Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 7 May 2015
Over the past week the situation on the occupied territories of Ukraine in Crimea and certain areas of Donbas has remained tense and volatile amid the on-going Russian aggression against my country and its support to the illegal armed groups in Ukraine’s east.
Both Russia and the militants it backs continue to violate the Minsk agreements despite undertaken commitments to implement them fully and in good faith.
We are deeply concerned over the increased number of ceasefire violations by the pro-Russian illegal armed groups in Donbas, amounting over the period of 30 April – 5 May to 357 cases. Our particular concerns are caused by the broad use by the militants of heavy weapons, including larger caliber artillery and MRLSs that must have been withdrawn in compliance with the Minsk agreements. Between 1 and 5 May the positions of the Ukrainian forces and the residential areas in their vicinity were shelled with 120 mm mortars and 122 mm artillery for at least 64 times. The militants also resorted to shellings with 152 mm artillery, MRLS GRAD and tanks. As a result, 8 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 34 wounded, casualties among the civilian population were also registered.
The most dangerous escalation is further observed in the area around the Donetsk airport and in the village of Shyrokyne, where the most of militants’ armed provocations took place. The SMM patrols registered the shellings by heavy artillery, in particular by 152 mm artillery in Avdiyivka, close to the Donetsk airport.
We take note that the militants’ armed provocations near the airport have prompted the SMM’s decision to suspend its monitoring activities in that area until 10th May. Regular armed clashes and shellings by the militants in Shyrokyne do not allow to realize the initiative on demilitarization of the village.
We reiterate that the full respect for the ceasefire regime must be ensured and all heavy weapons must be withdrawn in line with the modalities agreed in Minsk on 12th February and at the Normandy ministerial meeting in Berlin on 13th April. Ukraine has acted in good-faith on all provisions of the Minsk agreements and urges the Russian Federation and its proxies to do likewise.
Intensification of clashes, caused by the unwillingness of Russia and the illegal armed groups it supports to honour the agreement on comprehensive cease-fire, led to security incidents with the SMM patrols, which we consider unacceptable.
Safety and security of the OSCE monitors remains an issue of great importance for Ukraine. I would like to inform that all incidents, which might involve the Ukrainian forces, are subject to thorough investigation and are taken up by the Ukrainian authorities and the SMM. At the same time, we continue to draw attention with utmost concern to numerous incidents when SMM visits to government-controlled territories are endangered by militants’ fire. We urge Russia to exert its influence on the illegal armed groups it supports to respect the ceasefire and provide for the safe and unimpeded performance of SMM’s functions in the occupied territories of Donbas.
This includes the urgent necessity to grant full access of the OSCE monitors to all areas, which are temporarily out of control by the Ukrainian authorities. We note with concern that the Deputy Chief Monitor at his briefing here on Tuesday informed of on-going attempts by the militants to impose their escorts upon the SMM patrols and inaccessibility of border area, controlled by the illegal armed groups, for the OSCE monitoring.
We reiterate that such restrictions, in particular in relation to the border area, seriously undermine the prospects of de-escalation and run contrary to the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements..
No positive developments have been registered in releasing the hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of “all-for-all” principle as envisaged by the Minsk agreements. We reiterate that Ukraine remains ready to immediately proceed to implementation of the relevant provision of the Minsk agreements. We expect that the Russian Federation and the pro-Russian illegal armed groups will finally deliver on their commitments without any delay.
At this point we are extremely worried that amid the reports on torture, ill-treatment and execution-style killing of the captured Ukrainian soldiers, the illegal armed groups attempt to diminish the number of hostages they hold. We consider the militants’ statements on about 10 Ukrainian servicemen in their captivity, while the number of about 300 captured has been confirmed, indicates the militants’ attempts to conceal their crimes against captured, including killings.
We therefore reiterate our call on the Russian Federation to speed up the release in line with agreed modalities.
We are concerned over available information that the illegal armed groups in Donetsk may resort to a bloody provocation targeting civilian population of the city during the celebration of the Victory Day on 9th May. We recall previous incidents, which resulted in numerous casualties and militant’s attempts to lay the responsibility for those crimes on the so-called “Ukrainian subversive groups”.
The provocation is reportedly intended to serve as a pretext and justification of the militants' offensive on the Ukrainian forces. The threat of such offensive has not diminished, but grown. The military force of Russia and illegal armed groups in Donbas is estimated at over 40 000 troops, in addition Russia amassed near the state border with Ukraine over 50 000 troops, which is nearly 1,5 times more than in July 2014. Regular inflow of weaponry and military equipment, ammunition and fuel from Russia into the occupied areas of Donbas continues.
In this regard it might not be a mere coincidence that the Russian side made few days ago unfounded allegation that Ukrainian forces shelled residential areas of Donetsk with larger caliber artillery. We strongly reject these allegations as Ukraine remains committed to full and good-faith implementation. Ukrainian forces open fire only in self-defence in response to the provocations of the illegal armed groups and never direct it at the residential areas.
We strongly urge Russia to refrain from any provocation of dangerous developments, which will disrupt the de-escalation process and make the situation spiral in a menacing direction.
Full implementation of the Minsk agreements must remain our guidance for further efforts aimed at de-escalation. Ukraine for its part, has reaffirmed by practical steps its commitment to good faith implementation of these agreements.
We expect that in line with the Minsk agreements the work of the Trilateral Contact Group may be facilitated by the work of sub-groups on implementation of respective aspects of the agreements. We therefore welcome that the yesterday’s meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk resulted in agreement on launching the activities of four sub-groups. It remains essential to ensure the practical results of this work that would lead to sustainable de-escalation, based on the Minsk agreements. We expect immediate cessation of cease-fire violations by the pro-Russian militants and verified withdrawal of their heavy weaponry.
The occupation authorities in Crimea continue to consolidate the policy aimed at intimidating the representatives of the Crimean Tatar and the Ukrainian communities of the peninsula, many of whom remain behind bars on the fabricated charges. We register no progress since March 2014 in investigating the cases of killed and missing persons, many of whom were pro-Ukrainian activists.
The Delegation of Ukraine reiterates that responsibility for human rights’ violations in Crimea rests on the Russian Federation as the occupying power in accordance with international law and urges it to allow unfettered access to the peninsula to observe the human rights situation.
It is critical to continue independent monitoring of the human rights situation in Crimea, which remains the integral part of Ukraine, and provide a strong reaction to unacceptable cases of serious human rights violations and increasing repressions against the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities. We encourage the OSCE Institutions to use their mandate to the full in addressing the human rights violations in the occupied Crimea.
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 our country, withdraw its troops, mercenaries and weaponry from the territory of Ukraine and reverse the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.