Delivered on 26 June 2018 in Vienna
At the outset I wish to thank the Italian OSCE Chairmanship for gathering a distinguished group of panelists for this special session of the Annual Security Review Conference (ASRC). I hope that today’s discussion will help to further strengthen our understanding of significant challenges facing the European security as well as of the need of continuous collective efforts to counter and address them. We need to constantly have the OSCE principles and commitments at the core of these collective responses.
It is the fifth consecutive ASRC that has a special session with a title “Ensuring security and stability in the OSCE region in light of developments with respect to Ukraine”. It was first included into the agenda in 2014 after Russia used its armed forces to invade and occupy the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. The current session takes place in the fifth year of the international armed conflict started by Russia.
You have already heard the figures of the victims of the Russian aggression I will talk about in the moment. Today everybody is talking football, which Russia cynically uses to whitewash its crimes. So just imagine for a moment a football arena with sector K for Killed in Action: with 10 thousand not spectators but bodies. Sector W for Wounded with over 20 thousand wounded not chanting but suffering and crying. Sector O with thousands orphan children who dream of their dads coming home. And over 1,5 million internally displaced persons who have no chance to enjoy the games of Shakhtar against Milan in the Russia occupied Donetsk - one of the best stadiums built before Euro 2012, and Tavria against Dynamo Kyiv in the now Russian occupied Simferopol.
In the OSCE the ongoing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and brutal violation of core OSCE principles and commitments continue to erode mutual trust, complicate dialogue, and have dire negative effects on the whole agenda of possible cooperation. Russia’s constant denial of irrefutable facts questions the very notion of dialogue with the Russian delegates. The gravity of committed violations must leave, in our view, no doubt that it will be naïve to aim at restoration of confidence or promotion of so called “positive agenda” without restoration by Russia of its respect to the basic rules of European security embedded in the OSCE core principles, among them respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers. We are convinced that the aggressor-state must not be rewarded for its actions, but the cost of aggression must continuously grow.
The multifaceted sanctions, political, diplomatic and economic ones, are a non-military response to Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine. They are not a result of “russophobic sentiments”, as portrayed by Russian propaganda, but a manifestation of firm rejection of territorial expansionism and glaring violation of the OSCE principles and commitments by the Russian Federation. We have full confidence that the interests of rules-based European security order and the interests of the OSCE countries in maintaining peace and security demand that we stand firm and united in taking Russia to account. Any moves to ease the sanctions, before Russia implements the undertaken commitments and removes the causes that led to their introduction, will be counter-productive and significantly damage the ability of Europe to defend common values, norms and principles. If anything, sanctions should be further strengthened.
The peaceful politico-diplomatic path remains the only viable solution available to Ukraine and Russia to resolve the conflict. An active participation of other countries and international structures is needed to ensure adherence to this path. At the same time it is important to remember, who is the aggressor and who is the victim of the aggression!
The Minsk agreements are an agreed framework for peaceful resolution, de-occupation of parts of Donbas and their reintegration back into the legal, political, and economic space of Ukraine. The Minsk documents were signed by the Russian Federation as a party to the conflict, but Moscow has not taken a strategic decision that it is ready to implement its commitments. The Minsk documents contain their logic and sequence of steps, starting with a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire. Russia must be ready to physically move out from Donbas, which means the withdrawal of Russia’s troops, fighters, mercenaries and weapons from the sovereign territory of Ukraine, disarmament of illegal armed formations. These are the commitments, undertaken by Russia. However, what is happening is the opposite.
The Russian officers, mercenaries and fighters keep arriving to Ukraine. The Russian weapons, including modern sophisticated systems regularly registered by the OSCE SMM, continue to be illegally supplied through the uncontrolled segment of the Ukrainian-Russian state border. Russia often claims, in particular in this hall, that what it illegally sends to Ukrainian Donbas is a humanitarian aid. The reports of the OSCE SMM regularly shed the light on what is hidden under this “humanitarian” guise. Just in June 2018 the SMM spotted on the occupied territory of Donbas TORN radio intelligence system and KORNET guided anti-tank missile. Despite numerous requests by the participating States, the Russian delegation failed to explain how the modern weaponry and equipment, adopted exclusively by the Russian army, appeared in Donbas. Perhaps today the Russian delegates from Moscow will be ready to provide us with an answer?
The Russian MLRS, tanks and howitzers are spotted by the SMM when moving in dozens and hundreds along the contact line, creating military unpredictability, provoking clashes and causing military and civilian casualties. New mines are laid; new military positions of the armed formations are registered by the SMM, including in the disengagement areas; new shellings take place on the daily basis.
Ensuring full control of Ukraine’s government of the state border between Ukraine and Russia remains a key to resolution of the conflict. As long as Moscow continues using it for illegal transfer of manpower, weapons and ammunition to its proxies in Donbas, we will face the ongoing violence. The mechanism of transferring control from the Russian occupation administration to the government of Ukraine should be discussed and established well in advance. To make it happen, an additional working subgroup on border issues should be set up within the Trilateral Contact Group. However, Russia denies such a group.
We need an additional toolbox, international mechanism, which would ensure sustainable de-escalation on the ground thus allowing this transition period to pass smoothly with local elections at the final stage. We have full confidence that the UN peacekeeping operation is to be such mechanism. We are glad that the Ukrainian initiative of 2015 is now on the negotiating table, with substantive discussions in the Normandy format as well.
Such peacekeeping operation will not be a substitute to the OSCE SMM. It cannot be limited to safeguarding the SMM monitors who continue to suffer regular attacks, threats and intimidation from the Russian armed formations. There is no need to send peacekeepers to protect the monitors. It is enough for Kremlin to give instructions to its occupation administration in Donbas to cease those attacks and to allow the monitors, whose dedicated work is highly appreciated by the Ukrainian Government, to fulfill the SMM’s mandate.
The peacekeeping operation, in its turn, should be a full-fledged effort aimed at de-escalating the situation and operational throughout the conflict-affected area, including the Ukrainian-Russian state border.
The complete implementation of the Minsk agreements will not end the conflict started by Russia. Ensuring security and stability in the OSCE region will be impossible until Ukraine restores in full its sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders including the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, in full compliance with international law and OSCE principles and commitments. For now, the Russian Federation continues to build up its military stronghold in the illegally occupied peninsula, posing serious military threats to the whole Black Sea region and even the Middle East. We are also concerned that since recently Russia has escalated the situation in the waters of the Azov Sea, resorting to provocative military demonstrations.
The deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Crimea constitutes another serious security and humanitarian challenge for the OSCE community. The Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, as well as all those who oppose the Russian occupation continue to be suppressed and persecuted by the occupation regime. We underscore the importance for all OSCE actors, within their respective mandates, to be active and not let Russia believe that the glaring violations of human rights and freedoms by the occupation regime will be glossed over or tolerated.
Before concluding, I wish to place a particular spotlight on the plight of hostages and illegally detained persons whom Russia continues to use for its own cynical political purposes. The ordinary people abducted, arrested and sentenced under the trumped-up charges have become the victims of the Kremlin’s imperial and sinister ambitions. Their release is an urgent humanitarian priority, where we hope the international humanitarian organizations will make their strong input. We attach our particular expectations to the ICRC and its authority to gain access to the Ukrainian citizens detained in the Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine and in the territory of the Russian Federation, and to facilitate establishment of the international mechanism of search of the missing persons. Of utmost concern is the fate of the Ukrainian citizens who were made political prisoners by the Russian authorities. We call upon all OSCE states to increase politico-diplomatic pressure on Russia to achieve immediate and unconditional release of these people, among them Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Roman Sushchenko and many others. They do need our strong solidarity and support in resisting the oppression and striving for justness and freedom.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.