Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 15 December 2016
Last week’s OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg has demonstrated again that Russia’s on-going attack on the foundations of the European security, through flagrant violation of the OSCE principles and commitments and multifaceted aggression against Ukraine, is condemned and firmly opposed by the OSCE community.
The Russian Federation blocked a modest draft Declaration regarding the crisis in and around Ukraine, which was acceptable for all other participating States. Russia again failed to recommit to the fundamental principles of the OSCE, starting from the Helsinki Final Act. At the same time the discussions in Hamburg registered the resolute support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, condemnation and non-recognition of the illegal occupation by Russia of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and the need to comprehensively address complex challenges on the peninsula.
The substance of the debates in Hamburg has underscored that restoring respect for the OSCE principles and commitments, ensuring their full implementation remain the most crucial task for the OSCE to maintain its relevance and credibility of the security environment for all OSCE participating States.
In the meantime, the security situation in Donbas has remained worrisome as the armed provocations by the Russian hybrid forces along different sections of the contact line persist. Although the overall number of the ceasefire violations fluctuates, their regular nature and weapons used indicate that Russia and its proxies deliberately undermine the peaceful track. Over two years ago Russia resorted to the use of force against a neighbouring state and it continues doing so for its own political ends.
While carrying out their provocations the combined Russian-separatist forces use the heavy weapons, mostly mortars and high caliber artillery, thus increasing the death toll among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilians. In particular, on 10 December 3 Ukrainian soldiers were killed as a result of mortar shelling near Krasnohorivka. Since the beginning of December, 5 Ukrainian servicemen lost their lives and 33 got wounded.
Yesterday morning the Russian hybrid forces attacked the entry-exit checkpoint “Mayorsk”, shooting in the back of many civilians, waiting to cross. We strongly condemn this cowardly attack, which left 1 civilian killed and another wounded.
These numerous deaths underline again the urgent need to fully implement the security provisions of the Minsk agreements, starting with the comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons. It remains a basic requirement for progress on other aspects of the Minsk agreements.
We strongly encourage Russia to practically contribute to the disengagement initiative, which remains stalled, according to the assessment by the SMM. We deeply regret that Ukraine’s efforts to open an entry-exit checkpoint in Zolote, long-awaited by the local population, are not reciprocated by the Russian hybrid forces and the agreed deadline of 10 December was not met.
It remains impossible to launch disengagement in Stanytsya Luhanska, as regular ceasefire violations by the Russian hybrid forces in this area continue. In particular, in the nighttime of 14 December, the Ukrainian forces there sustained shellings from grenade launchers and 1 Ukrainian serviceman got wounded. The previous shelling incidents in Stanytsya Luhanska took place on 9-10 December and were reported by the Ukrainian side at the TCG video-conference on 12 December. We reiterate our call on Russia to implement the undertaken commitments on disengagement 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.
At the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on 7 December, the Ukrainian side reiterated that the implementation of the Minsk agreements must include the demilitarization of Debaltseve as an initial step towards restoring full compliance with the determination of the contact line, registered in Minsk Memorandum on 19 September 2014 and constituting an integral part of the Minsk agreements.
The implementation of basic security provisions includes ensuring permanent monitoring and verification by the OSCE SMM throughout occupied areas of Donbas, in particular at the Ukrainian-Russian state border, and withdrawal of all Russian troops, weapons, fighters and mercenaries from Ukraine’s territory. Last week the SMM reported about armed Russian citizens near the contact line. Permanent OSCE monitoring and verification at the border along with establishment of a security zone in border areas of Ukraine and Russia are the agreed and necessary measures to respond to the threats, stemming from the uncontrolled 400-km long section of the Ukrainian-Russian border in Donbas.
These threats not only fuel the escalation in Donbas, but also target individual civilians. We find deeply worrying and indicative the incident, reported by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, about a man, who had been detained at the closed Ukrainian BCP “Uspenka” and taken to the detention facility in Taganrog, Russia, in September, and later transferred to captivity in the occupied Donetsk. This incident, along with continuing flows of military personnel and weaponry to the occupied part of Donbas from Russia, so called “humanitarian convoys”, plundering of Ukrainian industrial facilities and their so called “evacuation” to Russia, highlight the persistent violations by the Russian Federation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
In the reports of 9 and 10 December the SMM again informed about crossings of cars with so-called “LPR” registration plates through uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Newly reported incidents took place at closed BCPs “Dovzhanskyi” and “Izvaryne”. We again reiterate our request to the Russian representative for explanation of this unacceptable practice, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Humanitarian aspects of the Russian aggression against Ukraine remain a matter of our utmost concern. No progress has been reached so far in releasing the hostages and illegally detained persons. At the last meeting of the TCG humanitarian working group on 7 December the Ukrainian side proposed the formula “58 for 228” to unblock the release process and take a meaningful step towards implementation of the agreed Minsk provision. As before, this proposal was rejected without explanations. Ukraine’s request for an urgent TCG video-conference yesterday was not responded to.
We also underline that the relevant provision of the Minsk Package of measures applies equally to the Ukrainian citizens, including Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and others, who are held in illegal detention in Russia.
The access of the local population in the occupied areas of Donbas to the humanitarian aid is systematically limited by the Russia-backed illegal armed formations. Two weeks ago we informed the Permanent Council of the ban on the Czech NGO “People in Need” to perform humanitarian activities in the occupied areas of Donbas. On 8 December, the militants arrested in Donetsk the head of the charity fund “Goodness” Yakov Rogalin, accusing him of “economic crimes”. The work of the fund has been paralyzed. This extremely worrisome picture underlines the importance for the OSCE SMM to duly and comprehensively report on the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied areas, where people continue to suffer from the illegal rule of the combined Russian-separatist forces.
Ukraine notes the 16th Report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which is based on findings of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and covers the period from 16 August to 15 November 2016.
We share the concerns, expressed in the Report, on the increased scope of hostilities in Donbas and the human rights situation in the occupied areas, marked by continuing restrictions on fundamental freedoms and exacerbating the isolation of persons living there. The Report once again testified to the large-scale crimes committed against Ukrainian citizens by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea as well as by the combined Russian-separatist forces in Donbas.
The Report underscores the need for full implementation of the Minsk agreements, especially the return of the full control by the Government of Ukraine over parts of the border with Russia in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the withdrawal of foreign fighters.
The findings confirm that Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities on the occupied Crimean peninsula are subject to pressure and persecution. The Report highlights the arbitrary detentions of individuals on ground of their political opinion and expression. Human rights concerns include abusive resort to anti-extremism and anti-terrorism legislation to criminalize the expression of non-violent views, opinions and beliefs; cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; and violations of due process, including the right to unimpeded access to legal counsel.
We expect the OSCE Institutions to use their mandates to address these complex challenges, endangering, in particular, the rights of the indigenous people of Crimea. We reiterate our persistent call on Russia 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.
Ukraine takes serious note of the recommendations provided in the Report to the Ukrainian authorities. We will maintain the position of zero-tolerance to the human rights violations regardless of personalities and places. In this regard, all reported findings will be subject to thorough check and investigation by the Ukrainian law-enforcement.
I will conclude by recalling again the Hamburg Ministerial Council and persistent calls on the Russian Federation to return to the tenets of international law and the Helsinki Decalogue by restoring in full the respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
We call on Russia to implement in full its commitments under the Minsk agreements, to halt its aggressive actions against Ukraine and reverse the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.