Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 22 January 2015
Since the special meeting of the Permanent Council on January 20, 2014, the situation in Ukraine’s Donbas continues to rapidly deteriorate as Russian troops along with the Russia-backed militants attempt to expand the offensive operations along the line of contact.
The Russian Federation so far fails to respect the calls contained in the adopted PC Declaration, which was also supported by Russia, as we continue to register the inflow of Russian servicemen and weaponry into Ukraine.
We already drew attention of the Permanent Council that since signing of the Minsk agreements Russia’s backed illegal armed groups have expanded their control to over 550 km2. Persistent attacks by the militants as well as increased influx of the Russian military personnel and hardware, registered over the past days, reaffirm that the terrorist organizations “DPR” and “LPR” aspire to further expand territories under their control in full disregard of the Minsk arrangements.
Intensive shellings and attacks are registered across the entire line of contact with the main hotspots in and around the Donetsk airport, Bakhmutka road, Mariupol and Debaltseve.
Today the terrorists committed yet another terrorist act targeting a public transport stop in Donetsk leading to civilian deaths. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Mr. Pavlo Klimkin reacted by stating: “The tragedy at the bus stop – our common grief. The terrorist attacks lead to loss of life of peaceful Ukrainians. Russia must stop the terrorists”. The Prosecutor’s office of the Donetsk oblast qualified the attack as a terrorist act and launched investigation to bring responsible to justice.
The settlements of Avdiyivka and Pisky, nearby the Donetsk airport, are subjected to intensive shellings by terrorists leading to casualties among the civilian population. The leaders of the terrorist organization “DPR” publicly declare their goal of seizing both settlements. The “Grad” attack on Debaltseve left civilians dead and housing and infrastructure destroyed.
The Russian shelling targets Mariupol and nearby villages of Talakivka, Pavlopil and Sartana, where mostly residential areas suffer.
An all-out offensive against the Ukrainian forces was undertaken in the area of the Bakhmutka road. Russian regular units along with the illegal armed groups, reinforced with tanks and artillery, attacked the Ukrainian checkpoints N29 and N31 on 20 January. The Ukrainian servicemen had to retreat to the fortified sectors. The armed clashes in that area continue.
According to the information of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Russia continues to concentrate their regular forces in the occupied areas of Donbas to support the illegal armed groups in its offensive attempts. In particular, about 60 tanks and 50 APCs were registered in Krasnodon, 100 tanks – in the vicinity of Torez and Shakhtarsk. Today the column of at least 24 “GRAD” MRLSs was registered moving through Donetsk in the direction of the airport.
Two Russian battalion tactical groups of around 700 servicemen entered the territory of Ukraine earlier this week through uncontrolled part of the border in Luhansk oblast. In view of this yet another violation and the deployment in direct proximity to the Ukrainian border of about 52 000 Russian troops, Ukraine used the tool of the Vienna Document requesting explanations from the Russian Federation (format F10). We deplore that in its reply (format F41) the Russian Federation again refused to provide substantive response to the grounded concerns of the Ukrainian side.
The approach of the Russian Federation towards implementation of its commitments on confidence and security building measures runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Vienna Document. If Russia is genuinely interested in peace and full implementation of the Minsk arrangements as it declares, we urge the Russian Federation to withdraw its servicemen from the Ukrainian territory, to return the troops amassed along the border to their permanent bases of stationing, to voluntarily host OSCE military inspections in areas adjacent to the Ukrainian-Russian state border on the segment, currently not controlled by Ukrainian border guards. Let me also recall in this connection that the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014 envisages, in particular, establishment of a security zone in border areas of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
As the militants intensify the attacks and shelling they resort to usual terrorist tactics of hiding behind “human shields” by firing from the residential areas. This criminal practice speaks volumes about the real nature of “DPR” and “LPR” gangs. It is clear that those who grant the militants with support and assistance share full responsibility for the terror against civilians in Donbas.
We also note with deep concern the growth of terrorist threats for population in other Ukrainian regions, in particular those adjacent to Donbas, due to on-going attempts by pro-Russian terrorists to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, spread panic among Ukrainians and destroy the critical infrastructure. The SMM reported on this dangerous trend.
On 20 January terrorists blew up a railway bridge in Zaporizhya oblast as a freight train was to cross it. Earlier the terrorist destroyed a bridge near Mariupol.
By adopting the OSCE Permanent Council Declaration on Tuesday we all reaffirmed our firm view that full implementation of the Minsk agreements in their entirety is the basis for peaceful resolution of the crisis.
At the Berlin meeting held on 21 January 2015, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of France, Germany, the Russian Federation and Ukraine issued a Joint Statement, in which called on all sides involved to cease hostilities and to withdraw heavy weapons in accordance with the Line of Contact as stipulated in the Annex to the Minsk Memorandum, September 19, 2014, to be monitored by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and supported by agreed mechanisms on the ground.
Ministers also reiterated their support for the Trilateral Contact Group and called on all signatories of the Minsk agreements to meet in the coming days to implement the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
We would like to reiterate that the abovementioned are only the first steps aimed to create the conditions for a full implementation of the provisions of the Minsk agreements.
We call on the Russian Federation as a signatory of the Minsk agreements to underpin its commitments by practical deeds, including the withdrawal of Russian armed personnel, mercenaries and heavy weapons from the territory of Ukraine as well as return of control over the state border to the Ukrainian authorities in order to stop further crossborder support to the terrorist groups.
We continue to be deeply alarmed over the deteriorating situation in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which remain an integral part of Ukraine.
Most of the human rights violations are targeted against the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian communities on the peninsula. On 18 January the Committee on the Rights of the Crimean Tatar people appealed to the UN Secretary General, calling “to prevent the destruction of the Crimean Tatars”. In its appeal, the Committee stated that “as a result of the annexation of Crimea, the indigenous population – the Crimean Tatars – has been subjected to terror and physical violence”.
We register no progress since March 2014 in investigating the cases of killed and missing persons, many of whom were pro-Ukrainian activists. 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 and urges it to allow unfettered access to the peninsula to observe the human rights situation.
The military hostilities and people’s suffering in Ukraine’s east is a direct consequence of the Russian aggression against my country, launched in 2014.
We condemn such actions in strongest terms and call on the Russian Federation to take practical steps towards restoring its respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments.
We urge Russia to influence the militants it supports to abide by cease-fire, to withdraw Russian forces from the territory of my country and stop reinforcing the illegal armed groups, to abandon the aggression against my country and reverse annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.