Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 17 December 2015
This week the day of 14 December marked another anniversary of the UNGA Resolution 3314 “Definition of Aggression”. In this connection we emphasise again that the military action of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, entailing illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as direct and indirect military incursion in Donbas, qualify as acts of aggression according to the clauses (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (g) of the Article 3 of the Annex to the above Resolution. Such actions constitute a crime against international peace and give rise to international responsibility.
Throughout the year the Permanent Council has been an important platform for addressing the conflict and broader threats to the European security, stemming from the Russian aggression. We are grateful to the participating States for their firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, peaceful resolution of the conflict on the basis of the Minsk agreements and reversal of illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as for strong condemnation of violations of the OSCE core principles and commitments by Russia.
This year significant efforts of Ukraine and its partners have been invested into laying ground for a sustainable peaceful resolution. The Minsk agreements have been reinforced by the Package of measures and the Addendum. Regular meetings in the Normandy format, activities of the SMM and the TCG have served as important contributing factors in the peace process.
We regret that this year has also shown consistent unwillingness of Russia and its proxies to abide by their commitments, undertaken in Minsk. Full-fledged offensives near the Donetsk airport and Debaltseve in winter, clashes in Shyrokine in spring, provocative attacks on Maryinka and Krasnohorivka in summer and recent escalation after a two-month calm serve as examples of on-going violations of the Minsk agreements by Russia and the illegal armed groups it supports.
Developments on the ground throughout 2015 have provided us with numerous irrefutable evidence of Russia’s direct responsibility for fuelling the conflict in Donbas, including by Russian servicemen in combat action and Russian sophisticated weapons, registered by the SMM, Ukrainian military and local residents.
A huge gap between Russia’s political declarations and its real actions in Donbas has not allowed to implement the Minsk agreements in line with the established timeframe.
As we meet today the situation in Donbas remains tense and fragile. Over the past week the ceasefire violations were committed by the militants along the entire contact line, with the main hotspots in the southern and eastern outskirts of Donetsk – Avdiyivka, Opytne, Pisky, Krasnohorivka and Maryinka. Although the shellings were less intensive in comparison with the previous weeks, the number of cases of targeted fire grew. As a result, 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 15 were wounded between 9-15 December.
We registered numerous instances of use by the Russia-supported militants of heavy weapons that must have been withdrawn in line with the Minsk agreements. In particular, the OSCE SMM in its report of 11 December confirmed GRAD shelling of the village of Zoryane on 8 December. The rockets were fired from an east-south-easterly direction – from the militant-controlled territory. The same conclusion was made by the SMM in relation to the GRAD rockets craters in the nearby village of Oleksandropil, shelled the following day. In the same report the SMM informed of 125 mm tank round hitting Krasnohorivka.
We reiterate that unabated armed provocations by the militants pose a serious threat to de-escalation and peaceful track of conflict resolution, an impediment to the demining activities, which are needed by the people in Donbas. We emphasise that until comprehensive ceasefire is observed the practical implementation of all aspects of the Minsk agreements, discussed in the Trilateral Contact group, including on 15 December, will be placed at risk.
We remain convinced that ensuring the SMM freedom of movement throughout the occupied areas of Donbas is critical for sustainable de-escalation on the ground. However, the OSCE monitors continue to regularly face restrictions in the militant-controlled territories. Over 11-13 December the OSCE monitors were denied access by the so-called “DPR” militants for 10 times with two cases of militants’ threatening the OSCE monitors by pointing a gun at them. We reiterate our call on the Russian Federation to abide by its commitments to ensure full and unfettered access of the SMM throughout the occupied areas of Donbas, including along the border with Russia.
We find it appalling that Russia and its proxies continue their policies of deprivation of the civilian population of Donbas. On 12 December near the village of Olenivka the militants refused to let in 23 trucks with 430 tons of the UN humanitarian aid. International humanitarian organizations cannot resume the operations in the occupied territories despite assurances from Russia.
Russia and the militants engage in a large-scale illegal coal business, depriving people in Donbas of the fuel ahead of winter frost. On 12-13 December the SMM observed 230 trucks, loaded with coal and waiting to enter Russia through the closed BCP “Marynivka”. The OSCE monitors report of continuous flows into Russia of coal-loaded trucks through “Gukovo” and “Donetsk” BCPs. These illegal activities lead to further deterioration of the dire economic and humanitarian situation. We urge Russia to stop them as well as to allow free access of the international humanitarian organizations to the occupied part of Donbas.
We regret that little progress has been made over the year in relation to the release of all hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of “all-for-all” principle, as agreed in the Minsk in February. This issue remains of the highest priority, also taking into consideration the timeline established in Minsk. At least 139 Ukrainians remain in the captivity of the militants.
The captured Ukrainians face torture, ill-treatment and execution-style killings. These facts are corroborated by the findings of the international humanitarian organizations, including the Amnesty International. Numerous evidence testify that this inhumane practice has not halted. We insist that the international humanitarian organizations, in particular the ICRC, must be allowed access to the captured and illegally detained persons, in order to facilitate the observance of their basic human rights.
We regard as unacceptable the attempts by Russia and its proxies to link the release of hostages to the issue of amnesty or other issues. Amnesty is already offered by the Ukrainian authorities in line with the procedure, established by the law. As we informed the Permanent Council, scores of former militants have voluntarily used the established procedure. Those, responsible for grave crimes, including killings and torture of captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, downing of MH17, terrorist acts in Ukrainian cities will be held accountable.
The situation in the occupied Crimea remains a matter of deep concern for us as the Russia occupying authorities have consolidated their policy of repressions and seriuos violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Findings of the international missions, including the Human Rights Assessment Mission’s Report on Crimea, four UN OHCHR Reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine, reports of the Unofficial Turkish Delegation and numerous NGOs, have testified to the development of a critical human rights situation on the peninsula since it has been illegally occupied and annexed by Russia.
We reiterate that the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, bears full responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula and urge it to halt repressions, which target mostly representatives of the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities. We call on the Russian occupying authorities to allow free and unconditional access of the international monitors to Crimea to assess the situation on the ground.
As we stated before, the Russian aggression against Ukraine takes many forms and manifestations as a variety of instruments have been employed by Russia: military, support of terrorist and subversive activities, propaganda, economic, politico-diplomatic. This aggression also manifests itself in Russia by pressure on Ukrainians and everything associated with the Ukrainian identity. We condemn the unabated pressure on the Library of the Ukrainian Literature in Moscow and its staff, including this week’s searches and detentions. We urge to stop these repressive practices.
At this last regular PC meeting in 2015 we once again urge the Russian Federation to respect sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and reverse illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. We call on Russia to halt its aggression against Ukraine. We reiterate that full and good-faith implementation of the Minsk agreements by the Russian Federation and its proxies, which has not been the case until now, is the way to sustainable de-escalation and peaceful resolution in Donbas. Russia must take responsibility on delivering on its commitments.
We also reiterate our call upon the OSCE to take further consolidated steps to address the flagrant violation of its core principles and commitments. The current security threats and challenges in the OSCE area cannot be credibly dealt with until we ensure restoration of respect to the OSCE principles and commitments, in particular those enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.