Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 13 October 2016
In line with the Framework Decision relating to disengagement of forces and hardware the Ukrainian forces have ceased fire in agreed disengagement areas since the midnight of 23 September. We regret that the Russian hybrid forces have not demonstrated the same level of commitment and resorted to regular armed provocations in these areas.
Yet, the disengagement proceeded when agreed conditions were met. As of now, the forces and hardware pulled back in two out of three pilot areas – in Zolote on 1 October and in Petrivske/Bohdanivka – on 7 October. Among the priority tasks for the Ukrainian forces in this regard has been facilitating the SMM monitoring and verification of withdrawal. We hope that successful disengagement in Zolote would help to break the deadlock over the issue of opening an entry-exit checkpoint, which has been blocked by the illegal armed groups despite the adverse impact on the humanitarian situation in this area.
We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Stanytsya Luhanska in view of on-going violations of ceasefire by the Russian hybrid forces, breaching paragraphs 2, 6 and 11 of the Framework Decision. As a result, the necessary prerequisites for disengagement in Stanytsya Luhanska have not been established. We call on Russia to implement the undertaken commitments in good faith. For its part, Ukraine remains ready to proceed to withdrawing forces and hardware in this area as soon as ceasefire and other provisions of the Framework Decision are met.
There is a number of unresolved problems, which continue to affect the disengagement process. The combined Russian-separatist forces keep heavy weapons close to the disengagement areas, expanding the geographical scope of their use. They impede the SMM access to the disengagement areas, thus affecting the efficiency of OSCE monitoring and verification there. The SMM is to conduct on a permanent basis, including by the technical means, the monitoring of ceasefire and other steps, envisaged in the Framework Decision. The Russian JCCC officers evade their responsibilities in the disengagement areas.
We reiterate a key role that the SMM plays in facilitating disengagement of forces and hardware. It is of particular importance to ensure OSCE permanent monitoring on the ground, including by using equipment for remote observation such as drones and cameras, to discourage the Russian hybrid forces from provocations.
We hope the Framework Decision to be duly implemented in the agreed pilot areas with the aim to expand the disengagement process to other areas. Full implementation of the initial security provisions of the Minsk agreements remains a priority and a basic requirement for stabilization and progress on other aspects of the agreements.
It is a matter of deep regret that after over two years since first Minsk documents were signed the most part of the way to peace in Donbas, the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine has yet to be passed. The disengagement process remains so far a localized effort, having little impact on the overall situation on the ground, which was marked last week with violence and hostilities. We are particularly concerned over the intense use by the combined Russian-separatist forces of heavy weapons, including 120 mm caliber mortars and 152 mm caliber artillery, which was registered by both the SMM and the Ukrainian military. The combined Russian-separatist forces show continuous disregard to undertaken commitments on cease-fire, including from 1st and 15th September.
As a result, the toll of casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilians remains unacceptably high. During 5-11 October 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 31 were wounded. We reiterate our call on Russia to renounce violence and take practical measures to secure the ceasefire regime and fully implement other security provisions of the Minsk agreements.
We find it deeply worrying and unacceptable that the SMM continues to experience problems with its freedom of movement and access in the occupied areas of Donbas. Our particular concerns are prompted by the fact that such impediments are often accompanied with the aggressive behavior and gun threats against the OSCE monitors. The Mission reported on a dangerous incident, which happened on 7 October at the Oktyabr mine in Donetsk, where the SMM patrol, inspecting the observation equipment, was forced to leave the area following militants’ threats.
We reiterate that such restrictions breach the agreed mandate of the SMM and its ability to report objectively on the situation, affecting the scope and substance of the reporting. We urge Russia together with its proxies on the ground to deliver on the commitment on the SMM’s full freedom of movement.
The uncontrolled part of the state border between Ukraine and Russia remains a critical factor of why the de-escalation efforts have been of limited effect. Fighters, convoys and echelons with weaponry and ammunition continue to illegally cross the border to reinforce the Russian hybrid forces in Donbas. While such illegal movements continue, our expectations regarding progress in full implementation of the Minsk agreements will be illusory.
Addressing the problem of uncontrolled border cannot be postponed. Appeals to paragraph 9 of the Minsk Package of measures cannot justify the continuing inaction in this area. Ukraine and Russia agreed on establishment of security zones in the border areas of Ukraine and Russia with the OSCE permanent monitoring and verification on the border, as envisaged by paragraph 4 of the Minsk Protocol. Ukraine expects Russia to deliver on this agreed commitment which would become a major input into the resolution efforts. We see it as an important task for the upcoming Ministerial Council meeting. We reiterate our persistent call to Russia to engage constructively in addressing this issue.
We note with concern that no progress is registered in releasing the hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of “all-for-all” principle. Moreover, the case of Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist detained in Moscow under fabricated charges, shows that Russia continues to consider Ukrainian hostages as an instrument for pressure and blackmailing.
It is unacceptable that for more than a week the consul of Ukraine was denied access to Mr.Sushchenko in prison. It runs counter to the norms of international law in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Russia’s obligations under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the 1994 Consular Convention between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
We insist on the immediate and unconditional release of Roman Sushchenko and other Ukrainian citizens, who remain behind bars in Russia under fabricated charges, including Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko. We reiterate that release of all hostages and illegally detained persons remains a priority and they must all safely return home. We call on the OSCE Chairmanship and the participating States to continue to urge Russia to release illegally detained Ukrainian citizens.
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 occupying authorities against the Crimean Tatar community. Its representatives were again exposed to intimidation and illegal searches on 12 October. 5 Crimean Tatars were detained.
We again urge the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for halting repressions and other human rights violations on the peninsula. We call for allowing free and unconditional access for permanent international monitoring in Crimea.
Since the beginning of Russia’s armed intervention into Donbas Ukraine has invested substantial efforts to seek de-escalation and peaceful resolution as lives of people have always been a matter of highest priority for us. The ultimate success of efforts towards conflict resolution will depend upon Russia’s willingness to give up military escalation by its hybrid forces to attain its political goals and take practical steps to fully implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements. Unfortunately, such readiness is not yet present.
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 illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.