Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 29 January 2015
At the outset let me share with the Permanent Council some photo evidence of the weapons and military hardware of Russian origin used by terrorists, mercenaries and Russian servicemen against Ukrainian civilians and forces on the Ukrainian soil. Photo presentation follows.
On each occasion that the Permanent Council has met to discuss Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine the OSCE participating States underline their firm stance in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders. These are the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, which provide the foundation for an international legal order and maintenance of international peace and security for the benefit and prosperity of our nations. It must remain our common responsibility to defend these principles.
Despite significant efforts undertaken in different formats, including in the Normandy format and within the Trilateral Contact Group, the Russian Federation has not diverted from the course of fueling the conflict in the eastern Ukraine. We have all witnessed recent sharp deterioration on the ground, marked with increased threats to civilian population of Donbas as Russia-backed militants resorted and continue to resort to intensive shelling by heavy artillery of Ukrainian positions and the residential areas, leading to numerous deaths and destruction. The artillery missiles and shells originate from the Russian Federation, the heavy weaponry originates from the Russian Federation, thousands of terrorist fighters arrive to Donbas from the Russian Federation to fight against legitimate Ukrainian authorities on the Ukrainian soil. This makes Russia responsible for the deaths, sufferings and destruction in Donbas.
We have reviewed the deadly impact of Russia’s support to the terrorist gangs in Donbas at our special Permanent Council meeting three days ago.
As we speak Russia keeps a large number of its forces on the Ukrainian border. The presence of the Armed Forces of Russia in Donbas has further grown since the signing of the Minsk agreements. Their estimated number is up to 9 thousand troops. Since the announcement of the "regime of quiet" on 9 December 2014, more than 2450 cases of attacks on positions of the Ukrainian forces and towns and villages have been registered.
In view of these grave developments, continuous illegal occupation and annexation by Russia of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and based on the UN Charter and UNGA Resolution 3314 (XXIX) “Definition of aggression”, on January 27, the Ukrainian Parliament recognized the Russian Federation as state-aggressor and called on the international community to recognize the fact of aggression against Ukraine and occupation of its territory, as well as enhance persistent efforts aimed at restoring the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine, thus preventing dangerous precedent of flagrant violation of the world order and post-WWII security system.
The illegal armed groups, reinforced, supported and guided by Russia, continue their offensive attempts along the line of contact. The most difficult situation is in the area of the Donetsk airport and nearby settlements Avdiivka, Debaltseve, Schastya, Mykolaivka and the city of Mariupol. Tragically, the Ukrainian citizens continue to lose their lives.
Endless attacks by the militants, their attempts to encircle the Ukrainian forces, deployed in Debaltseve, intensive shellings of the Ukrainian positions and residential areas give clear proof on who is responsible for the current escalation and numerous casualties. Only over 25-27 January 19 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 70 wounded.
According to Ukraine’s ATO staff, currently the command of the military offensive against the Ukrainian units in the vicinity of the settlement of Popasna, Luhansk region, is executed by major‐general Sergei Kuzovlev, the chief of staff of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation.
I again draw the attention of the Permanent Council that offensive operations by the militants would not be possible without regular reinforcements from the Russian Federation which continues to supply weapons, equipment and mercenaries.
Sharp escalation of the situation on the ground testifies to the continuous unwillingness of the Russian Federation and its proxies to implement the Minsk agreements, including withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact, despite Moscow’s assurances to the contrary. Just in the vicinity of Debaltseve the illegal armed groups concentrated 35 tanks, 50 APCs and over 70 pieces of heavy artillery, including multiple rocket launcher systems.
Despite Minsk commitments hundreds of kilometers of border between Ukraine and Russia remain without effective border control, under OSCE monitoring and verification, thus allowing for steady flow of deadly weapons, often under the guise of so called “humanitarian convoys”. This conflict, violence and suffering would no longer exist without direct Russian military involvement in support of the militants.
We strongly condemn the torture and humiliation of Ukrainians by militants, including in front of the cameras of the Russian TV channels. We were appalled by the footages of the captured Ukrainian servicemen being paraded by the militants, humiliating interrogation of our soldiers, who had clear signs of torture.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media rightfully called such reports by Russian channels as “unethical and inadmissible”. Our delegation has already stressed the significant propaganda role that the Russian media play in inciting hatred towards Ukraine and Ukrainians and stirring up hostilities on the ground. We expect the RFOM to closely follow all cases of abuse of ethical standards of journalism by Russian media and duly react to them.
We also recall that the Minsk Protocol envisages the immediate release of all hostages and illegally detained persons. Currently over 600 people are still held hostage by the pro-Russian militants. The Ukrainian authorities reiterate their readiness to proceed with the release “all for all”. We call on the Russian Federation to exert its influence on the patronized illegal armed groups to make the immediate release possible, as well as to free abducted and illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in the Russian Federation.
The Minsk agreements represent a comprehensive and agreed basis for peaceful political resolution of the conflict in Donbas. On 26 January President Poroshenko wrote to President Putin, reaffirming Ukraine’s commitment to implementation of the Minsk agreements, calling for exhaustive measure to restore the cease-fire with the withdrawal of the heavy weapons under the OSCE monitoring, as a starting point towards full implementation of the Minsk agreements. We call on Russia to fulfill the commitments it has undertaken in Minsk.
This week brought us another disturbing news of deterioration of the situation in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
We strongly condemn the raid by the Russian security services on the ATR TV station in Simferopol on 26 January, the only Crimean Tatar language TV station in the occupied Crimea, which resulted in confiscation of channel’s equipment. The policies of intimidation and pressure on Crimean Tatars by occupying authorities are unacceptable. We note the prompt reaction of the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media, who condemned this incident of intrusion on free and independent media. The “masked men” she referred to belong to the Russian security services. We expect that the RFOM will continue to closely follow this issue.
In a different incident three members of the Crimean Tatar Rights Committee, including members of the Mejlis, were prevented by the occupying authorities at the Armyansk checkpoint from crossing into mainland Ukraine on 23 January. These cases expand the body of evidence of discriminatory policy of the Russian occupying authorities towards Crimean Tatar community.
The Russian Federation as the occupying power has responsibilities for halting the policy of repressions and intimidation of the Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar and other ethnic communities. We urge to allow access of international observers to monitor the situation on the ground.
Key international organizations seek adequate responses to stop Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and convince it to return to the tenets of international law. On 27 January 2015 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a Resolution “The humanitarian situation of Ukrainian refugees and displaced persons”, acknowledging, in particular, “direct involvement of the Russian Federation in the emergence and worsening of situations” in some parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine.
We urge the Russian Federation to take into due account the Assembly’s calls, including to fully respect and implement the provisions of the ceasefire provided by the Minsk agreements; to refrain from destabilizing Ukraine and financing and militarily supporting illegal armed groups, to immediately release all prisoners of war, including Nadiya Savchenko and other Ukrainian citizens who remain illegally detained in Russian prisons, to ensure full respect of all obligations of the occupying State in accordance with international humanitarian law and provide immediate and unimpeded access of the international human rights monitoring missions to the Crimean peninsula.
Violating international law and the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act is not compatible with Russia’s commitments as an OSCE participating State.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.