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 February 2016
I must start by noting that disturbing security developments in Donbas have received further impetus over the past week as Russia and its proxies demonstrated no intention to stop armed provocations against the Ukrainian forces and peaceful civilians. The situation on the ground remains highly volatile and prone to further deterioration.
Unfortunately, confrontational messages delivered by the Russian high officials at the last week’s Munich Security Conference leave little doubt that fuelling conflict is viewed by Moscow as the main tool to underpin its warlike threats to the international community. There could hardly be a different conclusion when the aggressor demanded the victim of aggression to halt a conflict while fully rejecting its own responsibility.
We all agree that the Minsk Agreements are a roadmap to peaceful resolution of the conflict. Ukraine has faithfully embarked on implementation of the Minsk Agreements since the first documents were signed in September 2014. At the last Permanent Council meeting we reminded in details what has already been done by Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreements specifically on security and political tracks.
The problem remains the same – the steps taken by Ukraine have not been reciprocated by other signatories and, as any unilateral steps, cannot ensure the desired effect and expected results. It is well past high time for Moscow to start delivering on de-escalation path towards sustainable peaceful resolution. Regrettably, the present Russian position leaves little room for optimism.
Moscow continues to distort the logic and sequence of steps, envisaged by the Minsk Agreements, and to ignore its own commitments. The basics – full and comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and full and unfettered OCSE SMM monitoring and verification throughout the conflict-affected areas are not yet present.
Moreover, the reports from the SMM, the Ukrainian Armed Forces and state civil-military administrations testify to the serious aggravation on the ground with the number of ceasefire violations by the pro-Russian militants continuing to grow. During 12-14 February the illegal armed groups opened fire 207 times, often – from 82 mm and 120 mm mortars. Yesterday – the shelling of Pervomayskoye by GRAD systems from the “DPR”-controlled Staromykhailivka, 2 salvos of 10 missiles each. The main hotspots, where the most intensive militants’ attacks have been registered, are in the areas of Horlivka, the Donetsk airport, Marinka, Krasnohorivka, Zolote, Zaitseve and Mayorsk.
Militants’ shellings and attacks of their subversive groups aim at provoking the Ukrainian Armed Forces to open fire in response and at shifting the responsibility for military escalation and disruption of the Minsk Agreements. 3 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 19 were wounded during 11-16 February as a result of these armed provocations.
Serious restrictions by the illegal armed groups to the SMM’s freedom of movement in the occupied territory of Donbas, including the border areas, continue to obstruct their work. As in the previous weeks, the vast majority of incidents, reported by the Mission last week, were caused by the pro-Russian militants. We note with concern that the illegal armed groups not only deny monitors’ access to the areas of concern but also ban their contacts with the local population, as follows from the Mission’s weekly report of 10 February. The impediments to the SMM run counter to Russia’s commitments, including at the Normandy Summit meeting of 2 October 2015. We call on Russia to allow for full freedom of movement of the SMM in the occupied areas.
The recent reports prove that Russia continues to use the uncontrolled sections of its border with Ukraine to reinforce its proxies in Donbas with weapons and manpower. According to available information, new trains with weapons, ammunition and fuel arrived last week to Luhansk, Illovaysk and Khartsyzsk. Resumption of effective control at the entire Ukrainian-Russian state border remains critical for ensuring the peaceful resolution in Donbas.
To our surprise last week the Russian Prime Minister spoke about the ceasefire violations in “southeastern Ukraine”. Such terminology reflects the geographical scope of planned aggression, encompassing 8 Ukrainian regions, as outlined by President Putin in March 2014. Fortunately, the Russian aggressive plans failed due to the courage of Ukrainian soldiers and the patriotic stance of the Ukrainian people throughout the country. Most of Ukraine’s south and east, except occupied Crimea and part of Donbas, enjoy peaceful life as Russian soldiers and weapons have been barred from there.
In contrast, the situation in the occupied areas of Donbas is worsened by Russia-backed militants. Crossing points along the line of contact and critical infrastructure get targeted by militants’ deliberate shellings. On 12 February the illegal armed groups shelled from the 120 mm caliber mortars the new crossing point “Zolote”, which was prepared for opening. As a result, the opening of the crossing point is delayed until security of the civilians could be guaranteed. Because of continuous shelling the work of crossing point “Maryinka” has been suspended. The militants shelled the area of repair work on the gas pipeline in Maryinka, which resulted in its suspension, as reported by SMM on 13 February.
The lack of progress in release of hostages and illegally detained persons is a matter of utmost concern for Ukraine. More than 130 Ukrainians, who remain in captivity of the militants, face torture and other ill-treatment, including execution-style killings. At the last Normandy Ministerial meeting in Munich we again called on Russia to speed up their release on the basis of “all-for-all” principle, as it was agreed in Minsk.
Two days ago the Delegation of Ukraine circulated the Report «Surviving Hell: Testimonies of Victims on Places of Illegal Detention in Donbas» which documents gross and systemic violations of human rights of illegally detained persons by Russia-backed militants in the occupied areas of Donbas, including inhumane conditions, cruel treatment and tortures. The findings also testify to the direct involvement of the Russian regular troops in hostilities in Donbas, as well as to the military support the illegal armed groups receive from the Russian Federation.
We also take note of the recently issued Human Rights Watch Report “Studying under fire”, which contains a number of recommendations to the parties of conflict, including the Russian Federation.
We again draw attention to the extremely worrisome human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, illegally occupied by Russia.
We condemn the continuation of repressive actions of the Russian occupation authorities against the Crimean Tatar community, as its representatives were exposed to illegal searches on 11-12 February. 13 Crimean Tatars were detained under fabricated charges. The bid by the occupation authorities to ban the Crimean Tatar Mejlis to complement other repressions resembles the Soviet 1930’s repressive policies and 1944 genocide of the Crimean Tatars.
We take note that the Russian “Memorial” human rights center has recognized the Crimean Tatars illegally detained under the “case of 26 February”, in particular Ahtem Chiygoz, Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy, as political prisoners. The human rights experts point out to the political motivation of repressions and conclude that Russia has violated the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
We call on the Russian Federation to exercise its responsibility, as an occupying power, for stopping all human rights violations and repressions on the peninsula. We urge to allow free and unconditional access of international monitors to Crimea.
As Ukraine and the OSCE community continue to be confronted by the Russian aggressive policy, there are also attempts made for creating “alternative Europe with alternative values”, as the President of Ukraine said in his speech in Munich. This Russia-promoted alternative has nothing in common with the values, which have made Europe the area of democracy, security, rule of law and economic prosperity and which underpin the OSCE.
It is our firm belief that in these challenging circumstances it is necessary to keep the unity of purpose and commitment to full respect of the fundamental principles and commitments as agreed in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents. As we urge Russia’s return to the tenets of international law, we urge it to halt its aggression against Ukraine and reverse the illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman,