy artillery, encroached Ukraine through closed BCPs “Izvaryne” in Luhansk oblast and “Novoazovsk” in Donetsk oblast.
We reiterate our resolute protest over the on-going Russian practice of sending the so-called “humanitarian convoys” without consent and inspection by the Ukrainian side and ignoring the leading role of the ICRC. On 16 November the Russian Federation again resorted to this unacceptable practice, thus continuing its violation of the norms and principles of international law, including those of inviolability of borders, respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. There are numerous accounts that these so-called “humanitarian convoys” contain assistance, including military equipment and ammunition, for the terrorists. The claimed food products do not reach the people who need them in Donbas.
Against this backdrop we attach particular importance to enhancing the OSCE SMM capacities to ensure proper monitoring and verification of implementation of the Minsk agreements in relation to Ukrainian-Russian border control and creation of security zones in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian Government provides the SMM with its full support and assistance to ensure efficient fulfillment of Mission’s mandate. As an in-kind contribution, on 13 November the Ukrainian side handed over ten armoured vehicles KrAZ Cougar to the Mission for a period of duration of its mandate.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We remain deeply concerned over the alarming situation in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
In its recently released report entitled “Rights in Retreat: Abuses in Crimea”, the Human Rights Watch stresses that human rights protections in Crimea have been severely curtailed since Russia began its illegal occupation of the peninsula eight months ago. The findings reaffirm the grim picture of human rights violations which have also been registered by international organizations – the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
The Human Rights Watch concludes that Russia as an occupying power has violated on multiple occasions its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians living in the occupied Crimea. It specifies, in particular, that under applicable international humanitarian law, the occupying power has to maintain the laws in force in the territory at the time of occupation and cannot modify, suspend, or replace them with its own legislation.
As we did in previous meetings, the Delegation of Ukraine reiterates that responsibility for human rights’ violations in Crimea rests on the Russian Federation as the occupying power in accordance with international law. In view of a very alarming situation in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms international actors must have unfettered access to the peninsula.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ukraine reiterates its resolute protest over on-going violations of the rights of the Nadiya Savchenko, Oleh Sentsov and other Ukrainian citizens, abducted from their native soil and illegally detained by the Russian Federation. Since our last meeting no positive developments have been registered in relation to their cases. We urge the Russian authorities to release immediately these Ukrainian citizens, who are the political prisoners in Russia.
We are committed to the peaceful settlement of the situation in the east of Ukraine. And we urge the Russian Federation to do likewise. Russia’s present aggression violates international law, OSCE principles and commitments, undermines European security and leads to severe human sufferings.
We reiterate our persistent call to the Russian Federation to halt its aggressive actions against Ukraine, withdraw its forces from the territory of our country, stop reinforcing the illegal armed groups and release all hostages. We urge Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, which remains an integral part of Ukraine and abide fully by its international obligations and OSCE principles and commitments.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman