Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 11 December 2014
We thank Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims Professor Talip Küçükcan, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism Rabbi Andrew Baker and Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions Ambassador Alexey Avtonomov for their comprehensive reports on their activities over the past year.
Ukraine attaches great importance to the mandate and the role played by the Personal Representatives in assisting participating States by promoting full compliance with OSCE commitments regarding tolerance and non-discrimination.
The OSCE commitments present a comprehensive framework for participating States to address manifestations of intolerance and discrimination as they pose a threat to security at the level of societies and at the level of individuals.
The Government of Ukraine strongly condemns manifestations of any kind of intolerance both at the national and international levels. Being a multiethnic country, with representatives of over 130 nationalities and different religious backgrounds living in its territory, Ukraine attaches great importance to the promotion of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding within the Ukrainian society.
According to the independent reports of the OSCE, UN and Council of Europe representatives and missions, which visited my country throughout the year against the backdrop of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the overwhelming majority of national minorities and religious groups described harmonious inter-ethnic and inter-faith relations and conditions of non-discrimination in all spheres of life.
In this context we express our gratitude to the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism Rabbi Andrew Baker for visiting Ukraine in April 2014, upon invitation of the Ukrainian Government, to objectively assess the situation in the country. We consider his Report and relevant recommendations as such that further assist Ukraine’s efforts aimed at effective implementation of its OSCE commitments on combating anti-Semitism.
Welcoming the efforts of the Government of Ukraine to meet cultural, religious and educational needs of the Jewish community of the country, the Report notes that there were no serious anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, and some isolated cases had а provocative nature and were used for propaganda purposes. Moreover, the Ukrainian Government is outspoken in its condemnation of anti-Semitism.
According to the Report, by all accounts of Jewish community and its leaders there is no credible evidence to tie these isolated incidents to the right wing parties, despite the accusations from abroad.
The findings clearly testify that false allegations about the manifestations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine were artificially fueled by the Russian propaganda and the Russian media that intentionally twisted the reality and produced fabrications.
We remain gravely alarmed over the serious human rights violations in the occupied Crimea, which remains an integral part of Ukraine. Enforced disappearances and killings of Crimean Tatars, attacks on and expulsion of the priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, intimidation and surveillance over Crimean Tatars in mosques, labelling different religions as extremist, denial of access to Crimea to the leaders of the Crimean Tatar People demonstrate the extent of pressure and repressions from the occupying authorities. While the searches have overwhelmingly concentrated on Crimean Tatar properties, especially mosques and Islamic religious schools (madrassas), there have also been reports of raids on sites belonging to other religious denominations.
There have been numerous reports of violations of freedom of religion or belief in the areas of Donbas, temporarily controlled by the illegal armed groups. All faith traditions, except for the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, appear to be targeted by the Russia-backed militants through the persecution and detention of clergy members and believers, as well as the seizure of church property. Among the most recent cases, registered by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, let me note the following:
- on 23 September, the Evangelical Christian Baptist Church announced on its website that from the beginning of April until September, seven Baptist church buildings had been seized by the armed supporters of the terrorist organizations “Donetsk people’s republic” and the “Luhansk people’s republic”;
- on 27 September, armed men abducted a Protestant pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Horlivka, Donetsk region;
- on 4 October, armed Don Cossacks seized the Holy Trinity Cathedral (Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate) in Luhansk.
Moreover, there is solid evidence that numbers of neo-Nazi organizations from the Russian Federation take part in the escalation of violence in the east of Ukraine along with Russian militants. The most representative of them are Russian National Unity under Aleksander Barkashov, Eurasian Youth Union of Aleksandr Dugin, the Other Russia of Eduard Limonov and many others.
The fact that all these grave human rights’ violations and widespread manifestations of intolerance and discrimination occur in Crimea under the Russian illegal occupation, as well as in the areas of Donbas under the temporarily control of Russia-backed illegal armed groups, serves a testimony that pursuing aggression, Russia does not only become a hotbed of intolerance, but also exports racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination to other countries.
Russia’s state-sponsored propaganda and misinformation instigate hatred and xenophobia, promote spread of the ideas of intolerance and chauvinism in Russia and in Europe.
We believe that xenophobic manifestations in the Russian Federation should become a matter of serious concern for the OSCE community.
Presently aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazi movements are on the rise in Russia. According to the Russian human rights organizations, the number of such organisations accounts for over 50. According to the 2013 ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) Report, nationalist and neo-fascist groups, including over 50 000 skinheads, are the main source of extremist violence in Russia. Notable is the increasing use of racist and xenophobic rhetoric by some Russian politicians, including members of Parliament. The traditional “Russian parades” are accompanied by displays of swastikas and symbols of SS divisions. These manifestations remain without due reaction from the Russian authorities.
We urge the personal representatives to fully use their mandates to assist Russia to comply with the OSCE principles and commitments and international obligations in the area of combatting intolerance and discrimination.
We recall our request to the Russian Delegation, expressed at the PC meeting on 13.11.2014, to share information regarding the response of the Russian authorities to the neo-Nazi march of Cossacks, which combined orthodox and Nazi symbols, in Sergiev Possad on 08 October 2014.
Let me conclude by wishing success in important activities of the personal representatives and by reiterating Ukraine’s strong commitment to implement fully its international obligations and OSCE commitments in relation to the tolerance and non-discrimination, including through the active cooperation with the OSCE and other international organizations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.