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 March 2015
A week since the last meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council did not bring significant positive changes of the situation on the occupied territories of Ukraine in Donbas and the Crimean peninsula as the Russian Federation persists on its course of military aggression against Ukraine in grave breach of international law and the fundamental OSCE principles and commitments.
The situation on the ground in Donbas remains volatile despite the level of hostilities is reported to have reduced. Militants’ attacks and shelling still take place along the line of contact with Shyrokine, the outskirts of the Donetsk airport and the Bakhmutka road as the main targets.
Violations of the ceasefire by the illegal armed groups result into new casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilians. 3 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives and 30 were wounded over the period of 19-24 March. OSCE monitors reported on the deadly attack in Avdiyivka, where a local resident was killed by a militants’ shell. Yesterday a passenger bus blew up on a land mine. We share the grief of relatives of those killed and hope for speedy recovery of the wounded.
We note with particular concern the facts of resumption of the use of GRAD multiple rocket launching systems to shell the Ukrainian positions. One of the incidents took place on 22 March on the vicinity of the village of Orikhove, Luhansk oblast.
The battle tanks are also among the heavy weapons that the Russia-backed militants continue to broadly use in defiance of their commitments on ceasefire and withdrawal. On 21 March the SMM observed up to 20 militants’ battle tanks in less than 15 km from the contact line. At three militants’ controlled locations east of Mariupol the SMM observed the concentration of 25 battle tanks.
The developments on the ground are also now marked by intensified activities of subversive militants’ groups, tasked to destroy the infrastructure and disseminate fear in the government-controlled areas of Donbas. Just over the recent days they blew up railway lines in the vicinity of the towns of Popasna and Volnovakha.
The militants continue to provoke the Ukrainian forces by attacking them and seeking to extend territories under their control beyond the line of contact. As the SMM pointed out in its report of 22 March the Cossack militant, who told the OSCE monitors about shelling by the Ukrainian forces near Stanytsya Luhanska, acknowledged the shelling was stopped “immediately after the withdrawal of his forces to the “LPR”—controlled side of the river”.
Regrettably, the Russian Federation continues to turn a blind eye on regular violations of the Minsk agreements by the illegal armed groups it patronizes. Instead, the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to produce statements, containing disinformation about activities of Ukraine’s military. We regret the Russian Foreign Ministry again misled the international community while claiming the Reuters footage of a Ukrainian military exercise filmed in the village of Urzuf, 45 km west of Mariupol, to be a proof of Ukraine’s using D-30 howitzers near the village of Shyrokine.
It would be important for the peaceful resolution process if the Russian side stopped its attempts to whitewash the patronized illegal armed groups and divert the international attention from their failure to fully implement de-escalation steps, agreed in Minsk.
We reiterate our call on the Russian Federation and its proxies to put an end to the ceasefire violations and implement Minsk commitments fully and in good faith.
We continue to be alarmed 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 Amnesty International report “Crimea: One year on from annexation; critics harassed, attacked and silenced”. The report contains numerous facts of human rights abuses against pro-Ukrainian media, campaigning organizations, Crimean Tatars and individuals critical of the occupation regime.
The Amnesty International notes the failure to investigate cases of abduction and killing of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar activists, severe restrictions to the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, persecution on religious grounds.
Against the increased international concerns over the human rights violations in occupied Crimea it remains incumbent the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to stop all human rights violations on the peninsula and to facilitate free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea.
The destiny of the Ukrainian citizens, who were abducted from the territory of Ukraine and illegally detained in the Russian Federation, remains the issue of our great concern. Regrettably the Russian Federation continues to ignore obvious evidence of their innocence and further holds them hostage.
We note with particular concern that the health condition of the people’s deputy of Ukraine and member of the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the PACE Nadiya Savchenko has deteriorated since she resumed hunger strike.
We reiterate that when signing the Minsk agreements the Russian Federation undertook commitment to release all hostages and illegally detained persons. The cases of Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Crimean activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and other Ukrainians - political prisoners in Russia fall under the provision of para 6 of the "Package of measures” of 12 February 2015.
On 23 March the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a statement on continued detention of Ms.Savchenko, reminding the Russian Federation of its obligations under the 1949 General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe.
We reiterate that Russia bears full responsibility for the life and health of Nadiya Savchenko and other Ukrainians it illegally detained, and urge Russia to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.
I would like to conclude by stressing that as a signatory to the Minsk agreements, Russia must fulfill its own commitments fully and in good faith, in particular withdraw the heavy weapons it has supplied to the militants and its military formations from the Ukrainian territory, and ensure that the militants respect the ceasefire and other provisions of the Minsk agreements. We also reiterate that resumption of full control of Ukraine over the state border with Russia remains a critical component of the overall peaceful resolution efforts.
The human sufferings on the ground must be halted without delay. We urge the Russian Federation to take urgent practical steps towards de-escalation according to the Minsk agreements, as well as to restore respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments, including full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.