As delivered by the Delegation of Ukraine
to the 1082nd meeting of the Permanent Council,
10 December 2015
The OSCE Ministerial Council, which took place last week in Belgrade, demonstrated again that flagrant violations of the OSCE principles and commitments by the Russian Federation, which continues its aggression against Ukraine, are condemned and remain a matter of utmost concern for the OSCE community. We are grateful for the firm support, expressed to Ukraine and fundamental OSCE principles alongside repeated calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, which includes the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
We regret that it was not possible to adopt a draft Declaration regarding the crisis around Ukraine. Like many other delegations we attached particular importance to this draft and based our approach to its substance on the consensual language of the OSCE benchmark documents, which serve as a linchpin for our collective security. However, the document did not stay a chance as the Russian Federation failed to recommit to the fundamental principles of the OSCE – in particular, respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers, non-use of force.
The substance of the discussions in Belgrade has clearly shown again that restoring respect for the OSCE principles and commitments, seeking 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.
Assessing the present situation in Donbas we are deeply concerned over the on-going armed provocations by the pro-Russian illegal armed groups, which prevent return to the sustainable ceasefire and de-escalation, observed in September-October. Although the overall number of the ceasefire violations has slightly decreased over the recent days, their geographical scope and weapons used by the militants indicate that Russia and its proxies deliberately undermine the peaceful track.
While carrying out their provocations the militants used the heavy weapons that must have been withdrawn in line with the Minsk agreements, mostly 82 mm caliber mortars. On 8 December the illegal armed groups shelled the outskirts of the village of Zoryane, Donetsk oblast, by MRLS GRAD, two days earlier the Ukrainian positions near Verkhnyotoretske were shelled by 120 mm caliber mortar. Last night the settlement of Kurakhovka was shelled by MRLS GRAD.
These attacks led to the new casualties among the Ukrainian servicemen and civilians. Between 2-8 December 3 soldiers lost their lives and 20 got wounded as a result of the militants’ attack and shellings.
Although faced with regular militants’ provocations, Ukraine does its utmost to keep the situation from deterioration. In its weekly report of 2 December the SMM drew attention to the order by the Chief-of-Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces not to return fire, unless in self-defence. As noted in the report, the Ukrainian soldiers were observing the order, which was assessed by the Mission as a contributing factor leading to decreasing ceasefire violations on the ground.
The Mission’s findings in the above report confirm what has been stated many times that most of the violations are committed by the militants during the nighttime, when the situation on the ground cannot be monitored by the SMM. The Mission describes the picture as “far darker and more violent”, relying on accounts of the checkpoint personnel, JCCC members and civilians, including the medical personnel of the hospitals in the government-controlled area.
We are concerned that until now the SMM freedom of movement remains problematic. As the OSCE monitors inform, the main area of contention remains, as before, border regions not controlled by the Government. As a result, the SMM cannot properly assess the nature or extent of cross-border traffic. We are outraged by the incident in militant-controlled Yurivka on 5 December, where the SMM monitors were prevented from examining the spotted heavy weapons in the exclusion zone and were forced to leave the area by militants’ fire into the air. Given the structure of the combined Russia-separatist forces, it will not ever be clear who intimidated the monitors – local militants, Russian fighters or Russia’s active servicemen, but what is clear that Russia has the responsibility to stop it.
We welcome the opening of the SMM Forward Patrol Base in Horlivka and announcement on opening of such base in Debaltseve. We consider that the permanent SMM presence in the areas of concern will be an important element of strengthening the Mission’s monitoring and verification capacities. We expect the Mission to be able to open additional forward patrol bases, since the lack of them, as acknowledged by the SMM, limits its ability to monitor and report in an efficient manner.
Despite the dire humanitarian and economic situation in Donbas, our hopes for peaceful resolution and economic rehabilitation, the Russian Federation continues to effectively rob this region of Ukraine.
We have already informed the Permanent Council of the dismantling of industrial facilities in Donbas for their further transfer to the territory of the Russian Federation. This criminal practice apparently continues. The local residents, in particular, inform of observing now the dismantling of the facilities of the metallurgical plants in Donetsk and Makiyivka, as well as of the pipe plant in Khartsyzsk. We see it important for the SMM to follow up on such information.
We note the SMM’s conclusion that problems with coal, which face the local population, are not necessarily the result of shortage. Despite the widespread unavailability of coal, on 27 November the SMM observed 23 trucks, loaded with coal and waiting to enter Russia through the closed BCP “Marynivka”. 45 trucks with coal were spotted by the SMM at the same BCP on 4 December. According to a driver of one of the trucks, the coal from occupied Torez was being transported to Taganrog in Russia.
We view such actions on the Russian part as continuation of destruction of the economic potential of Donbas, dooming it to poverty and social and economic deprivation.
The Trilateral Contact group meeting, which took place on 8 December, addressed main issues of concern and we hope the discussions will result in improvement of the situation. We expect the demining activities in respective sections along the contact line to be carried out in line with agreed modalities.
We expect the Russian Federation and its proxies to grant full and unimpeded access to the SMM throughout the part of Donbas, which remains occupied, as well as to the international humanitarian organizations, including their access to the captured and illegally detained persons.
At the TCG meeting we again called on Russia to speed up the release of all hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of “all-for-all” principle, considering that this issue must be given the highest priority in order to achieve practical result before the end of the year.
We underline that the relevant provision of the Minsk Package of measures apply to the Ukrainian citizens, who were abducted from Ukraine and continue to be illegally detained in Russia, including Nadiya Savchenko, Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko and others. We urge Russia to comply with its legal obligations and political commitments and to immediately and unconditionally release those Ukrainian citizens.
In the occupied Crimea we recently observed a new phase of repressions by the Russian occupying authorities against the Crimean Tatar activists, who oppose the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, and their relatives. The repressive instruments include arrests of property, searches, detention under the charges of “disloyalty”, intimidation and pressure. One can hardly expect different as proved by a Russian delegate here in Vienna who at the last PC meeting called “a lie” the fact of criminal deportation of the Crimean Tatar people by the Stalin regime.
We reiterate that the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, bears full responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula and urge it to halt repressions. We urge to facilitate free and unconditional access of international monitors to Crimea.
I will conclude by referring again to the Belgrade 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 the Russian Federation to implement in full its commitments under the Minsk agreements, to refrain from further aggressive actions against Ukraine and reverse the illegal occupation and annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
Thank you, Mr.Chairman.