Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 26 February 2015
I would like to start by expressing our gratitude for the international support and solidarity in condemnation of the barbaric terrorist attack against participants of a peaceful rally in Kharkiv last Sunday, which left 4 people, including 2 teenagers, dead and 13 wounded.
This heinous crime was aimed at intimidating people and perpetrating the atmosphere of fear and terror. The blast in Kharkiv is a blatant attack on one of the fundamental freedoms that all of us have committed to, notably the freedom of peaceful assembly.
The Ukrainian law-enforcement authorities are taking exhaustive measures to bring the responsible to justice. The city of Kharkiv has been placed on the highest terrorist alert.
We look forward to the Serbian Chairmanship to take a firm and unwavering stance in condemning all forms and manifestations of terrorism which ruthlessly targets our core values and principles.
Let me recall today that exactly one year ago on the night of February 27, 2014, the Russian Federation launched its military aggression against Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
The beginning of the aggression was marked by seizing the premises of the Crimean Supreme Council by Russian servicemen and paramilitary groups. Hero of the Russian propaganda media, terrorist Igor Girkin (Strelkov), the then military advisor to leader of Crimean separatists Aksyonov, confirmed later that local deputies were brought to the building by force to vote for the so-called referendum under the barrel of guns.
So-called “Little green men”, in full military gear and heavily armed, blocked the Ukrainian military compounds, Ukrainian Navy bases, administrative buildings and infrastructure across the peninsula. We all remember our Russian colleague persuading the OSCE community a year ago that they were locals from the so-called “Crimean self-defense forces”, only for the Russian President to later publicly acknowledge that those were Russian soldiers and hand out Russia’s state decorations to them.
The international community was united and resolute then, as it is now, in condemning the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, including by adopting in March 2014 the UN General Assembly Resolution “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Russian illegal actions aimed at disrupting the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine in defiance of international law and OSCE principles and commitments have led to the worst crisis in the European security since the end of the World War II as part of one country has been annexed by force by a neighboring country.
We appreciate unequivocal international support for the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders since such unity is much needed to counter the aggression and defend our fundamental principles and commitments.
As the winter session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly took place in Vienna last week, I would like to draw attention to the unanimous decision of the Bureau of the OSCE PA to reject the Russian Federation’s designation of Olga Kovitidi as a Member of the OSCE PA. It was concluded that “what Ms.Kovitidi represents in the Russian Federation Council is not a Russian territorial entity but an illegal de-facto authority on Ukrainian territory. She therefore cannot be accepted as a member of the OSCE PA”.
The debates at this session clearly highlighted the expectations that Russia will take steps to implement a PA Resolution on clear, gross and uncorrected violations of Helsinki principles by the Russian Federation and “end its intervention in Ukraine”.
We have regularly informed the Permanent Council about the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied Crimea under de facto control of the Russian Federation, marked by increased persecution and flagrant discriminatory policy towards the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities.
We reiterate that the Russian Federation as the occupying authority in Crimea bears full responsibility under international law to protect security and human rights of all those residing in the occupied territory, including the effective investigation of all violations. We urge Russia to respond to calls of the international community and stop all human rights violations, as well to allow access of international observers to monitor the situation on the ground.
Following annexation of Crimea Russia proceeded to the second stage of its aggression in Ukraine’s Donbas leading to a conflict which already left over 5000 people dead, misplaced over 1,5 million people, caused massive destructions and sufferings. As Russia failed to honour its commitments under the Minsk documents of last September, we now, after many more deaths and destructions, pin our hopes and expectations on implementation of the Minsk package of measures and Minsk agreements by all signatories. However, two weeks after the Minsk meeting in the Normandy format no real ceasefire in Donbas has been established yet due to the on-going attacks and shellings by the militant groups, acting in collusion with the Russian military present on the ground.
The attacks on Debaltseve were ruthless, indiscriminate and significantly intensified already after the ceasefire came into effect on 15 February. The city has been effectively destroyed. The Ukrainian forces withdrew to prevent loss of life and full-fledged humanitarian catastrophe in the area of Debaltseve.
As the SMM reported from Debaltseve, what used to be a town of 25 thousand people, almost all buildings had sustained damage from artillery; all roads were damaged by shelling, no electricity or gas and food available, no working hospitals or medical supplies. This is the cost inflicted upon Ukrainian towns and villages by Russia and its proxies obsessed with expanding the territories under their control.
We reiterate that attacks on Debaltseve constituted a flagrant violation of the agreements, reached in Minsk on 12 February in the “Normandy format” and in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. They also cast serious doubts on the readiness of the Russian Federation and its proxies to seek peaceful resolution by abiding to the ceasefire and other measures, agreed in Minsk.
The attacks on Debaltseve have not been an exception as testified by the developments on the ground. While the number of shellings and attacks has reduced the Russia-backed militants continue to violate the ceasefire on a daily basis. The situation remains highly threatening in the area of Mariupol, in particular near the village of Shyrokine. Intensive mortar shelling on 25 February caused destruction of residential houses and infrastructure in the village of Popasna, Luhansk oblast.
Over 21-24 February 4 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 21 wounded. 3 civilians lost their lives on 21 February following artillery shelling on the town of Avdiyivka in the vicinity of Donetsk. This town is also for months now without water, electricity and gas.
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine confirms the on-going concentration of militants’ manpower and hardware in the vicinity of the line of contact, in particular near Mariupol and Piski in Donetsk oblast, Stakhanov and Bryanka in Luhansk oblast. The reinforcements of the militant groups with weaponry and military personnel continue to arrive from the territory of the Russian Federation.
So far the continuing violations by Russian forces and its proxies do not allow to proceed to implementation of the paragraph 2 of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, envisaging the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
Ukraine is ready to start this process in line with the parameters agreed in Minsk and the signed plan of withdrawal. We have already prepared special technical areas for withdrawn weapons. For the withdrawal of heavy weapons to start there must be ceasefire observed by all signatories, the withdrawal must be carried out under the OSCE monitoring and verification.
We draw attention that all signatories of the Minsk agreements were requested to provide SMM with the baseline information on their withdrawal plans. As follows from the SMM report of 23 and 24 February, Russia as a signatory of the Minsk package has not yet provided the Mission with such information. We call on the Russian Federation to respond the SMM request as soon as possible.
It is imperative that the SMM has full and unimpeded access throughout Donbas to perform its functions and receives security guarantees from all signatories of the Minsk agreements.
We express our concerns over the incident that happened on 22 February at a militants’ checkpoint in Kyivskyi district of Donetsk, where the militants’ commander from the so-called “DPR” threatened to kill the SMM monitors.
Another incident happened on the same day with an SMM UAV, being constantly jammed while attempting to monitor compliance with the Minsk Package in the vicinity of the Donetsk airport.
We urge Russia to exert its influence on the illegal armed groups it backs to ensure the safe and unimpeded performance of Mission’s functions on the temporary occupied territories of Donbas in line with the agreed mandate and the Minsk arrangements.
Speaking at the UN Security Council on 23 February Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has emphasized that we cannot watch the Minsk agreements being continuously violated and could not accept that some still behave as if nothing was happening and as if there were no red lines for the aggression.
To strengthen chances for peace Ukraine requests a deployment of a peacekeeping operation. This initiative and its implementation would complement the activities of the SMM, which is a civilian mission in a complex security environment, and become an important instrument to help implement the Minsk agreements and bring peace back to Donbas. We look forward to the support by our partners of this initiative.
At the Normandy Format ministerial meeting that took place in Paris on 24 February Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia called for the strict implementation of all provisions of the Minsk agreements, beginning with a sustainable ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of heavy weapons.
Readiness of the Russian Federation and the Russia-backed illegal armed groups to abide by their commitments will be crucial for implementation of the Minsk agreements and for the entire peace process.
We call on the Russian Federation to take immediate practical steps towards full implementation of the Minsk agreements as well as restoring respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments. We urge Russia to halt aggression against Ukraine and reverse the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.