As for delivery by Ambassador Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna,
to the special meeting of the Permanent Council
21 February 2022
We are grateful for your efforts in promptly and efficiently responding to Ukraine’s request to convene this special meeting of the Permanent Council.
The security situation along the entire contact line in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains extremely tense and fragile and has a clear tendency toward deterioration.
To be more precise, towards escalation fully controlled by the Russian Federation.
On 18 of February, the ceasefire regime was violated on 66 cases. Among them, there were 60 cases of adjusted fire. Minsk-proscribed weaponry was used in 53 cases. In total, 129 artillery rounds of 122-mm caliber were shelled as well as 403 mortar mines of 120-mm caliber; and 166 mortar mines of 82-mm caliber. A sniper fire was registered on 10 occasions.
On 19 of February, a number of cases of the ceasefire regime violation by the Russian armed formation increased to 136. In 123 cases it was adjusted fire. There were also three cases of crossing of the contact line by UAVs of the Russian formations, most likely of Orlan-10.
Minsk-proscribed weaponry was used already in 119 cases.
It means that 18 rounds of artillery of 152-mm caliber were shelled; 13 tank rounds of 125-mm caliber; 458 artillery rounds of 122-mm caliber; 572 mortar mines of 120-mm caliber; and 242 mortar mines of 82-mm caliber. Two Ukrainian servicemen killed and five sustained injures.
SMM confirms a dramatic increase in kinetic activity along the contact line.
Among the targets of the Russian fire are civilian objects, including kindergartens and schools with children inside, residential households, civil and critical infrastructure.
Failed attempts to convene on 18 and 19 of February an extraordinary meeting of the TCG, including upon the initiative of the CiO Special Representative, Ambassador Kinnunen, additionally indicate Russia’s deliberate intention to aggravate the tension.
This goes not only about the occupied territories.
During last week we concluded a series of meetings under the Chapter 3 of the Vienna document 2011.
In the background of those meetings, among other things, we heard that every Russian solider would leave Belarus after the exercises end and some Russian units were already departing from Ukraine’s Eastern border. The exercises were supposed to end yesterday, on 20 of February.
However, the reality turns to be completely different.
Over the weekend in the vicinity of Donbas, the number of the Russian troop was continuing to grow and it has appeared that the Russian troops are going to stay in Belarus.
Not surprisingly, because of the tension in Donbas provoked by Russia itself.
Obviously, Russia is looking for any reason to keep its armed forces close to Ukraine’s borders.
Latest comments by CSTO secretary general about possible deployment of so-called peacekeeping forces in Donbas reveal one of Kremlin’s plans and purpose of Russia’s military build-up.
He was speculating about 17,000-strong force at constant readiness and a specialized peacekeeping force of nearly 4,000 troops.
But I want to make it clear that Russia-controlled military block cannot pretend to play a role of peacekeeper in the region occupied by Russia.
However, it becomes even more understandable why Russia is falsifying a new reality of a humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied territories and imminent military confrontation.
Let me turn to another aspect of the escalation in Donbas.
With the provocative firings along the whole contact line in the background, Russia’s disinformation campaign is in progress.
Obviously, Russia needs an information pretext for new aggressive steps.
Just a few recent examples
- a failed attempt to use the shelling of a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska for accusing the Ukrainian forces in shelling of the occupied territories;
- alleged chemical incident near Horlivka – a possibility of this scenario was warned about a month ago;
- blowing up of an old Soviet-time car in the centre of Donetsk, this attack was supposed to target a head of so-called people’s militia; of course, he did not use that old car;
- sabotage reported by the Russian media against Luhanskgaz gas distribution hub, which had set fire to the Druzhba pipeline. But in fact, this pipeline, after the invasion of Russian troops in 2014, was disconnected from the Ukrainian gas transport system and is not used for gas supplies to Ukraine or through Ukraine. This also gives understanding what Russia would do with the Ukrainian gas transport system if the Nord Stream-II will be in operation already.
- next, a story about two shells of MLRS Grad fired by the Ukrainian forces that fell on the Russian territory, namely in the village of Mityakinsk, Rostov region. Not to mention that the Ukrainian artillery units are positioned from this village at a distance that exceeds the firing range of MLRS Grad, it appears that a script of this provocation was written back in 2014. As at this time, eight years ago “Ukrainian shells” fell exactly the same 300 meters from the residential household in the same village.
The Russian leadership is also stepping up rhetoric about “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. It is very serious accusation and brings to memory, rather, pictures of Grozny after Russian troops entered it. These photos could be easily googled.
But let me remind to the Russian side, that people of Sloviansk, Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka, Bakhmut, Rubizhne, Sieverodonetsk and many others cities and settlements of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are happy that Ukraine is back.
This cannot be said about those cities still under the Russian occupation.
Furthermore, Russia is also trying to play a card of mass graves.
However, neither the International Committee of the Red Cross nor the Ukrainian humanitarian missions have access to these territories. This creates a lot of space for Russia’s state agencies for manipulation and accusations that cannot be verified.
All these staged provocations and propaganda campaign are senseless for us. However, the Russian people and people living in the occupied territories are the main targeted audience. Unfortunately, according to our intelligence, other provocations are expected in coming days, including with the alleged use of UAVs. Russia continues to act in accordance with its destabilization plans, despite the fact that these plans were disclosed so many times.
But let me state it as clear, the Russian Federation as occupying Power is responsible for the situation in the temporarily occupied territories. Any damage that may be done to people or infrastructure in the temporarily occupied territories would be a provocation.
Actually, Russia wants to play the same scenario as it did in 2008 against Georgia – with military exercises, provocations, mass evacuation, then invasion and formalization of its proxies.
A so-called emergency evacuation announced on Friday explains the best what is happening.
The fact that relevant video appeal was prerecorded two days before the announcement tells a lot. No doubt, the evacuation was launched to sustain a narrative about imminent Ukraine’s attack. Even regardless the fact that Ukrainian forces demonstrate restrain despite the provocative fire on the contact line.
More and more details appear showing that people are considered merely as instrument for Russia’s geopolitical games. Children and women are left for days without food, in cold buses and waiting to be settled anywhere in the Rostov region.
Even more, to encourage people to leave the territories, the Russian president made a promise to pay 10 000 rubles or about 110 euros to those evacuated. Not so much but it clearly displays social and economic realities in the occupied territories under Russia’s rule.
However, some people who faced real Russia’s “care” already starting returning to their homes.
In the meantime, Russia is shelling EECPs. Even a humanitarian convoy of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees came under fire as it was returning from the occupied areas. A JCCC vehicle near EECP was destroyed with fire yesterday.
Obviously, Russia is hitting humanitarian corridors to intimidate people and to prevent them from leaving for Ukraine. It is inhuman and immoral tactics.
Furthermore, on Sunday night children from Donetsk orphanage were transferred to unknown place in Russia.
It is another provocation from Russia’s old playbook. Children from Donbas were transferred to Russia on three occasions between June and August 2014.
We call upon the Russian Federation not to repeat mistakes of the past and return children to Ukraine, as the European Court of Human Rights ordered back in 2014.
It is absolutely unacceptable that children are used for the propaganda of war.
Enforced evacuation of Ukrainian citizens from the occupied territories has to be ceased. This campaign amounts to forced transfer of population from the occupied areas that is forbidden under the international humanitarian law and could be qualified as a war crime.
This orchestrated evacuation deprives people of the homes, property, job, divides families.
This also violates their right to life, prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, right to liberty and security, right to respect for private life, freedom of movement. These rights are protected under the legally binding European Convention of Human Rights.
In this regard, even more concerning are reports that men of 18-55 years old are banned from leaving the occupied territories and are forcibly enlisted to the Russian occupation forces.
It is another gross violation under international humanitarian law.
Forced evacuation of children and women as well as forced conscription of men proves that everyone in the occupied territories is in trap. No rights and freedoms. Only an instrument in hands of the occupying Power.
Together with large-scale passportization, this clearly demonstrates Russia's attitude to the residents of the occupied territories.
They are cynically used as smoking screen and human shield, while Russia is provoking new escalations and implementing its scenario of political subordination of Ukraine.
In the meantime, Russia’s massive disinformation campaign has been sustained largely by state-sponsored media.
In view of this I would like to reiterate my previous call upon the OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media to closely follow this case.
Even Russian intelligentsia in an open letter addressed to the Russian leadership is clearly stating that and I quote “state television broadcasts only one point of view, that of the supporters of the war”. End of quote.
It’s time to call a spade a spade. It has nothing to do with the freedom of media and speech. Propaganda of war and hatred towards the Ukrainians and the West cannot be tolerated any more.
Regardless Russia’s provocations, Ukraine remains firmly committed to the political settlement and together with our partners pursue the diplomatic dialogue.
Ukraine has no plans to launch any offensive operation towards temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions or to conduct any sabotage act in Donbas:
- the Armed Forces of Ukraine remain in their positions;
- there are no rotations of the Armed Forces units that could cause concern. There is no single SMM report that could give such a concern;
- the number of the Ukrainian Armed Forces does not exceed the numbers as of 22 December of 2021, when a statement was issued concerning the determination of TCG participant to fully adhere to the ceasefire regime;
- the Armed Forces of Ukraine strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime.
At the same time, we believe that at this critical juncture, establishing facts on the ground is more important than ever.
It is important to use all possible tools available within the OSCE in order to address the security situation and contribute to its de-escalation
In view of this, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister has invited the OSCE Troika to undertake an urgent fact-finding visit to Ukraine within the early warning mechanism which was activated by OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid last week.
Ukraine is ready to provide all necessary assistance for conducting such mission as well as is fully open for the cooperation with the mission and ready to provide all required information.
Ukraine also stands ready to accept additional observer missions under the terms of Chapter X of the Vienna Document 2011. The Ukrainian side is ready to demonstrate the highest possible level of military transparency.
On the other side, we call upon the Russian Federation to use procedures under the VD as well as to implement recommendations expressed during Friday’s joint meeting of PC and FSC in order to enhance military transparency on Ukraine’s border and contribute to the de-escalation.
SMM’s monitoring activities in full compliance with its mandate are as important as never before. We call upon Russia to take urgent steps, which would help the Mission to operate safely in the occupied territories and fulfil its mandate properly as tasked by the Permanent Council. Threatening of monitors is unacceptable.
We strongly believe that preserving of the efficient and full-fledged monitoring by OSCE SMM on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, especially in the border areas is of foremost importance.
And we appreciate efforts by the participating States aimed to keep SMM’s monitoring capability at an appropriate level, especially their readiness to increase a number of monitors with proper qualification, despite the current security challenges.
We also call for an immediate and impartial international investigation of the reported incidents on the Russian territory. Ukraine has never opened any such fire and resolutely refutes all accusations.
And the last but not least, we urge the Russian Federation to de-escalate the situation and engage constructively as a party to the conflict into a dialogue within existing formats, including Normandy format as well as Trilateral Contact Group.
What Russia has to do – just unblock the negotiation process.
Because as of now, Russia is blocking all initiatives on all tracks, including on security, humanitarian, and political aspects. Do we need more evidences that Russia has no interest in the peaceful settlement? It just needs a leverage to control Ukraine and an instrument to blackmail the West.
It’s time for Russia to end blackmailing with shells and bullets, with killed and wounded soldiers and civilians, with destroyed civilian infrastructure.
The Russian Federation is articulating it’s so-called “national interests” in a way that in fact undermines existential interests of neighboring states.
A veto right on freedom of foreign policy choice by others is not about equal security.
And human sufferings caused by aggressive promotion of its national interests are not about a comprehensive security.
Threatening with the use of force is not about indivisible security under which Russia is trying to mask its expansion.
Russia’s readiness to launch new attack leaves us with no options but to defend freedom, sovereignty and statehood.
Despite Russia’s propaganda, nobody is waiting for Russia in Ukraine. Rather opposite, people are going to the streets, especially in Eastern and Southern regions, to show unity in the face of possible Russia’s attack. This is the rebuttal to Russia's propaganda about mistreatment of Russian speaking people in Ukraine. There would be no welcoming but resistance.
For its part, Ukraine will continue seeking a diplomatic settlement of the armed conflict, solely on the basis of international law.
Ukrainian citizens reside on both sides of the contact line. Their peace, security and well-being are an absolute priority for Ukraine.
And our people residing on both sides of the contact line deserve a dignified diplomatic settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict that would ensure their freedom and prosperity and would not lead to new sufferings and subjugation.
As president Zelenskyy stated at the Munich Security Conference: “We are ready to look for the key to the end of the war in all possible formats and platforms. What is really important is the understanding that peace is needed not only by us, the world needs peace in Ukraine. Peace and restoration of territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders. This is the only way. And I hope no one thinks of Ukraine as a buffer zone between the West and Russia. This will never happen. Nobody will allow that”. End of quote.
If Russia is serious about its commitment to peace, there is no room for threatening and intimidation.
And if we are serious about our commitment to maintaining peace, it is time for resolute actions and measures in order to prevent a new aggression instead of reacting to.
People in Ukraine have already endured enough sufferings to be doomed for new ones.
We are convinced that the most efficient way to dispel our concerns about possible Russia’s new attack remains immediate withdrawal by Russia of its troops from the border with Ukraine and from the temporarily occupied Crimean Peninsula, abandonment of its belligerent rhetoric, threats of the use of force and disinformation campaign against Ukraine, fulfillment in good faith of security provisions of the Minsk agreements.
Mr. Chair, I kindly request that our statement be attached to the Journal of the Day.
Thank you, Mr Chairperson.