Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 16 July 2015
Today, as Ukraine marks the 25th anniversary of proclamation of its state sovereignty, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues, the situation in the occupied territories of Ukraine in Crimea and in Donbas remains tense and volatile. On-going failure by Russia and its proxies to honour the Minsk agreements impedes the de-escalation process and maintains the hostilities in Donbas.
We welcome the firm position, taken by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly through its last week’s Resolutions, which condemned Russia’s “failure to respect the Helsinki principles” and qualified Russia’s actions in Crimea and Donbas as “acts of military aggression against Ukraine”. This aggression, as rightly pointed out by the Assembly, has an adverse impact on Ukraine’s economy and living conditions of the Ukrainian people.
We thank the Assembly for the strong support to the Ukrainian citizens, held behind bars in Russia as political prisoners, and its call to immediately release them.
We do hope that the voice of the parliamentarians, representing democratic nations from across the OSCE area and calling on Russia to halt its destabilization campaign in Ukraine, will be heard in Moscow. Reversal of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will be instrumental to restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, to restoring respect to the OSCE fundamental principles and confidence in the European security architecture.
The OSCE SMM Chief Monitor, updating us last Monday on the developments on the ground, defined achievement of ceasefire as a critical task which has direct implications for progress on all other aspects of peaceful political resolution. Ukraine fully shares this conclusion.
We deeply regret that the ceasefire has not yet happened as it is constantly violated by the Russian military and the pro-Russian illegal armed groups. Just on one day, 14 July, Ukraine lost 8 servicemen and other 16 were wounded as a result of the provocative shellings by the militants and infiltration of the Russian subversive groups.
The militants resort to regular provocative shellings of Shyrokine, despite their claims on demilitarization of the village.
The illegal armed groups continue to employ extensively the heavy weapons that must have been withdrawn from the contact line. Over the day of 14 July we registered 19 cases of shelling from 122 mm and 152 mm artillery, 33 cases – from 120 mm mortars, 13 times – from tanks and 2 cases of GRAD shellings.
OSCE SMM regularly confirms the use of heavy weapons by the pro-Russian militants. For instance, in its report of 13 July the Mission informed that 152 mm artillery targeted the village of Nyzhniy Minchenok in Luhansk oblast. In Tryohizbenka and Novotoshkivske the militants again used the GRAD-P portable rocket launcher systems. Notably, this kind of Russian weapon came into use only in the last few months.
We are seriously concerned over the on-going deliberate destruction of the critical infrastructure and main industrial facilities in the region. Over the past week we have witnessed continuation of shellings of the coke plant in Avdiyivka and failure to complete the SMM-facilitated repair work of the water-supply system around Horlivka due to the militants’ fire. These shellings again testify to how little the Russian-led “DPR” and “LPR” care about the humanitarian situation in Donbas.
Continuing concentration of the militants’ weaponry close to the line of contact is a matter for alarm. Russia continues to reinforce the illegal armed groups with manpower and hardware, including sophisticated weapons, providing regular supplies through uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border and using the railway hubs in occupied Debatlseve and Illovaysk. It should be noted in this regard that the SMM UAV again spotted Russian Strela-10 surface-to-air system, this time in militant-controlled village of Vesele, Donetsk oblast.
While Russia attempts to evade its responsibility for the conflict in Donbas despite irrefutable evidence, the Russian media reports on numerous criminal proceedings against the servicemen of Russian 33rd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade, permanently stationed in Maykop. According to the soldiers, after their transfer to the training camp close to the border with Ukraine at the end of 2014, they encountered insistent attempts to recruit them for the conflict in Donbas. The recruiters offered 8 thousand rubles per day and the veteran status with relevant social benefits.
Those who refused and returned to the base of permanent stationing to request for discharge from military service have been accused of desertion. According to the official data, the number of criminal cases opened in the first haft of 2015 against the servicemen in Maykop on charges of desertion amounts to 62 while only 35 similar cases were registered in 2010-2014.
This example shows yet again that the resumption of the efficient control over the Ukrainian-Russian state border, including the OSCE monitoring, remains the crucial prerequisite for sustainable de-escalation. The OSCE SMM Chief Monitor emphasized in his report the necessity of this step which would allow to address the dire reality on the ground.
We continue to be alarmed over the situation in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
The recent Report by the Committee to Protect Journalists “Crimea’s journalists in exile as Russia muzzles free press” presents again the evidence of systemic human rights violations since the peninsula has been illegally occupied and annexed by the Russian Federation.
The experts of Committee describe the situation in the area of freedom of the media in the occupied Crimea as an attack on journalism aimed at silencing the critical journalists and leaving Crimean people face-to-face with Russian propaganda. The list of reported violations includes censorship, intimidation of journalists and members of their families, detention and imprisonment of regional journalists, raids by the Russian security service, closure of media outlets. The repressions force the Crimean media outlets and journalists to leave the peninsula. Those independent journalists who remain in Crimea face vilification by the occupation propaganda.
We remind the Russian Federation that under international law it bears responsibilities as an occupying authority. We call on Russia to put a halt to human rights violations and allow free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea.
Ukraine’s consistent efforts at full implementation of the Minsk agreements have not been reciprocated so far by other signatories of these documents, notably the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it supports, which continue to fuel conflict and provoke new hostilities.
We urge Russia to practically commit to the end of violence in eastern Ukraine, withdraw its military units from Donbas, halt reinforcements of its proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk, thus implementing the Minsk agreements it has signed.
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.