Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 5 February 2015
A week since the last meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council does not provide us with any evidence that the Russian Federation is willing to reverse its course of military aggression against Ukraine.
The recent days were marked with the most significant deterioration on the ground in Donbas since the end of summer, when the Russian regular troops encroached Ukraine’s east to save the Kremlin’s project of the so-called “people’s republics” in Donbas. This time Russia and its proxies concentrated their combat units around the city of Debaltseve, launching a fierce military offensive and aiming at encircling the Ukrainian forces deployed there.
The offensive operation of the illegal armed groups started on 30 January and employed tanks, heavy artillery, including multiple rocket launcher systems, and other types of deadly weaponry that the Russian Federation had provided to the terrorist organizations “DPR” and “LPR”. The Russian military staff assigned to the JCCC, located in Debaltseve and tasked with contributing to sustainable cease-fire, left the city well in advance.
The militants mounted massive attacks on the positions of the Ukrainian forces around Debaltseve, including the towns and villages of Vuhlehirsk, Hrisne, Savelovka, Svitlodarsk, Troitske, Sanjarovka, Nikishyno, Chornykhine. All militants’ attacks were combined with intensive artillery preparation fire, when the shells mostly hit the residential areas, killing innocent civilians, destroying their houses and infrastructure.
Moreover, the militants’ offensive attempts proceeded along other sections of the line of contact, in particular in the vicinity of Popasna, Shchastya, Stanytsya Luhanska and Mariupol. The Ukrainian authorities arranged prompt evacuation of civilian population from the area of hostilities, however evacuation is hampered by militants’ shelling of roads and transport vehicles with refugees.
Against the background of this full-scale military offensive by the illegal armed groups, very clear is the extent of Russia’s military support to the militants to strengthen their offensive capabilities. This makes Russia fully responsible for the current escalation, deaths and destruction.
While Ukraine and the international community urged immediate re-establishment of cease-fire and full implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Russia-supported militants intensified their military operation near Debaltseve before the consultations with the Trilateral Contact Group, which took place on 31 January. The Chairmanship’s statement, issued in connection with the meeting, is clear about unacceptable behavior of participants from Donetsk and Luhansk, who aimed at disrupting the peace process by ultimatums and pressing for revision of the Minsk agreements.
Offensive operation by the militants near Debaltseve and in other areas of Donbas testifies that the failure by the Russian Federation to abide by its own commitments undertaken in Minsk last September leads to tragic and alarming consequences through a sharp aggravation of the situation on the ground.
Regrettably, the public declarations by Russian officials of the interest in peaceful resolution are not backed up by the concrete and meaningful steps, as the inflow of Russian weaponry and personnel continues, attacks and violations of cease-fire are in effect sanctioned by Russia, Russian military units and mercenaries remain in Ukraine’s territory, the OSCE cannot proceed to monitoring of the border and performing other functions envisaged by the Minsk agreements.
The Russian Federation continues to fuel the conflict by reinforcing the illegal armed groups, including by covering up these reinforcements as “humanitarian aid”. As the Russian Federation continues to send the so-called “humanitarian convoys” without consent and inspection by the Ukrainian authorities, ignoring the leading role of the ICRC and the principles of international humanitarian law, we reiterate our strong condemnation of this illegal practice. We also took note that the OSCE SMM had to refute the false information of the Russian Ministry of Emergency on allegedly Mission’s escort of the “humanitarian convoy” which illegally crossed the Ukrainian border on 31 January and violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Ukraine has consistently underpinned its commitments under the Minsk agreements by practical deeds. We expect that the Russian Federation will do likewise, also by putting an end to the offensive and keeping the patronized “DPR” and “LPR” away from the language of threats and ultimatums. We expect that the Russian Federation as a member of the Trilateral Contact Group will adequately react to disregard for the Minsk agreements, demonstrated by participants from Donetsk and Luhansk at the last meeting in Minsk.
We reiterate that aggressor bears full responsibility for the deaths of the Ukrainian citizens, both servicemen and civilians. As the illegal armed groups are not short of the Russian weapons and munitions, the number of casualties continues to rapidly increase. Over 31 January – 3 February 39 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 114 wounded, the toll of casualties among civilians is also rapidly growing.
The militants do not only heavily shell the residential areas in government-controlled territories, but resort to numerous provocations of shelling the residents in areas of their control.
We are convinced that a thorough investigation is needed in relation to the shelling of the Donetsk hospital on 4 February, which led to deaths of local residents. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine has launched a criminal proceeding concerning this case under the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “Terrorist act”.
We remain alarmed over the on-going illegal detention in the Russian Federation of the Ukrainian citizens, who were abducted from the territory of Ukraine.
We draw the particular attention of the Permanent Council that the health of Nadiya Savchenko, people’s deputy of Ukraine and member of the Ukraine’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is further deteriorating as she remains on hunger strike for almost 2 months in protest against the illegal and inhumane actions of the Russian authorities. We are extremely concerned that after visiting Ms.Savchenko on Tuesday, her lawyer said that “she is dying slowly in the Russian jail”.
We view as unacceptable the absence of the reaction of the Russian Federation to the call by the PACE to immediately relese Ms.Savchenko, who enjoys diplomatic immunity as a member of Ukraine’s parliamentary delegation to the PACE.
We reiterate that while Ms.Savchenko, Mr.Sentsov and other Ukrainian citizens are kept behind bars for over half a year the Russian authorities have failed to present any credible evidence of their guilt. Instead of releasing the illegally detained Ukrainian citizen and taking to account those responsible for the illegal actions against these citizens, the Russian authorities are now trying to concoct new unfounded charges against them.
We urge the Russian side to respect its OSCE commitments and to immediately and unconditionally release all Ukrainian citizens, who are political prisoners in Russia.
Illegal detention by the Russian occupying authorities of Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Ahtem Ciygoz on 29 January 2015 confirms the worst fears about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which now turn into repressions.
Ukraine raises a separate current issue on this subject as we view present developments in the occupied Crimea as posing very serious threats to the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities of the peninsula.
Before I conclude let me reiterate that violence in Ukraine’s east, which already led to deaths of over 5300 people according to the UN assessments, is a direct consequence of Russia’s aggression against my country.
We call on the Russian Federation to immediately take practical steps towards de-escalation, cease-fire and full implementation of the Minsk agreements as well as restoring Russia’s respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments.
We urge Russia to abandon the aggression against Ukraine and reverse the attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.