Since 2 March 2014 numerous meetings in different formats have been held in the OSCE in view of the urgency to address the evolving conflict in Ukraine’s territory of Crimea that stemmed from violation by the Russian Federation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through illegal aggressive actions there of the Russian armed forces. We have witnessed broad international condemnation of the actions of the Russian Federation that violate imperative norms of international law, the Helsinki Final Act, bilateral and multilateral agreements signed between Ukraine and the Russian Federation; actions that undermine the very foundation of European and global peace and security. Numerous efforts have been undertaken on the top political level of world leaders to deescalate the crisis and seek its peaceful resolution with full respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Against this backdrop I regret to inform the Permanent Council that so far no signs of de-escalation have been registered, moreover the situation in and around the Autonomous Republic of Crimea continues to rapidly deteriorate, thus raising tensions even further. We witness continuing support by the Russian Federation of the separatist forces in the Crimea and expansion of its illegal military activity there in breach of agreements between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Moreover, there are disturbing indications of concentration of Russian troops in various areas along the state border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
To dispel security concerns over unusual military activities of the Russian Armed Forces, Ukraine is planning to conduct an observation flight pursuant to the Open Skies Treaty over the adjacent to Ukraine areas of the Russian Federation. In response to relevant Ukrainian request (OS/UA/14/0011/F12/0), the Russian side agreed to receive this observation flight. However, we must note the technical impediments in the payment procedure suggested by the Russian side.
At present 37 Ukrainian military sites in Crimea remain under siege, the servicemen and their families sustain constant enormous pressure and intimidation. Military sites in Dzhankoy, Chornomorske, Bakhchysarai and Simferopol were seized by Russian troops and local separatist forces. In Crimea 47 out of 56 sites and facilities of the State Border Service of Ukraine were either blockaded, seized or stopped functioning due to coercion.
We register continuing reinforcement with armaments and fortification of illegal security checkpoints on the roads connecting the Kherson Region and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Ukraine. Adjacent to the checkpoints fields have been reportedly mined.
Last week the armed persons at those checkpoints aggressively prevented the group of unarmed military observers from OSCE participating States from visiting Crimea with the aim of dispelling concerns about military activities of the Russian Federation. Yet, the group’s observations at the illegal checkpoints “produced significant evidence of equipment consistent with the presence of Russian Federation military personnel”, as stated in the interim report.
We are seriously concerned about rapid deterioration of situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the area of exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms since the military invasion of the peninsula and extention of Russia’s support to separatist forces. In particular, existing evidence demonstrates serious violations of the rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom of movement and the right to life itself. As an example, four local activists were kidnapped in Simferopol on 9 March 2014 and their whereabouts still remains unknown. On 9 March pro-Russian groups attacked and beat people who assembled near the monument of Taras Shevchenko in Sevastopol to commemorate the 200th birth anniversary of this famed Ukrainian poet. Over the past few days, the television crews from “1+1”, STB, Channel 5, Inter, Hromadske TV, Italian SKY TG 24, print journalists and their foreign counterparts became subject to aggression, threats and attacks. The signals of Ukrainian television channels Inter, Briz, 1+1, 5 channel, 1st National, STB have been cut off in Crimea, the cut-off also effected the signal of the local independent Chernomorskaya TV. They were replaced with Russian channels NTV, 1st channel, Rossiya 24, Rossiya RTR, TNT and Zvezda.
We take note of the concerns in this respect, expressed by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media after visiting the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Yesterday the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Mr. Ivan Šimonović joined the list of international officials, who were denied access to Crimea. Cited reasons for denial as security concerns testify to serious aggravation of situation on the peninsula.
The situation in Ukraine’s territory of the Crimea is rapidly moving in the spiral of lawlessness since its occupation by the Russian troops, unidentified military servicemen under the guise of “local self-defence forces”. The Verkhovna Rada of Crimea continues, surrounded by armed unidentified military men, to rubberstamp illegitimate decisions which violate the Constitution and national legislation of Ukraine, which violate the legislative procedures and exceed the authority of this body. One of the latest illegitimate acts was declaring “Crimean independence”.
Pursuant to its persistent calls to the Russian Federation to stop support of the separatist forces in Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine resolutely protested to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in connection with its statement of 11 March 2014, which appeared to legitimise the so-called “declaration on independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”. The Russian Federation also asserts that OSCE was invited to observe the so-called “referendum”. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry pointed out at the cynicism of the situation when invitation to the OSCE to visit the sovereign territory of Ukraine was conveyed by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE.
The Ukrainian side is seriously concerned over the media policy by Russian TV channels, disseminating deceitful information on Ukraine and labeling Ukrainian people as “neo-Nazi”, “fascists” and “extremists”. There can be no justification for dangerous falsifications, distortions and policies of inciting hatred between the Ukrainian and the Russian peoples.
On 11 March 2014 the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine requested cable operators to temporarily suspend broadcasts of the Russian television channels Rossiya 24, ORT, RTR Planeta and NTV-Mir until assessment is made on conformity of their programming with the national legislation of Ukraine, which bans incitement of inter-ethnic hatred.
As we are approaching 16 March, I would like to reiterate that the so-called “referendum” in Crimea is illegitimate, violating the Constitution of Ukraine and international law, and thus its consequences will be legally null and void. The decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea on the so-called “referendum” has been suspended by the Acting President of Ukraine.
I would also like to note that Ukraine has sufficient legal framework and instruments to discuss and decide on devolving more power to the Ukrainian regions. Moreover, it is one of the priorities of the new Government of Ukraine. The Prime Minister of Ukraine Mr. Arseniy Yatseniuk has recently reiterated the Government’s readiness to engage in comprehensive dialogue on additional rights and competencies of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, but this would not happen at the gunpoint of Russian troops.
Let me conclude, Mr Chairman, by reiterating that Ukraine is committed to finding a diplomatic and peaceful solution to this crisis that would provide for full respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country. We call on the Russian Federation to restore full implementation of its international and bilateral obligations, to pull the Russian troops back to the bases of their permanent stationing and to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities on any issues of interest. I suggest it to my Russian colleague that everything possible needs to be done to preserve close ties and friendship between the peoples of Ukraine and the Russian Federation which is in the long-term interests of our two countries. The purposes of resolution of the conflict will be served by immediate deployment of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Crimea to impartially assess the situation on the ground. I thank all delegations for supporting the draft decision on mandate of this monitoring mission, introduced yesterday by the Swiss Chairmanship, and call on the Russian delegation to join consensus.