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Statement by the Delegation of Ukraine in Response to the Statement by Ms. Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
17 July 2015 17:47

Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 16 July 2015

Mr. Chairman,

The Delegation of Ukraine welcomes the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Ms. Astrid Thors back to the Permanent Council and thanks her for the comprehensive report on her recent activities.

At the outset we would like to reiterate Ukraine’s support of the mandate of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities as an autonomous OSCE institution. The work of the High Commissioner is essential for conflict prevention in the OSCE area in providing early warning and seeking early action with regard to the tensions involving national minorities.

In this context we believe that the HCNM has a particular role to play in addressing grave violations of national minorities’ rights resulting from the illegal occupation and annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation.

Ukraine appreciates the close cooperation with the High Commissioner and we thank Ms. Thors for paying several visits to Ukraine in 2015.

The Government of Ukraine is deeply concerned over the serious human rights violations in the occupied Crimea marked by increasing repressions, violence and discrimination against the Crimean Tatar indigenous people and ethnic Ukrainians. 

Since the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia, the Crimean Tatars have been subjected to constant terror and physical violence, including cases of killings, abductions and torture of activists, pressure on independent media and religious institutions. The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, Islamic religious schools and mosques have been exposed to surveillance and searches. All Crimean Tatar TV channels were forced to close. Illegal and politically motivated arrests of Crimean Tatar leaders persisted, including the case of Ahtem Ciygoz.

The human rights violations by the occupying authorities also seek to eradicate all manifestations of the Ukrainian identity, education and culture on the peninsula. Pro-Ukrainian activists are exposed to harassment, threats, illegal detention and torture. All Ukrainian television channels have been switched off. There is growing pressure on few remaining Ukrainian schools, where the teaching in Ukrainian language was significantly reduced.

The extremely disturbing human rights landscape presented in numerous independent reports by the OSCE, the UN and the Council of Europe, was further substantiated in the findings of the human rights defenders and NGOs. They describe occupied territory as a “vacuum of law”, “information ghetto” and “military camp” of the Russian Federation, where it continues to strengthen its repressive policies.

The occupying authorities continue to impose, in contravention of the UN GA resolution 68/262, the application of RF laws and en masse conferral of the Russian citizenship in Crimea, which has serious human rights implications.

Distinguished colleagues,

In reality, the other side of dire situation in the occupied Crimea is the deliberate policy of forced russification, pursued by the occupying authorities.

Ample first-hand testimonies gathered by the members of the Unofficial Turkish Delegation, which visited Crimea in April 2015, testified that the environment for the Crimean Tatars on the ground is critical and needs to be addressed without any delay. 

Madam High Commissioner,

We sincerely appreciate your participation in the ceremony of commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people, held in Kyiv on 18 May 2015. As you rightly stressed in your statement on this occasion: “Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. The OSCE does not recognize the “referendum” held last year […]. At the same time, while Russia exercises de facto control over the peninsula it is bound by international law to ensure full respect for the human and minority rights of all communities living there”. As we all know, traditional commemorative events were banned this year in the occupied Crimea.

We look forward to the findings of the HCNM and ODIHR monitoring mission undertaken in July 2015 upon the request of the Ukrainian Government to evaluate the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. We believe that the relevant report should necessarily assess the implementation by the occupying authorities of the recommendations contained in the 2014 HCNM/ODIHR Human Rights Assessment Mission Report.

Ukraine is alarmed that the “Crimean Field Mission for Human Rights”, one of the last independent human rights organizations in Crimea reporting on the situation on the ground, is silenced by being placed on the so-called “patriotic stop list” of “undesirable” organizations by the Russian Federation Council.

We reiterate the need for the HCNM to persistently seek access to the occupied Crimea. It is critical to continue close and permanent monitoring of the situation with the national minorities’ rights in Crimea and react to unacceptable cases of serious human rights violations and increasing repressions against the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities.

Distinguished colleagues,

The Government of Ukraine stays committed to the protection and promotion of the rights of all national minorities in Ukraine, their unique cultural and language identity and will pursue policies conducive to harmonious development of the Ukrainian multi-ethnic society. The on-going constitutional reform, including on decentralization, is expected to contribute to further enhancing the effective participation of all segments of the society regardless of their national identity in the public affairs of the country.

The overwhelming majority of national minorities in Ukraine describe good inter-ethnic relations and voice strong support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. This message was clearly voiced by the representatives of different communities during the meetings with the OSCE High Commissioner in Kharkiv, Lviv and Zakarpattia oblasts of Ukraine.

The competent Ukrainian authorities examine with great attention the HCNM’s recommendations, including on strengthening the institutional framework for national minorities policy, and look forward to continuing close cooperation.

Madam High Commissioner,

We are alarmed over the negative developments with regard to rights and freedoms of persons, belonging to Ukrainian minority in the Russian Federation, which is one of the largest ethnic communities in Russia.

The ongoing pressure and incitement of hatred through state-owned media pose a serious threat to preserving and developing the national identity, cultural and linguistic needs of the Ukrainian community in Russia.

We encourage the OSCE HCNM to give immediate attention to these worrying trends and assist the Russian Federation to fully comply with relevant OSCE commitments on national minorities.

It is crucial that the High Commissioner is able to visit Russia at any time when considered necessary. We encourage the Russian Federation to extend a standing invitation to the HCNM.

Let me conclude by expressing our support for the work performed by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Ms. Astrid Thors and her team. We look forward to continuing our cooperation. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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