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 March 2015
Today is the day of national morning in Ukraine. A gas blast at a Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk yesterday killed 33 coal miners and left many wounded. The entire Ukrainian nation shares the grief of relatives and close ones of the killed coal miners. We condemn the actions of the Russia-backed militants, exercising de-facto control in Donetsk, who did not allow Ukrainian emergency rescue teams to get access to the site of the mine explosion. Regrettably, the ultimate disdain for human lives remains the distinctive feature of these groups, supported by Russia.
Ensuring full implementation of the Minsk agreements, in particular the document of 12 February 2015, remains an immediate top priority for us.
Ukraine remains committed to full implementation of the Minsk agreements as the basis for peaceful solution and de-escalation in Donbas. Ukraine has shown consistency in implementation since the signing of the Minsk agreements of September 2014 and the Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements of 12 February 2015.
While faithfully seeking again to place the peace process on a sustainable footing, we must remember that we deal with the parties which repeatedly failed to honour their commitments with devastating consequences. The Russian Federation and its proxies breached the September Minsk accords, which led to numerous human losses, including as a result of indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the cities of Volnovakha, Mariupol, Donetsk and Kramatorsk. The line of contact was pushed as the militants seized an additional 550 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory.
Following the signing of the agreement in Minsk on 12 February and the cease-fire coming into effect, Russia and its proxies launched a broad full-scale offensive on Debaltseve, plunging this city into humanitarian catastrophe.
Let me note in this regard the publication in the Russian Novaya Gazeta of an interview with a serviceman of Russian 5th Separate Tank Brigade, who, together with other servicemen, was deployed to Donbas and was severely wounded at the height of clashes in Debaltseve. The brigade in question comprised 31 tanks and nearly 300 servicemen, including the infantry. We have shared the link to the English version of the interview in the mission’s accounts in social media.
The publication provides numerous details about how the Russian regular troops are sent to Donbas, their engagement in combat on the ground, in particular in Debaltseve, and the role of the Russian military command. In particular, the command of the military unit assured the soldier’s mother that her son was indeed on the list of those sent to Ukraine, and therefore “Russian Defence Ministry would fulfill its obligations to the soldier”.
The Russian military incursion into the east of Ukraine has been known and proved for months now. At this juncture I request the distinguished Russian representative to inform the Permanent Council about steps taken to halt the continuous inflow of Russian manpower and weaponry into Donbas, to withdraw from Donbas the Russian troops which are present there, to put an end to activities of Russian recruitment agents who supply mercenaries to Donbas.
Being committed to the letter and the spirit of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian side started the withdrawal of heavy weapons as soon as reduction of hostilities on the ground was registered. Since 26 February nearly all 100 mm caliber artillery systems “Ruta” and ‘Rapira” have been withdrawn from the line of contact to the locations of final destination in strict compliance with the paragraph 2 of the Minsk agreements. The OSCE SMM enjoys full access and cooperation with the Ukrainian competent authorities while performing its monitoring and verification functions. The Ukrainian military now proceed to the second stage of withdrawal – the artillery of 152 mm caliber.
We reiterate that the OSCE verification of the withdrawal of the heavy weapons remains crucial for making the cease-fire sustainable in line with the Minsk agreements. We urge other signatories of the Minsk agreements to allow full access of the OSCE monitors to the sites of final destination of withdrawn weapons. According to the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, militants continue to resort to simulation of withdrawal process, pulling their heavy weapons out in daylight and bringing it back to the line of contact overnight. Limited access of the OSCE SMM in the militants-controlled territories and Mission’s inability to verify the withdrawal do not allow the mission to effectively perform the functions it had been assigned.
We register on-going concentration of manpower and hardware in the vicinity of Artemivsk, Donetsk, Volnovakha and Mariupol. These activities as well as on-going reinforcements of the illegal armed groups by Russia, including railway supplies to the militants’ grouping in Debaltseve, run counter to the Minsk agreements.
We note that Russia-backed illegal armed groups continue attacks and shellings of the Ukrainian forces positions. 64 cases of violation of ceasefire by the militants were registered over 1-3 March. Ukrainian citizens, both servicemen and civilians, continue to die as a result of the militants’ attacks. Within these just a few days of March 6 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 15 wounded. Sad news for media community came on 28 February from the village of Pisky, where photo reporter of Ukrainian newspaper “Segodnya” Serhiy Nikolayev lost his life as a result of the militants’ shelling. Russia and its proxies bear responsibility for these deaths as they continuously fail to comply with the cease-fire.
The number of victims testifies that these were not sporadic incidents. The situation remains volatile in a number of areas, including Avdiyivka, Pisky and outskirts of Mariupol. Ukrainian positions, deployed near these settlements remain targets to militants’ attacks, including mortar and artillery shellings.
It is of utmost importance to promptly deploy the OSCE observers in the areas of ceasefire violations, in particular in the vicinity of Shchastia, Popasna, Stanytsia Luhanska, Krymske, Avdiyivka, Volnovakha, Hranitne, Luhanske, Shyrokyne and the area of Donetsk airport. We note the support of this proposal by other parties to Normandy Format during the phone conversation of the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia on 2 March. We consider comprehensive SMM monitoring in the areas of concern will create prerequisites for sustainable de-escalation on the ground.
Against the background of the on-going violations by the militants, which increase the death toll among the Ukrainian citizens, the President of Ukraine enacted on 2 March the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, appealing to the UN and the EU on the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission on Ukraine’s territory. We reiterate this step would serve the purposes of the Minsk agreements, complement the SMM activities with the ultimate goal of de-escalation and peaceful resolution, as well as ensuring safety and security for the population of Donbas.
We look forward to a productive discussion on this subject in the Normandy Format meeting, scheduled for tomorrow at the level of deputy foreign ministers.
We regret to note that the Russian Federation continues to send the so-called “humanitarian convoys” to the territory of Ukraine without consent and inspection by the Ukrainian authorities and ignoring the leading role of the ICRC and the principles of international humanitarian law. The most recent case happened yesterday.
This illegal practice is unacceptable, it has nothing in common with humanitarian principles and constitutes a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Its continuation 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 the reached agreements.
According to the 9th Report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covering the period from 1 December 2014 to 15 February 2015, the situation in the occupied Crimea continued to be characterized by systemic human rights violations affecting mostly Crimean Tatars and those who opposed the March so-called “referendum”. The HRMMU notes that the exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and of peaceful assembly continued to be curtailed, particularly for Crimean Tatars. The report also contains numerous examples of arrests and detention of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian activists, illegal application of the Russian legislation.
We urge the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula and to facilitate free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea.
We also took note of the establishment in Russia of a Day of Special Operation Forces to be marked on 27 February. I remind that on this day in 2014 the unknown armed men seized the premises of the Crimean Supreme Council, thus launching the process of the illegal occupation and annexation of the peninsula. The establishment of this day concurs with the OSCE community position that Russia’s illegal actions in the Crimea constituted a military special operation by resorting to which Russia committed an act of aggression, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the legally binding norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments.
Russia bears responsibility for military aggression against Ukraine. Deaths of over 6000 people in Ukraine’s east and massive displacement and destruction are a direct consequence of the Russian aggression.
If Russia is genuinely interested in putting an end to the devastating violence and deaths in eastern Ukraine, including the deaths of its own nameless soldiers sent to Donbas, it must stop destabilising Ukraine, halt military supplies to its proxies and withdraw all its troops and military equipment, thus implementing the Minsk agreements it has signed. The Ukrainian - Russian state border must be secured with the establishment of permanent monitoring by the OSCE.
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.