Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 12 March 2015
It is exactly a month since the Normandy Format Summit in Minsk, where the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia endorsed measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements aimed at placing de-escalation and peaceful resolution in Donbas on a solid and sustainable basis.
We regret that the ceasefire, being the first agreed measure on top of the list, was violated by the Russian Federation and Russia-backed militants immediately after its coming into effect. We have already discussed in the Permanent Council the disastrous consequences of militants’ offensive and shellings on the city of Debaltseve, which was found by the SMM monitors completely destroyed and devastated. This offensive after the introduction of cease-fire killed 66 Ukrainian servicemen and left over 300 wounded.
The continuously growing number, since introduction of the ceasefire, of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians killed and wounded leaves without substantiation any claims that Russia and its proxies implement the Minsk agreements, in particular on ceasefire.
While the level of hostilities appears to have reduced, there are a number of areas of particular concern along the line of contact where regular attacks and provocations by the militants take place. 108 cases of violation of ceasefire by the militants were registered over the period of 8-10 March. Over the last 24 hours there were 49 violations by militants using artillery, mortars and light weapons.
We register on-going concentration of manpower and hardware in the vicinity of Mariupol, Schastia, Stanytsia Luhanska, Avdiyivka, Pisky and Dokuchayevsk. Mariupol and its outskirts and the area near the Donetsk airport remain the issue of primary concern.
Against the background of continuing violations of the Minsk agreements, which undermine the peace efforts, we reiterate our call on the Russian Federation and its proxies to put an end to the ceasefire violations and implement their commitments on de-escalation, undertaken in Minsk, fully and in good faith.
We wish to emphasize that the deployment of the OSCE monitors in the areas of concern, which was discussed and agreed between the leaders of the Normandy format countries, would contribute to sustainable de-escalation. We appreciate that the preparatory work by the SMM is underway, as we were updated last Friday, and urge to promptly proceed to practical implementation of this initiative.
In accordance with paragraph 2 of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements” Ukraine has carried out the withdrawal of its heavy weapons from the line of contact. Over 26 February – 9 March Ukraine withdrew 100 mm caliber cannons MT-12 “Rapira” and MT-12R “Ruta”, 152 mm caliber artillery systems “Akatsiya”, MRLS “Grad” and “Uragan” to the sites of final destination. Numerous convoys of the Ukrainian military hardware, observed by the OSCE monitors over these days when moving away from the line of contact, served as a solid proof of Ukraine’s commitment to de-escalation and implementation of reached agreements.
Cooperation between the Ukrainian military and the OSCE SMM on the verification process is underway. The OSCE monitors reported on their regular visits to Ukrainian storages of heavy weapons. Individual instances of restrictions to freedom of movement of the monitors are dealt with by the Ukrainian authorities and they are mostly caused by the security situation on the ground, undermined by continuing provocations of the illegal armed groups.
We cannot regard as adequate for the situation the scope of SMM observations of the withdrawal process in the militant-controlled areas which proves to be very limited. The Mission appears to be unable to verify the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the illegal armed groups as they significantly hinder the Mission’s monitoring and verification activities, including by restricting its access and jamming the UAVs. We view such restrictions as extremely worrying reflecting also upon the established track-record of grave violations by the Russia-backed militants of the Minsk agreements since their signing in September of last year.
We urge Russia to exert its influence on the illegal armed groups it supports to provide the safe and unimpeded performance of SMM functions in the occupied territories of Donbas in line with the agreed mandate and the Minsk arrangements. We urge to extend security guarantees to the OSCE personnel and ensure monitors’ free access across the area under the militants’ control to verify the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
We emphasize that comprehensive cease-fire and verified withdrawal of heavy weapons by Russia and its proxies have not yet taken place, thus hindering stabilization and progress in other areas.
The escalation of the conflict in Donbas resulted from significant inflow of Russian troops, mercenaries and heavy weaponry from across the border. We register the continuing concentration of large numbers of Russian troops near the Ukrainian-Russian border. The Russian authorities denied observation of these areas by military inspectors under the Vienna Document.
It is in this context that we note the findings of the SMM report of 10 March, which registered numerous and fresh traces of the tracked vehicles on the road across the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine in the vicinity of Chervonyi Zhovten village, that were leading to the main road.
These findings testify that Russia permits itself continuous flagrant violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which already led to conflict and enormous human sufferings and destruction on the Ukrainian territory.
The delegation of Ukraine have repeatedly focused the attention of the Permanent Council that until the efficient control at the Ukrainian-Russian state border is resumed our collective efforts aimed at de-escalation and sustainable cease-fire will fail.
We continue to be deeply concerned over the situation in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. We took note of the recent Freedom House special report, which highlighted “the alarming deterioration of human rights in Crimea under Russian occupation”.
The past week, unfortunately, brought us further evidence that most of the human rights violations are targeted at the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities on the peninsula. Three civic activists were detained for using Ukrainian symbols at a commemoration of birthday of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol on 9 March. The organizer of commemoration, Leonid Kuzmin, was by now sacked from his job as history teacher at a local school.
It only now came to public knowledge that an activist Oleksandr Kostenko was detained in the occupied Crimea in February on allegations of attack on a Ukrainian police officer during the events in Kyiv in February 2014. According to the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights Mr.Kostenko faces tortures and intimidation in the pre-trial center. We draw with utmost concern the attention to reports on disappearance of his father, whose whereabouts remain unknown since 4 March. The relatives admit he could have been abducted for the purpose of exerting pressure on his detained son.
On 11 March Crimean Tatar activist Talyat Yunusov was detained on trumped-up charges of “organizing mass disorder” near the building of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on 26 February 2014. The same pretext was used by occupants to arrest earlier this year Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Ahtem Ciygoz and other Crimean Tatar activists.
These unacceptable developments highlight the growing scope of repressive measures in the occupied Crimea, which eliminate any notion of human rights or freedoms. We also note that no progress has been made regarding the investigation of the cases of missing persons since March 2014.
As we did on many previous occasions, we again urge the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula, to halt repressions against the representatives of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities and to facilitate free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea.
Readiness of the Russian Federation and Russia-backed militants to ultimately give up military option and abide by their commitments on de-escalation, undertaken in Minsk, will be crucial for the prospects of the peace process. This has not yet been the case.
We call on the Russian Federation to immediately take practical steps towards de-escalation in Donbas, stipulated by the Minsk agreements, and exert its influence on the militants it supports to do likewise.
We urge Russia to restore its respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments, to halt its aggression against Ukraine and reverse the attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.