Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 27 November 2014
As we meet today, it is exactly nine months since the Russian Federation launched its aggression against Ukraine. On 27 February in Simferopol armed masked men in black uniform seized the premises of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to force illegal change of leadership. Military men without insignia started blocking and seizing Ukrainian military bases and airports, administrative institutions and roads, laying ground for holding illegal and illegitimate “referendum” of 16 March. Despite ample evidence back then of Russia’s aggression and intervention, it was only later that the Russian President acknowledged that those were the Russian troops.
Broad international condemnation did not stop Russia from illegal occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol under a false and unfounded pretext of “protection of Russian-speaking compatriots”.
Firthermore, the Russian Federation immediately resorted to the second stage of the aggression against Ukraine – in the east of my country. It is noteworthy that Russian subversive agents failed to destabilize the most of the South-Eastern Ukraine in their attempts to create the so-called “Novorossiya”. Residents of Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya and other Ukrainian cities prevented plunging their native soil into terror and lawlessness.
Regrettably, the worst-case scenario was implemented in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, controlled until now by the Russian military, terrorist gangs of Russian Cossacks and local criminals under the guise of the so-called “Donetsk people’s republic” and ‘Luhansk people’s republic”. In recent interview to the Russian media, former leader of Donetsk militants, Russian citizen and officer of Russian special forces Igor Girkin acknowledged that he was the very person “who pulled the trigger of war”. He admitted that nothing would have happened if his group, consisting mostly of Russian subversive agents, did not seize Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Given Girkin’s close association with the Russian Main Intelligence Department, it just reconfirms who effectively pulled the strings.
Confronted with Russia’s aggression and its full-fledged support to the militants in Ukraine’s east, Ukraine persistently pursued peaceful resolution of the crisis. Peace Plan of the President of Ukraine, unilateral cessation of use of force in June, meetings in Geneva and Berlin, activities of the Trilateral Contact Group resulted in signing the Minsk arrangement of 5 and 19 September, which set an agreed framework for peaceful political resolution.
We therefore deeply deplore that the Minsk agreements, which remain a basis for peaceful resolution, continue to be violated by the Russian-backed militants and Russia itself as one of the signatories. The latest developments on the ground continuously demonstrate to the absence of interest on the part of Moscow and the pro-Russian illegal armed groups in de-escalation and peaceful settlement in line with the signed agreements.
The situation in the areas, controlled by Russian military and the illegal armed groups, continues to deteriorate. The daily life of civilian population is marked with shortage of food, absence of jobs, payments and essential services. We register further spreading of mass protests across the territory, which is temporarily out of the governmental control. Over this week local residents, despite intimidations by terrorists, protested in Donetsk, Amvrosiyivka, Torez, Yenakiyeve (Donetsk oblast), Antratsyt, Sverdlovsk, Chervonopartyzansk and Rovenki (Luhansk oblast). In Fashivka, Chornykhine and Krasnyi Luch people demanded from Russian military to remove GRAD missile rocket launchers, deployed in the residential areas.
On 23 November units of Russian Cossacks disrupted a local ceasefire in government-controlled village of Tryohizbenka (Luhansk oblast), despite previous agreements and facilitation by the SMM. The ceasefire aimed at ensuring delivery of humanitarian aid and restoring electricity and gas lines. However, the repair crew was shelled by militants and had to suspend its work for security reasons. More than 1500 residents have been left without heating ahead of winter.
The Russian Federation must be aware of its responsibility for all these hardships.
The ceasefire regime has been violated by the militants on a regular basis. Total number of incidents, happened since 5 September, run to 3412, with hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen and peaceful civilians killed and wounded.
We are deeply disturbed by yesterday’s attack on the SMM monitors by the militants. It is paramount that the SMM can perform its mandate safely and enjoying full freedom of movement, thus facilitating peaceful resolution under the Minsk arrangements.
The illegal armed groups, reinforced with Russian regular troops, continue to build up for attacks 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 artillery shelling.
We note with concern the growth of terrorist threats for population of other Ukrainian regions, in particular those adjacent to Donbas, due to on-going attempts by pro-Russian terrorists to destabilize the situation in Ukraine. Over the last week, two explosions were registered near the military hospital and a railway station in Kharkiv.
The on-going violations of the Ukrainian-Russian border from the Russian side result in further escalation on the ground. For instance, on 24 November 5 columns of 85 military vehicles crossed into Ukraine through closed BCP “Izvarine” in Donetsk oblast.
On 20 November, for the first time since the Minsk agreements were signed, Ukrainian units, deployed in the vicinity of the state border with the Russian Federation were shelled from the Russian territory. This attack was registered near Kamyshne (Luhansk oblast).
Against this backdrop and taking into account Russian intention to continue illegal practice of sending the so-called “humanitarian convoys”, which effectively support the militants, we reiterate that until the efficient control at the Ukrainian-Russian state border is resumed our collective efforts aimed at de-escalation and sustainable cease-fire will fail.
We remain confident that the OSCE SMM capacities in terms of human resources and technical means should be further enhanced to ensure proper monitoring and verification of implementation of the Minsk agreements in relation to the border control and creation of security zones in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
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.
According to the 7th report of the Office of the UNHCHR on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, covering the period from 17 September to 31 October 2014, the situation in Crimea is marked by increasing human rights violations, especially against national minorities and indigenous groups, with the growing number of enforced disappearances of Crimean Tatars. As a result, the number of people leaving the occupied Crimea is constantly increasing.
The authorities exercising de facto control in Crimea continued to conduct raids to the Crimean Tatar properties actively searching for religious literature considered to be of an extremist nature. The space for freedom of expression in Crimea has further shrunk due to the activities of the so-called “authorities”, in particular with the disruption to the work of more media outlets, including that of the weekly Mejlis newspaper “Avdet”, and the Crimean Tatar ATR television channel.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ukraine reiterates its resolute protest over on-going violations of the rights of Nadiya Savchenko, who has been registered as elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Oleh Sentsov and other Ukrainian citizens, abducted from Ukraine 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.
Ministerial Council meeting to be opened next week in Basel will take place at an extremely testing time for our Organization. The future of the OSCE and the European security in broader perspective depends upon whether we will be able to safeguard OSCE principles and commitments and to ensure their full implementation by all participating States without exception.
We therefore encourage all delegations to make the most efficient use of time in the run-up to the Ministerial Council in order to elaborate a common response to the flagrant violations of the OSCE fundamental principles and commitments, which endanger the security of all.
We expect the Russian Federation to return to the tenets of international law. The Russian Federation should 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