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Assault by Russian troops and militants near Maryinka proves they are not interested in de-escalation on the basis of the Minsk agreements
05 June 2015 16:37

Statement by the Delegation of Ukraine, delivered at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 4 June 2015

Mr.Chairman,

Over the recent days we have registered further deterioration in the occupied territories of Ukraine in Donbas as the developments on the ground were marked with increasing violations of the Minsk agreements by the Russian Federation and its proxies.

We are extremely alarmed over the full-fledged offensive attempts by the Russian troops and Russia-backed illegal armed groups in the area of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka, west of Donetsk. On 3 June, following an early morning intensive shelling with larger caliber artillery they attacked Ukrainian positions, amassing and employing more than 1000 infantry, over 10 tanks, self-propelled howitzers Gvozdika and Akatsiya, MRLSs GRAD. In particular, SMM registered outgoing GRAD missile fire directly from Donetsk city.

The shelling of the Ukrainian positions with heavy weapons, including 120 mortars, 122 mm and 152 mm artillery, was also registered along other sections of the line of contact.

The SMM spot report issued today testifies to the intensive preparation by the militants for the attack and their massive use of heavy weaponry forbidden by the Minsk agreements.

Faced with the assault, the Ukrainian side immediately informed the SMM and in their presence demanded from Russian representatives in JCCC that they undertake urgent steps to stop the assault. No immediate constructive reaction from the Russian side followed while the Ukrainian military had to continue to rebuff the attack by limited available means.

In order to halt the advance of the Russian troops and the militants, as well as to prevent casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilian population the Ukrainian forces had no other choice but to use the heavy weapons, which were previously withdrawn in line with the Minsk agreements. Our international partners, including the OSCE SMM, were prior notified of this assault and the need to strengthen defensive capabilities and response of the Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian side suffered losses – 2 servicemen killed, 30 wounded. Casualties and wounded are also among civilian population, with 3 civilians killed. According to Ukraine’s Security Service, the losses of the Russian troops, who participated in this attack, are at least 4 servicemen of the military intelligence special forces.

We strongly condemn the resumption of the full-fledged hostilities by Russia and its proxies, who again opted for escalation and undermining of the peace process based on the Minsk agreements. Russia bears responsibility for this escalation. We reiterate that the tactic of local offensive, already used by the Russian forces and militants in Debaltseve before and immediately after enacting the ceasefire, resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and its outskirts. Its repetition would mean the collapse of the substantial efforts that Ukraine and the international community invested in de-escalation and seeking peaceful solution.

It should be noted that the day before the offensive on the Ukrainian positions the meeting of the Trilateral Contact group was effectively disrupted by a representative of the Russian Federation. We reiterate the Minsk agreements provisions on intensified TSG aiming at practical implementation of the Minsk agreements. We call on Russia as a signatory thereof to honour this agreement and to contribute to joint efforts aimed at de-escalation.

Distinguished colleagues,

The offensive attempts of militants were preceded by intensification of the activities of the Russian subversive groups in Donbas, as we informed the Permanent Council. They filtered in the areas under the control of the Ukrainian authorities for armed provocations against the Ukrainian forces and terror against the local civilians. It is not coincidence that on 31 May the Russian subversive group attacked the Ukrainian positions near the town of Maryinka, which is now a main hot spot in Donbas. The attack led to casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen, two Ukrainian soldiers were captured.

On 28 May the Security Service of Ukraine prevented a terrorist act in Stanytsya Luhanska. Russian subversive group planted a radio-controlled landmine near the local office of the Pension Fund of Ukraine, with an intention to blow it up when people would be gathering in front of the building to obtain their pensions. Fortunately, the sappers succeeded to timely de-activate the landmine.

Two Russian servicemen – members of one of such subversive groups, who were captured near the city of Shchastia on 16 May, notably captain Yerofeev and sergeant Aleksandrov from Russian 3rd Guards Separate Spetsnaz Brigade, continue to give evidence on their criminal activities in Ukraine. The investigators inter alia thoroughly examine the footages from the mobile phones of the detained servicemen. One of them, recording other members of the subversive group under the command of Yerofeev, has been recently uploaded by the Security Service of Ukraine. Their identification, which is now underway, will further enlarge the body of evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian Army in the conflict in Donbas.

Mr.Chairman,

The Ukrainian forces and the civilian population of Donbas continue to greatly suffer from significant ceasefire violations by the illegal armed groups along the line of contact, in particular in hot spots near Maryinka, Krasnogorivka, Shyrokyne, the Donetsk airport, Avdiyivka, Horlivka in Donetsk oblast and Schastia and Stanitsya Luhanska in Luhansk oblast.

5 Ukrainian servicemen lost their lives and 18 were wounded over the period of 28 May – 1 June in Donbas.

These significant losses continued as Ukraine remained committed to implementing the provisions of the Minsk agreements in good faith, including in relation to the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. Although subjected to provocative shelling by the militants, the Ukrainian forces strictly followed the orders on ceasefire, except for defense response in case of high intensive shelling or   full-fledged offensives like those in the area of Maryinka and Krasnogorivka.

For weeks we have been registering with concern the transfer and concentration of the militants’ hardware, including main battle tanks and multiple rocket launcher systems, close to the line of contact, disregarding the Minsk agreements. As the SMM informed in its report of 30 May, 9 GRAD MLRS had been redeployed from a heavy weapons holding areas to Debaltseve for allegedly “training purposes”. Debaltseve is located close to the frontline and serves as a base for the militants’ artillery units, shelling the Ukrainian positions across the line of contact.

Mr.Chairman,

We regret that our regular calls on the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it backs remain unaddressed as the SMM continues to face serious impediments while performing their monitoring and verification functions in the occupied areas of Donbas.

Over the past week the Mission again faced aggressive treatment and impediments in the militant-controlled areas of Donbas. In particular, on 29 May in Donetsk the monitors were prohibited to speak to the local residents by head of one of the illegal armed groups, operating in the city. On the same day in Pionerske, Luhansk oblast, a militant aggressively forced the SMM team to leave the area, threatening to use weapons.

The OSCE monitors do not get access to vast areas in the militant-controlled territory of Donbas, in particular the border area, as follows from the maps produced in SMM weekly reports. This indicates the on-going unwillingness of Russia and the illegal armed groups to abide by the Minsk agreements, as well as their attempts to conceal the real developments on the ground from the international community.

Distinguished colleagues,

UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine in its 10th Report, which covers the period from 16 February to 15 May 2015, confirmed that the situation in the occupied Crimea continued to be characterized by gross human rights violations targeting mostly those who opposed the unlawful “referendum” in March 2014.

The HRMMU notes that arrests, ill-treatment, torture and intimidation continue being perpetrated against political opponents, primarily against the Crimean Tatar community. The report particularly refers to the case of Oleksandr Kostenko, a Crimean activist, who was illegally detained and tortured to extort a confession of guilt in wounding a police officer during the events in Kyiv in February 2014. Later Mr.Kostenko was sentenced to 4 years in jail under these fabricated charges. 

According to the Report, legal safeguards for detained persons are all but inexistent. The exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and religion is mostly limited to groups or individuals being loyal to the de facto authorities.

We urge the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula and to facilitate free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea.

Mr.Chairman,

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. Nevertheless, the Russian Federation continues to hold them hostage.

We reiterate that Russia bears full responsibility for the life and health of all Ukrainians it illegally detained, and urge Russia to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.

Mr.Chairman,

On a regular basis Ukraine has reiterated that the Minsk agreements serve as a roadmap for the de-escalation and peaceful resolution in Donbas. Acting in this vein, Ukraine has taken consistent practical steps to reaffirm its commitment to good faith implementation of these agreements.

In contrast and to deep regret, the months-long cease-fire violations and now recent offensive attempts by the Russian troops and the militants, on-going reinforcements that the illegal armed groups continue to receive from the territory of Russia, indicate that Moscow and its proxies again opt for escalation.

We urge Russia and the militants it supports to put an end to the devastating violence and deaths in eastern Ukraine, stop all attempts to advance in Donbas, withdraw its military units from Donbas, halt reinforcements of its proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk, thus implementing the Minsk agreements it has signed. The Ukrainian - Russian state border must have the permanent monitoring of the OSCE, as it was agreed in Minsk.

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 annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. 

Thank you, Mr.Chairman.

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