Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 19 March 2015
Despite numerous calls of the international community and the agreements signed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015, which constitute the political framework for peaceful resolution in the east of Ukraine, the Russian Federation and its proxies continue to fail to implement in good faith the undertaken commitments.
While the level of hostilities appears to have reduced, the attacks and armed provocations by the militants, largely in the vicinity of Mariupol and the Donetsk airport, continue. Over 110 cases of violation of ceasefire by the illegal armed groups were registered over the period of 14-17 March. 4 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives and 6 were wounded in this period.
Despite the declared ceasefire, which should have lasted for over a month now, the toll of casualties grows on a nearly daily basis. The comprehensive ceasefire must be fully observed which has not yet happened. We urge Russia and the illegal armed groups it backs to ensure strict compliance on their side with the cease-fire arrangements.
The SMM reports that it is not able to verify the withdrawal process in militant-controlled areas as the OSCE monitors are denied access to what is described by the militants as “storage sites”. We reiterate that for the SMM to verify a withdrawal in line with the Minsk package, the SMM must have full access and monitor the movements and the storage of heavy weapons. We urge the Russian Federation to exert its influence on the illegal armed groups it supports to provide for the safe and unimpeded performance by the SMM of its verification functions.
We note with concern that the militants continue to concentrate manpower and hardware in the vicinity of Mariupol, Artemivsk and Luhansk. Over the recent days their leaders have again resorted to aggressive rhetoric, threatening to resume full-fledged military actions. In particular, on March 17, leader of the so-called “DPR” Zakharchenko, called “to seize all cities, where our referendum took place”. Such provocative statements, which led to serious violations of the Minsk agreements in the past, are again left without any reaction from the Russian Federation.
Contrary to the Minsk agreements, Russian military personnel and hardware remain on the territory of Ukraine and are not being withdrawn to Russia. The Russian Federation continues to supply the illegal armed groups, including by sending the so-called “humanitarian convoys”. On 13 and 15 March Russia again resorted to this illegal practice, as it proceeded without any consent and inspection by the Ukrainian authorities ignoring the leading role of the ICRC and the principles of international humanitarian law and acting contrary to the Minsk “Package of measures”, which envisages provision of humanitarian assistance based on international mechanisms.
We condemn Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We urge Russia to fully respect international law and reached agreements and meanwhile direct its humanitarian assistance to those border crossing points, which are under control of the authorities of Ukraine.
Over the week since the last Permanent Council meeting Ukraine has again consistently demonstrated its strong commitment to fully implement the Minsk agreements to achieve sustainable peaceful solution and de-escalation in Donbas.
Ukraine implements measures, agreed in Minsk on 12 February, in particular those on ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. The SMM reports about its regular visits to the Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons storage sites to verify the withdrawal. Over the period of 12-15 March there were 14 verification visits.
Respective legislative acts were adopted on 17 March 2015 aimed at implementation of the Minsk agreements.
1) In accordance with the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a Resolution specifying the areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to be granted with special regime under the Law of Ukraine “On Interim Self-Government Order in Certain Areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts”. The Resolution is based on the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014 as agreed at the February meeting in Minsk.
2) The Parliament of Ukraine also amended the abovementioned Law on Interim Self-Governance Order with a number of provisions to create necessary conditions for holding the local elections in Donbas. They envisage, in particular, that:
- the Law will come into effect immediately after the legitimate local authorities, elected in the local elections, assume their offices;
- Local elections should be held in free, fair and transparent manner in compliance with the OSCE standards for democratic elections;
- International election observation, including by the ODIHR and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, should be ensured, international observers must be given security assurances;
- Foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries should be withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine, as stipulated by the Minsk Protocol and the “Package of Measures”;
- Election rights of the internally displaced persons should be safeguarded.
I remind that it was the farce of the so-called “elections” in November, which violated the Minsk Protocol and were not recognized by Ukraine and the international community, that the implementation of Minsk Agreements of September 2014 and de-escalation process were seriously endangered.
The decision of the Parliament of Ukraine is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements, Ukrainian legislation and our OSCE commitments. We have been taking a consistent position that only legitimate representatives of local population, elected in a free, fair and transparent manner, will have people’s democratic authority to pursue dialogue with the Government on decentralization and implementation of the Law on the Interim Self-Government Order.
We were therefore puzzled by statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which found threats to the Minsk agreements in the newly-adopted legislation. Those statements are groundless. I would be grateful for clarification by my distinguished Russian colleague on what exactly his Ministry considers to be undermining the Minsk agreements: OSCE election standards, international observation or absence of armed people and foreign mercenaries in the polling stations and in the streets?
We do hope that the Russian Federation will act in good faith and use its influence on the militants who took control in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts to proceed to having local elections as agreed in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and OSCE standards and avoid any disruption of the peace process.
3) The Verkhovna Rada approved a resolution calling for deployment of EU and UN peacekeepers to the country's east. The adoption of the resolution creates conditions for an appeal on behalf of Ukraine to the United Nations and the European Union on the deployment of an international peacekeeping mission on the territory of Ukraine, which will contribute to a political resolution and an early normalization of the situation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as safeguard, in cooperation with the SMM, effective implementation of the Minsk agreements.
4) The Parliament also adopted a decree on recognizing certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as occupied territories until all foreign troops, illegal armed groups, their military equipment and mercenaries withdraw from there, as stipulated by the Minsk agreements.
Being consistent in the commitment to seek full implementation of the Minsk agreements, yesterday in a telephone conversation the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to initiate a ministerial meeting in the “Normandy Format”.
We remain to be seriously concerned over the destiny of the Ukrainian citizens, who were abducted from the territory of Ukraine and illegally detained in the Russian Federation. We reiterate that according to the Minsk agreements all hostages and illegally detained persons must be released based on the principle “all for all”. This includes the abovementioned Ukrainian citizens, in particular the people’s deputy of Ukraine and member of the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the PACE Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Crimean activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and other Ukrainians - political prisoners in Russia.
We are alarmed over the decision of Nadiya Savchenko to resume hunger strike as the Russian side further ignores obvious evidence of her innocence as well as Russia’s commitment under the Minsk agreements, Russia’s legal obligation under the Article 15 of the 1949 General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe, and continues to hold her hostage. According to the medical reports, the hunger strike can lead to unacceptable risks for the health of Ms.Savchenko.
We stress again that Russia bears the entire responsibility for the life and health of Nadiya Savchenko and urge Russia to immediately and unconditionally release her and other illegally detained persons and hostages from custody. This would be a practical step by Russia to implement the agreed "Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements", specifically the commitment to release all hostages and detained persons.
I would like to conclude by reiterating our call on the Russian Federation to immediately take all necessary practical steps towards de-escalation in Donbas, stipulated by the Minsk agreements, and exert its influence on the militants it supports to do likewise. The Minsk documents establish the agreed framework of commitments undertaken by the same signatories, including members of the Trilateral Contact Group that represent Ukraine, the OSCE and the Russian Federation, and offer a way forward to a comprehensive, sustainable and peaceful resolution to the crisis in Donbas, in full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, international law and the OSCE principles.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.