Statement by the Delegation of Ukraine, delivered at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 28 May 2015
Over the past week the situation in the occupied territories of Ukraine in Crimea and certain areas of Donbas has remained tense and continuous violations by the Russian Federation and its proxies take place on a regular basis.
I regret to state that the Russian Federation has so far effectively ignored the calls to fully implement the Minsk agreements, which it signed, with a view to contributing to a peaceful resolution of the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Among the new worrying trends on the ground we register significant intensification of subversive activities of the Russian servicemen and the militants. I remind that following the attack of a Russian subversive group on the Ukrainian checkpoint near Shchastia on 16 May, 2 Russian servicemen, specifically captain Yerofeev and sergeant Aleksandrov, both from the Russian 3rd Guards Separate Spetsnaz Brigade, were detained.
For now the Security Service of Ukraine continues investigative actions in relation to the detained Russian servicemen, establishing all facts of their criminal activities on Ukraine’s territory. While in the hospital the servicemen were visited by the Russian consular officer, representatives of a number of international organizations, including the Amnesty International, ICRC and OSCE SMM, gave an interview to the Russian Novaya Gazeta. We note that the detained servicemen were baffled by the stance of the Russian authorities, which stated that they were “discharged servicemen”. They affirmed that they were active members of the Russian Army tasked to fulfill the so-called “mission in Ukraine”.
It is noteworthy that, according to the Russian independent TV Dozhd, the servicemen of the 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade, who were urgently returned from Donbas to the permanent base of deployment in Tolyatti (the Russian Federation), were forbidden to use mobile phones and instructed to delete their profiles in social networks.
It is unacceptable that Russian military subversive groups carry out their hostile actions to terrorize the territories of Donbas under the control of the legitimate authorities. As an example, on 25th May near Komyshne, Luhansk oblast, a medical vehicle of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was attacked, killing one serviceman and wounding another one.
It is of utmost concern that representatives of international and joint frameworks, established to contribute to de-escalation are becoming targets for armed provocations. We are seriously concerned over the incident with the SMM observation team, which came under fire near Shyrokyne on 24 May. The safety and security of the OSCE monitors is an issue of great importance for Ukraine and all in this hall, thorough investigation is to be carried out to establish all circumstances of the incident.
It is hardly a mere coincidence that the similar incidents happened on the same days with the JCCC patrols, which were attacked in the so-called “neutral” area near Horlivka and in the government-controlled area near Volnovakha on 23 May and 25 May respectively .
We consider these incidents were deliberate provocations aimed at undermining international efforts towards de-escalation and at disrupting the peaceful resolution, based on the Minsk agreements.
The list of irrefutable evidence of Russian on-going violations of the Minsk agreements as well as its direct involvement in the conflict in Donbas, was further enlarged after the Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian military Forpost UAV. As we informed at yesterday’s FSC meeting, this advanced drone, produced in the Ural Works of Civil Aviation in 2013 under the N923, was downed over the village of Pisky near the Donetsk airport on 20 May 2015.
The Forpost drones, produced by Russia under the license contact with the Israel Aerospace Industries, are used by the Russian Army only. We register daily violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity by Russian military drones, launched from the territory of Russia. Their reconnaissance on the Ukrainian territory is accompanied by intensification of targeted shelling of the Ukrainian positions.
The on-going unwillingness of the Russian Federation and the militants it backs to abide by the Minsk agreements, they committed to implement, continues to further aggravate the situation on the ground.
Ceasefire violations by the militants, including with the use of heavy weapons that must have been withdrawn in line with the Minsk agreements, are registered on a daily basis. 120 mm mortars, 122 mm and 152 mm artillery and tanks are increasingly used by the illegal armed groups to attack Ukrainian positions and residential areas. The shelling of the Ukrainian positions with MRLS GRAD was registered near the village of Novolaspa, Donetsk oblast on 22 May. The number of casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and local civilians continue to rapidly grow. 6 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives and 32 were wounded over the period of 21-26 May in Donbas.
We are seriously concerned by the reports on the use of phosphorus ammunition by the militants. According to the SMM report of 20 May both Russian and Ukrainian JCCC representatives in Avdiyivka indicated that incoming white phosphorus mortar grenades had been observed.
Provocative shellings of residential areas and criminal infighting between different militants’ gangs pose a direct threat to the lives of local civilians. At least two local residents of Avdiyivka and Popasna were killed following militants’ shellings on 21 May and 26 May respectively. Two civilians were reported to have been killed during an attack on the leader of Alchevsk militants Mozgovoy, who was at odds with the leadership of the so-called “LPR”.
Militants’ shelling with heavy artillery on residential area in Horlivka on 26th May left 3 persons, including an 11-year old girl, dead. Other 4 persons, including two children, were seriously wounded. We strongly condemn this terrorist act. The criminal investigation has been launched in accordance with article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Terrorist act). The Ukrainian authorities will do utmost to bring the perpetrators to justice.
At one of the previous PC meetings the Russian representative questioned why the Russian military would deploy air-defence systems in the militants’ controlled areas as it was a no-fly zone there. The SMM UAV spotted on 20 May the presence of an advanced surface-to-air missile system 9K35 Strela-10 in militants-controlled Oktyabr (25 km from government-controlled Mariupol). It is indeed a question to the Russian delegation why these Russian systems get deployed following the Minsk agreements and declared Russia’s interest in their implementation.
I would also like to draw attention of the Permanent Council that on 26 May the SMM observed 11 tanks T-72S near Donetsk. Let me note in this regard that this modification of tanks went into production at the Russian plant in Nizhniy Tagil in 1987 as an export model, but in 1993 the Russian army adopted these tanks after a number of foreign contracts got disrupted. The presence of these tanks near Donetsk is again a direct trace to the Russian military.
We note with concern that the SMM continues to face serious restrictions on its access and freedom of movement in the occupied areas of Donbas. As demonstrated by the maps produced by the SMM on a weekly basis, the vast areas of militant-controlled territories of Donbas, in particular the border area, remain inaccessible for the OSCE monitors. Let me bring to the screen the last of such maps, highlighting an enormous scope of restrictions to access by the SMM, imposed by Russian troops and militants. We view these continued restrictions as unacceptable, they violate the Minsk agreements and impede the Mission’s ability to conduct its monitoring and verification activities in line with agreed mandate.
We call on the Russian Federation to implement all commitments undertaken under the Minsk agreements and exert its influence on the illegal armed groups it backs to do likewise.
The Russian occupying authorities in Crimea continue their repressive policy, which is mostly targeted against the representatives of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities. Activists are threatened and face criminal prosecution under fabricated charges, mostly of allegedly organizing mass disorder near the building of the the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on 26 February 2014 and of attacking riot police officers on Kyiv’s Maidan.
A number of Crimean Tatar representatives, including Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Ahtem Ciygoz, remain in detention under this false pretext. On 25 May the occupational court left Mr.Chiygoz behind bar until 29 July. Following the recent illegitimate sentencing of Crimean activist Oleksandr Kostenko to 4 years in jail, the occupying authorities announced new criminal cases against Ukrainian activists in Crimea in connection with the events in Kyiv in February 2014.
We reiterate 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 put a halt to human rights violations and allow free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea to assess the situation on the ground.
The sufferings of people in Ukraine’s Donbas and in Crimea are a direct consequence of the Russian aggression against my country, launched in 2014.
We urge the Russian Federation, as a signatory to the Minsk agreements, to fulfill its own commitments fully and in good faith. Until the Russian Federation and its proxies proceed to practical implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, starting with immediate de-escalation through comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, allowing OSCE monitoring and verification and release of hostages, the prospects for peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas will remain beyond reach.
We urge Russia to honour its international commitments and obligations, to stop the support of terrorists and steady supply of weapons and ammunition to them, to withdraw Russian troops, weapons, mercenaries and fighters from the Ukrainian territory. We urge Russia to reverse the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.