OSCE Permanent Council special meeting was convened by the Serbian Chairmanship to discuss the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements, in particular holding the ceasefire regime, which came into effect at 00.00 of 15 February 2015.
The most of participating States consider offensive by pro-Russian militants, supported by Russian servicemen, in the area of Debaltseve, Donetsk oblast, as well as a number of incidents along other secitons of the line of contact, as serious violations of agreements, reached in Minsk on 12 February in the "Normandy format", as well as in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.
The Delegation of Ukraine made a following statement at the meeting:
We thank the Serbian Chairmanship for convening this special Permanent Council meeting for discussing the developments in the Donbas region of Ukraine since the ceasefire was introduced from midnight on 15 February.
People in Ukraine had been placing serious hopes onto this step that it would ultimately defuse tensions on the ground and place the peace process on a solid and sustainable ground given the heavy price that my country paid for countering the military aggression.
In strict compliance with the agreements, reached in Minsk on 12 February 2015, upon the order of President of Ukraine, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian forces ceased fire along the entire line of contact from 00.00 hrs of 15 February. We proceed from the conviction that achieving sustainable and comprehensive ceasefire would be a crucial step towards full implementation of the Minsk agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014 and the “Package of Measures” of 12 February 2015. Ukraine has always treated its international commitments with high responsibility. In this spirit, the Ukrainian forces keep their arms silent.
At the same time, I regret to advise that, despite signing the Minsk agreements, the illegal armed groups, with support of the Russian forces, violated the cease-fire 25 minutes after it had been launched. In the morning of 15 February, the militants resumed the offensive on Debaltseve and near Mariupol.
Just on the first day of the ceasefire, Ukrainian positions around Debaltseve were shelled with mortars, artillery and MRLS 88 times. The militants also used tanks to attack the Ukrainian forces.
Heavy shelling did not spare neither military nor civilians. As a result of attacks, parts of Debaltseve as well as nearby villages have been basically destroyed.
The militants claimed in public that the Minsk agreements, in their opinion, did not relate to the situation around Debaltseve and declared that they would continue attacking the city for they have a “right to shell at Debaltseve as it is their own territory”. This declaration not only shows treacherous defiance of the Minsk arrangements but also discards regular pathetical questions by the Russian representative on how the militants could fire at their native towns and villages.They could perfectly well.
Debaltseve is an important transportation hub in Donbas. Once the town is seized, the way to ship tanks, armored vehicles, heavy weapons, fuel, personnel etc. from Russia to Donbas by railway, which is cheaper and quicker, is open. Thus, it is no wonder that the Russian side did its best in Minsk one week ago to delay the ceasefire and it is no wonder that the fighting around this area continues even after the ceasefire is formally in place.
Fierce militants’ attacks with artillery and mortars on the village of Shyrokine near Mariupol on 15 February left 5 Ukrainian servicemen killed and 22 wounded. Total death toll amounts to 10 killed and 34 wounded over two days since the ceasefire came into effect.
The violations of the ceasefire were registered near Popasna, Chornukhine, Zolote and Hirske, which were targeted to artillery shelling. From the moment of introduction of cease-fire and until 6.00 am of 17 February the total number of violations of the ceasefire by the Russian military and the militants reached 164.
As of today, despite the certain decrease of hostilities the situation remains extremely tense in area of Debaltseve, where the militants continue their offensive.
We reiterate that the Minsk agreements provide for unconditional bilateral cease-fire in all areas without any exceptions and urge that all signatories must comply with it.
In light of the current situation the Ukrainian side puts forward a formal request to the OSCE to relocate the UAVs that are being used by the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine in the vicinity of Mariupol to the area of Debaltsevo, which is currently cannot be reached by the SMM patrols due to the security situation. We consider this matter to be of utmost urgency given the incessant shellings and continuous attacks on Ukrainian positions by the separatists’ forces of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” in clear and gross violations of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements” of 12 February 2015.
We also request the Serbian Chairmanship and the Secretary General to undertake all necessary steps to provide the SMM with technical capabilities to conduct efficient monitoring and verification of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, including the use of satellite imagery and UAVs.
Ukraine strictly adheres to the implementation of the Minsk agreements of 5 and 19 September 2014 and the “Package of measures”, signed by the Trilateral Contact group and representatives of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on 12 February as this is the only possible way towards the peaceful resolution in Donbas.
We fully observe the ceasefire and are ready to start implementation of para 2 of the “Package of measures” regarding the withdrawal of heavy weapons. All necessary preparations have already been done. At the same time the on-going violations by the illegal armed groups prevent proceeding to practical implementation of this step. The cease-fire must become sustainable.
We see it imperative that all other signatories, including Russia and its proxies, strictly abide by their commitments, undertaken in Minsk, including in relation to the ceasefire and readiness to start the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
We consider that any claims for changing the agreed modalities and deadlines, establishing any exemptions from the ceasefire regime and presenting ultimatums should be considered as an attempt to disrupt the peace process, triggering due consequences for those responsible.
We call upon the OSCE to ensure the effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons in accordance with p.3 of the “Package of measures”. We call on all participating States to respond to the SMM needs in order to ensure effective performance of its functions, including by enhancing its technical capabilities.
Given that the Mission was not allowed by the militants to access the area of Debaltseve on Monday we urge Russia to exert its influence to prevent any impediments to the Mission’s activities under the Minsk agreements. The OSCE SMM must be granted security and freedom of movement throughout the territory in the east of Ukraine to perform its monitoring and verification functions on the ground.
It is important to explore all available mechanisms of the Trilateral Contact Group to facilitate SMM access across the entire area of concern.
We emphasize the need for the full implementation of all provisions of the agreements, including the restoration of control over the Ukrainian-Russian border. For the ceasefire to hold it is critical to immediately halt the inflow of weaponry and ammunition from the Russian territory into the east of Ukraine. As things stand now, according to available information, last night a column of 12 APCs and 54 trucks with ammunition entered into Luhansk oblast from Russia.
Regrettably, the Russian Federation further resorts to sending 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 that this illegal practice constitutes a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity.
The continuation of this illegal practice also runs counter to the “Package of measures” agreed in Minsk on 12 February, which envisages provision of humanitarian assistance based on international mechanisms. We urge Russia to fully respect international law and reached agreements.
As agreed in Minsk, it is of crucial humanitarian importance to proceed to releasing all hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of “all-for-all” principle. Ukrainian side is ready to start this process immediately. We underline that this agreed measure fully covers the case of Nadiya Savchenko. We urge the Russian Federation to release Ms.Savchenko without any delay as her health is in a critical state.
Before concluding I would like to emphasize that the chance to stop hostilities on the ground and lay foundations for sustainable de-escalation must not be missed and the peaceful population in Ukraine’s east should be protected from further sufferings. Ukraine strives for peace. We urge Russia to start implementing all provisions of the Minsk agreements, as it committed to do in September 2014 and on 12 February 2015, including by exerting its influence on the illegal armed groups to abide by the cease-fire regime, withdrawing its regular troops, weapons and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine, halting violations of the state border with Ukraine and facilitating the OSCE monitoring and verification as envisaged by the Minsk agreements.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman."