Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 18 June 2015
Despite the Minsk agreements, which were designed to chart the way to sustainable peaceful resolution in Donbas based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity, the situation in Donbas remains tense due to on-going violations by the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it backs.
The comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, ensuring the OSCE monitoring and verification and release of hostages are among the immediate first steps, stipulated by the Minsk Package, to proceed to de-escalation. However, they remain unimplemented by the Russian Federation and its proxies.
The attacks and shellings by the militants continue on a daily basis, targeting mostly the areas near Avdiyivka, Horlivka, Maryinka, Hranitne, Novotoshkivske, Krymske and Shchastia. Over 310 cases of violation of ceasefire by the illegal armed groups were registered over the period of 12-15 June. 11 Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives and 48 were wounded during this period. In the last 24 hours – 3 soldiers were killed and 14 wounded. The number of casualties among the civilian population of Donbas has also grown as residential areas in the vicinity of the line of conflict remain one of the main targets for the militants’ artillery.
The illegal armed groups continue to broadly use the heavy weapons despite the commitment to withdraw them, undertaken in Minsk. Over the past week the government-controlled areas sustained shellings with 120 mm, 122 mm and 152 mm artillery, tanks and MRLSs GRAD. The OSCE SMM, in particular, reported on GRAD shelling which targeted Novotoshkivske on 10 June, Troitske and Tryokhizbenka on 14 June. Militants’ larger caliber artillery was confirmed to shell Lebedynske on 11 June.
We note with particular concern that destruction of the critical infrastructure appears to be one of the main targets of the illegal armed groups, guided by their Moscow masters. The deliberate mortar shelling by the militants near Krasnogorovka on 12 June seriously damaged the main pipe line Kramatorsk-Donetsk and left the cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk and Volnovakha cut off from gas supplies. A critical situation emerged as two Ukraine’s largest steel plants in Mariupol were thereby brought on the brink of disruption of the production process and suspension of their work.
On the same day the militants blew up the Popasna-Roty railway section in Luhansk oblast, which was used to supply coal to the power plant in Svitlodarsk. The explosion affected the generation of electricity and its supplies to the nearby settlements.
We remain concerned over the increasing number of armed provocations by the subversive groups, including in particular the Russian servicemen. Two of them, notably captain Yerofeev and sergeant Aleksandrov, detained one month ago as they attacked on the Ukrainian checkpoint, continue to give evidence regarding their activities in Ukraine and orders they had received from the Russian military command.
Both complain that all attempts to contact their families had failed over the entire period of detention. As follows from the investigation by the Russian Novaya Gazeta, the Russian authorities and military command attempt to isolate their relatives from public to avoid dissemination of further details related to the service of Yerofeev and Aleksandrov. They requested a Russian consular officer to facilitate their phone contacts with the relatives, as well as to provide the Ukrainian law enforcement with necessary information on their service in the Russian Army to avoid charges of terrorism. So far, however, the Russian consular officer has not responded to this request and has not requested for a new visit to the above-mentioned Russian citizens.
It remains a worrying trend on the ground that the illegal armed groups further concentrate weaponry close to the line of contact, thus disregarding the Minsk agreements. According to the SMM report of 12 June 14 tanks and 48 APCs were observed near Mariupol. On 14 June the SMM UAV spotted 61 tank, 37 APCs and 10 howitzers in the vicinity of Torez, Komsomolske and Vasylivka. Ukrainian military, including the representatives in the JCCC, corroborate the on-going concentration of the militants’ hardware in the vicinity to the line of contact.
It is of particular concern that the leaders of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” have recently resumed their aggressive rhetoric, threatening to resume the full-fledged military operations “until the victory”. These threats are coupled with allegations that the territories under their control “will never be a part of Ukraine again”.
This again casts serious doubts on the readiness of the Russian Federation, which patronizes the illegal armed groups, to implement the Minsk agreements fully and in good faith.
We therefore regret that the TCG meeting held in Minsk on 16 June was again marked by unconstructive position of the Russian Federation, making it impossible to produce practical results of discussion on implementation of the Minsk agreements, including on ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, ensuring OSCE monitoring and verification, release of hostages, de-escalation in Shyrokyne and the area of the Donetsk airport, delivery of the humanitarian aid, border issues and the local elections. We call on the Russian Federation, as a signatory of the Minsk agreements, to make effective use of the TCG framework to ensure immediate steps aimed at deescalating and halting further sufferings of the civilian population of Donbas.
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 are extremely concerned over a series of attacks on the Ukrainian diplomatic and consular missions in the Russian Federation, committed in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don on 12 June, when Russia Day - the national holiday - was celebrated. We regret that attacks on Ukrainian missions are now considered in Russia as an appropriate way to mark this holiday. It is a direct outcome of the policy of inciting hatred against Ukraine and Ukrainians, in which the Russian state propaganda has invested significant efforts over the past year and a half.
We consider the incidents in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don as a deliberate provocation against Ukraine and its representatives, as well as a flagrant violation by the Russian Federation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. We call on the Russian Federation to conduct thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice and to abide by the norms of international law.
We recall that that ensuring the protection of the diplomatic and consular missions of Ukraine in the Russian Federation, as well as their staff, is an obligation of the Russian authorities under international law.
The recent visit of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to the temporarily occupied Crimea represents a gross violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, blatant disrespect by the Russian side for the legislation of Ukraine and norms of international law.
Ukraine has repeatedly emphasized unacceptability of such visits to the sovereign territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, without due coordination with the Ukrainian authorities.
This step demonstrates yet again that Russia deliberately aims at further escalation of tensions in Ukrainian-Russian relations and is unwilling to heed upon calls of the international community to resolve the situation by diplomatic means.
We also remain alarmed over the continued gross violations in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. These violations have again been highlighted in a report, produced by an unofficial group of Turkish representatives that visited Crimea in April. 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 unfettered access of the international monitors to Crimea to assess the situation on the ground.
Tomorrow will mark one year since the people’s deputy of Ukraine and member of the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the PACE Nadiya Savchenko was taken hostage by the Russian proxies in Luhansk oblast of Ukraine. Later she was transferred to the Russian Federation and placed behind bars under fabricated charges. A number of other Ukrainian citizens, including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and Crimean activist Oleksandr Kolchenko were also abducted from the territory of Ukraine and remain illegally detained in Russia.
We recall that by signing the Minsk agreements the Russian Federation undertook commitment to release all hostages and illegally detained persons. The cases of 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 them.
Ukraine remains committed to the peaceful resolution of the crisis on the basis of norms of international law, OSCE principles and fully implementing the Minsk agreements. We have consistently underpinned this commitment by practical deeds.
The ultimate success of the de-escalation efforts will depend upon the readiness of the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it backs to proceed to practical implementation of the Minsk agreements, which has not yet been the case.
We therefore urge Russia to withdraw its troops and weaponry from Ukraine and halt military supplies to its proxies, release all hostages and establish effective control along the state border, allowing the OSCE monitoring.
We urge Russia to abandon the aggression against Ukraine and reverse the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol which remain an integral part of Ukraine.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.