The relevant statement was delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 21 April 2016
The Delegation of Ukraine regrets to note that the situation in Donbas shows no signs of de-escalation as the intensive armed provocations of the combined Russian-separatist forces continue. Moscow further pursues the goal of Ukraine’s destabilization and fuelling violence in Donbas, including to exert pressure on Ukraine, the EU and all of Ukraine’s international partners.
Deterioration of the security situation was in the focus of the Trilateral Contact group meeting, held in Minsk this week. Between 14 and 19 April the illegal armed formations violated ceasefire 364 times, including by the heavy weapons, mostly high caliber artillery and mortars. As follows from the OSCE SMM’s observations, these are the weapons that the combined Russian-separatist forces keep close to the line of contact. They also place high-caliber weapons inside residential areas, including the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Avdiyivka remains the main hotspot as the militants are persistent in their attempts to seize the industrial zone of the city. The Ukrainian forces have to regularly repulse intensive attacks in this area to disrupt the militants’ plans to move their firing positions close to the heavily populated Avdiyivka.
Shellings and attacks of different level of intensity were also registered in many other places: near Svitlodarsk, Horlivka, Zaytseve, Mayorsk, Pisky, Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Novotroitske, Dokuchaivsk, Pavlopil, Shyrokyne, Stanytsya Luhanska, Zolote, Tryokhizbenka, Popasna and Krymske. As a result, the toll of casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilians is growing. Between 13 and 19 April 7 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 24 were wounded by the militants. These figures speak for themselves in terms of security situation.
We therefore reiterate that implementation of the three initial security provisions of the Minsk Package of Measures is the basic requirement, setting the ground for progress on other aspects of the Minsk agreements, including on the political track.
Much has already been done by Ukraine on implementing the Minsk provisions relating to the political process. Let me recall that the Parliament of Ukraine adopted laws on peculiarities of self-governance in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, on granting pardon and amnesty, it adopted a resolution on establishing the area of application of peculiarities of self-governance. The President and the Parliament took forward the constitutional reform aimed at decentralization. In August 2015 constitutional amendments on decentralization, which received support of the Venice Commission and included the special order of self-governance in certain areas of Donbas, were adopted by the Parliament of Ukraine in the first reading.
Unfortunately, Russia, for its part, has not undertaken practical steps on any of the commitments it assumed in Minsk.
Holding free and fair local elections in certain areas of Donbas is the important step that can only take place in a safe environment and in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation, OSCE standards and under the OSCE/ODIHR monitoring as agreed in Minsk. Our concept on modalities for the conduct of local elections, which was presented last October in the TCG framework, is fully in line with this agreed approach. Effective measures are needed to guarantee safety not only for OSCE observers, but also ordinary citizens and voters, in particular IDPs, members of the Ukrainian political parties and media. Such environment can be ensured through deployment of an OSCE armed police mission.
Our consistent calls on Russia to engage in lifting systematic restrictions on the SMM freedom of movement in the occupied areas of Donbas find no response, despite being Russia’s commitment, reconfirmed inter alia at the Normandy ministerial in Paris in March. During the past week the Mission again reported that the situation with its freedom of movement throughout occupied areas of Donbas had not improved and it faced numerous restrictions.
Moreover, there are again cases of intimidation of monitors by Russia-backed militants, which are unacceptable and must be immediately stopped. We condemn the incidents on 18 April in the Donetsk city, where the militants threatened to open fire at the OSCE monitors, and near the closed BCP “Parkhomenko”, where the militants threatened to detain the OSCE monitors. A so-called “protest” against the OSCE in Luhansk, reported by the SMM, was clearly orchestrated and fits into the pattern of pressure and intimidation. We urge Russia to exercise its responsibility and put an end to such incidents.
As reported by the Mission, restrictions of the SMM’s access to the border areas, not controlled by the Ukrainian Government, “have become more frequent”. The reasons for border restrictions are obvious as the SMM already identified the linkage between denied access and militants’ attempts to conceal illegal movements across the border. Among the most recent cases – the incident on 7 April near Chervonopartyzank, where the OSCE monitors were forced to leave the border area and then observed a train with coal heading to the Russian Federation.
The illegal cross-border movement remains intensive –coal and dismantled industrial equipment are transported to the Russian Federation, while weaponry and other resupplies are moved from Russia to the combined Russian-separatist forces. Again in the past week echelons with military hardware and fuel arrived to the railway stations of Khartsyzsk and Rovenki. As we reiterated before, an enhanced SMM’s monitoring on transport routes and railway hubs in the occupied areas of Donbas is urgently needed to report on such movements.
The combined Russian-separatist forces appear to deliberately aim at worsening the dire humanitarian situation. The shellings of areas around the crossing points continue and keep them closed. On 17 April, for instance, Stanytsya Luhanska sustained heavy shelling, which left 5 persons wounded. The SMM reported on 19 April about its findings in the aftermath of the attacks. Firing provocations were registered in Zolote, where another crossing point is located pending its opening.
There is no progress on lifting the restrictions on operation of international humanitarian organizations in the occupied part of Donbas or on granting ICRC access to hostages and illegally detained persons. We emphasise it for the Russian delegation that the population of the occupied areas of Donbas must not be treated as hostages and urge implementation of the above agreed steps.
The last TCG meeting again placed focus on the release of hostages and illegally detained persons, where little progress has been observed. We again call on Russia to speed up the release on the basis of “all-for-all” principle and underline that the relevant provision of the Minsk Package of measures applies equally to the Ukrainian citizens, who are held in illegal detention in Russia.
We share the concerns expressed by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media over the intimidation of Crimean journalist Mykola Semena by the Russian occupying authorities in Crimea. His persecution and searches of other journalists are yet another manifestation of repressions against those, who want to report freely and objectively, have dissenting views or oppose the illegal occupation and annexation of the peninsula by Russia.
Massive attack on the Crimean Tatar community and its representative body - the Mejlis – continues unabated. On 18 April the Russian Ministry of Justice added the Mejlis to the list of civil and religious organizations, banned due to so-called “extremist activities”. This step effectively outlaws the entire Crimean Tatar indigenous people as more than 2500 Crimean Tatars have been elected as members of Mejlis and its local bodies and tens of thousands are involved in the election process. Several Crimean Tatars were already detained in the past week under the charges of “extremism”. We reiterate our call on the HCNM to use its mandate to the full to address this very dangerous situation.
We again urge the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula, to halt repressions against the representatives of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities and to allow free and unconditional access for permanent international monitoring in Crimea.
The documented evidence of direct Russian military intervention in Donbas continues to be strengthened by additional findings. We draw attention to the recent report by the investigative journalist organization Bellingcat, examining in-depth different sources to determine the origin of artillery fire on the Ukrainian military units, deployed near the Ukrainian-Russian border in summer 2014. Evidence attached to the report, including satellite imagery, video files and witnesses’ accounts, allowed to conclude that Russia had used MLRS “Grad” to shell the Ukrainian forces more than 300 times from its territory.
So far the Russian aggression against Ukraine and its attack on the fundamental international principles continue. The Crimean peninsula remains illegally occupied by Russia, Moscow-created conflict in Donbas continues to take lives of Ukrainians. The PACE rapporteur on Ukraine assessed the developments in the occupied areas of Donbas as “hybrid annexation” of this part of Ukraine’s territory by Russia. In response it is important to maintain unity and solidarity, political and economic sanctions to stimulate Russia’s compliance with international law and full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We reiterate our persistent call on the Russian Federation to immediately take practical steps to implement its commitments under the Minsk Agreements and to exert its influence on its proxies to do likewise. We urge Russia to halt its aggression against Ukraine and reverse the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.