Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 23 July 2015
Our today’s discussion takes place amidst the on-going Russian aggression against my country, which resulted in illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, as well as violent hostilities in Donbas with thousands of casualties among Ukrainians.
Ukraine and its international partners who denounce Russia’s brutal violation of international law and order, have invested significant efforts to provide for peaceful resolution of the conflict, making full use of the established international frameworks, including the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group with its working sub-groups.
We consider as a positive outcome of the TCG meeting on 21 July that the parties agreed on withdrawal of tanks and heavy weapons below 100 mm caliber as well as verification mechanisms. This agreement follows-up on the earlier initiative of the President of Ukraine and the respective call by the Normandy ministerial meeting. We are ready to fully implement it. We expect that the SMM will at last be granted unimpeded access to all territory in Donbas controlled by Russia and the illegal armed groups that will remove large swaths of that territory, including along the state border, from the “grey zone” of unacceptable effective exclusion from OSCE monitoring.
We regret that the position of the Russian Federation and its proxies again did not allow progress in Minsk on Tuesday on other highly important issues, including the immediate effective cease-fire regime, release of all hostages and illegally detained persons, who are also held in Russia, withdrawal of Russian troops and mercenaries, conduct of local elections in certain areas of Donbas in line with the Ukrainian legislation and the OSCE standards, establishment of international mechanism for delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid in Donbas, restoration of water-supply facilities.
While efforts are undertaken to seek progress in peaceful resolution, it is also evident that non-implementation by Russia and the pro-Russian illegal armed groups of already agreed documents was and remains a crucial obstacle to reducing tensions.
Although over 5 months have passed since the Russian Federation and its proxies committed to de-escalation and peaceful political resolution, people in Donbas feel no sense of relief. Ceasefire violations by the Russian military and Russia-backed illegal armed groups remain the daily routine for the residents of the towns and villages close to the line of contact. Over the day of 21 July, when the TCG met in Minsk, the Ukrainian positions and nearby residential areas were shelled about 80 times. On 22 July 34 shellings were carried out, including by heavy artillery, in the last 24 hours – 86 shellings.
According to Ukraine’s ATO headquarters, since 15 February which gave effect to the cease-fire regime the Russian military and illegal armed groups have shelled Ukrainian positions nearly 8000 times; 182 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 983 wounded as a result of shellings and attacks.
On 16-17 July the city of Avdiyivka endured one of the most severe shellings, which left 3 civilians killed and many wounded. According to the SMM report, both Ukrainian and Russian representatives in the JCCC confirmed tank and artillery shelling of Avdiyivka from militant-controlled Spartak. The intensive shellings of the positions of the Ukrainian forces and the residential areas were also registered near the Bakhmutka road, Horlivka, Maryinka, Pisky, Krasnohorivka, Stanytsya Luhanska, Stary Aydar, Lozove.
Critical infrastructure and main industrial facilities in the region continue to be destroyed by the militants. The coke plant in Avdiyivka is among the main targets during the shellings of the city. The SMM reported on damage to the gas pipe line after militants’ shelling of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka. It is telling that the attempts of the JCCC to facilitate a local ceasefire to ensure a repair work were rebuffed by the militants. This week the militants shelled with heavy artillery the village of Troitske, also targeting the Mironovska water dam.
The heavy weapons that must have been withdrawn in line with the Minsk agreements remains extensively used by the militants. In particular, in its report of 20 July the SMM informed that the settlement of Lastochkine, close to Avdiyivka, was shelled with 152 mm howitzers. The OSCE monitors found three unexploded howitzer rounds and 18 craters, caused by the same type of weapon.
Against this background the militant’s “show” with withdrawal of 3 tanks and 4 APCs, arranged in Lozove especially for the Russian TV crews, could not deceive anyone, including those civilians who live close to the line of contact and face regular militants’ shellings of their homes with allegedly withdrawn weapons.
We find greatly alarming regular SMM reports on concentration of Russian and the militants’ military hardware close to the line of contact in defiance of the Minsk agreements. The SMM UAVs consistently observe, inter alia, large concentration of tanks, APCs and other military hardware in the vicinity of Komsomolske, Donetsk oblast. Moreover, in its weekly report of 15 July the SMM informed of 400-500 wooden crates with ammunition, spotted in this village, with approximately 40 military-type trucks parked nearby. While the Russian Federation declares its interest in peace, in practice it continues to generously supply ammunition and weaponry into Donbas. Concentration of the hardware is coupled with the regular threats by the militants’ leaders to extend their control to the entire territory of Donbas as well as continued presence of dozens of thousands of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine and inside Donbas.
Very indicative of the unacceptable situation at the Ukrainian-Russian border are the reports by the OSCE Observation mission at two Russian checkpoints and the SMM. The flow of military-clad people continues through the Russian checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk, amounting to nearly 20 thousand since September last year at only these two checkpoints. In the last weekly report the SMM registered an outrageous fact, which happened at the checkpoint “Marynivka”, where a group of mercenaries with firearms entered into Ukraine from the territory of Russia. Obviously, these were not regular mercenaries that arrive in large numbers into Donbas from Russia, but a category with a special blessing from the Russian authorities despite their disguise as the “local militants”.
This example shows yet again that without the efficient control at the Ukrainian-Russian state border, including the OSCE monitoring, our collective efforts towards de-escalation and comprehensive peaceful resolution will be of limited effect.
The principal victims of the dire situation in the occupied areas of Donbas are the people. In its weekly report of 15 July the SMM has pointed out that the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” are not able to provide for the basic human and societal needs. While numerous attempts to deliver Ukrainian and foreign humanitarian aid to those areas had been blocked by militants before, on 21 July near Bugas they again blocked the entry of 16 trucks with 250 tons of ICRC humanitarian aid. As legitimate humanitarian assistance cannot reach those in need, Russia continues to send its so called “humanitarian convoys”, deliberately violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as norms and principles of international, including humanitarian, law. The last such convoy crossed into Donbas from Russia on 16 July. We condemn this practice of the Russian Federation which also runs contrary to the Minsk agreements. We emphasise the need for the immediate establishment of an international mechanism for delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid in the occupied areas of Donbas, as envisaged by the Minsk Package of measures.
In the meantime, the Ukrainian authorities will continue to closely co-operate with the ICRC and other international organizations in an effort to address the needs of the people in Donbas. As one of the latest initiatives, the Ukrainian authorities will set up humanitarian-logistical centres near the line of contact that will cater for different needs.
Violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol continue to be perpetrated by the de-facto authorities.
We have informed the Permanent Council of numerous and systematic violations which remain uninvestigated and uncorrected. Today we note the case of Crimean activist Oleksandr Kostenko, who was recently sentenced to 4 years in jail under fabricated charges. The whereabouts of his father remain unknown since March. He disappeared after entering the peninsula en route from Kyiv, where he had given a press-conference on his son’s arrest. According to the recent information from Mr.Kostenko’s lawyer, the occupying authorities in Crimea launched a criminal investigation against the younger brother of the activist. We note with deep concern that Stalin-style repressions and intimidation of relatives of those, who are unfoundedly thrown behind bars, are becoming a common practice in Crimea.
As we did on many previous occasions, we again 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.
Readiness of the Russian Federation and the illegal armed groups it backs to embark on practical implementation of the Minsk agreements will be crucial for the sustainability of the peace process. Such readiness has not yet materialized on their part. In effect, Ukraine’s consistency in full and good-faith implementation of the Minsk agreements demonstrates their unilateral implementation. We therefore insist that the Minsk agreements must be implemented by all their signatories simultaneously under rigorous monitoring and constant presence of the SMM.
We urge Russia to practically contribute to the end of violence and sustainable de-escalation in Donbas, in accordance with the reached agreements, and exert its influence on the militants it supports to do likewise.
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.