Statement on “Current Security Challenges in the OSCE Area and OSCE Engagement with Ukraine” by the Delegation of Ukraine to the 997th special meeting of the Permanent Council, 28 April 2014 Mr. Chairman,
We thank the Swiss Chairmanship for convening this special Permanent Council meeting in view of the latest developments in and around Ukraine.
10 days have passed since reaching on 17 April 2014 the Geneva agreement at the quadripartite talks between Ukraine, the EU, the US and the Russian Federation.
Ukraine implements in good faith the provisions of the Geneva agreement, aimed at de-escalating tensions and restoring security for all citizens in Ukraine.
At the previous meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council the Delegation of Ukraine shared the information on concrete steps, taken by the Government of Ukraine to this end. These steps include, in particular, continuing active campaign to seize illegal arms from the population, developing a draft amnesty law for those who disarm and free illegally seized buildings. As a priority of the Government of Ukraine efforts are underway to promote a broad inclusive political dialogue on constitutional reform and decentralization, a draft concept of reforming local self-government was approved. The remaining barricades are cleared in the centre of Kyiv. Regular consultations have been launched by the Ukrainian authorities with the parties to the Geneva agreement to promote its implementation.
At the same time we note that the Russian Federation has so far failed to undertake steps that would demonstrate its commitment to the Geneva agreement. It has not called on armed militants in eastern Ukraine to lay down arms and free the illegally seized buildings, nor publicly condemned the acts of terror perpetrated by those militants in the days following the Geneva agreement. Moreover, the Russian Federation has continued to escalate tensions by increasingly concerning rhetoric and ongoing threatening military manoeuvers on Ukraine’s border.
In Geneva Russia committed itself to support immediate initial measures of de-escalation in eastern Ukraine. We urge to fulfill this commitment.
The situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains extremely tense and further aggravates due to terrorist activities of extremist separatist groups and their
Russian coordinators. Over the recent period they consolidated their criminal actions, which squarely fall under qualification of terrorism. Criminals, who have made the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk region, their stronghold, resort to intimidation of people and murder of who they see as opponents, to armed attacks on governmental buildings and weapons storages, to hostage-taking and abduction of civilians, journalists, law-enforcement and international representatives.
At least two people, notably Volodymyr Rybak, a deputy of Horlivka city council, and Yuriy Popravko, a 19-year-old activist from Kyiv, were murdered by the members of terrorist groups, operating now in and around Slovyansk. Their bodies, mutilated by torture, were found in Torez River in the vicinity of Slovyansk. Volodymyr Rybak disappeared on 17 April in Horlivka after he tried to remove the separatist flag from the building of Horlivka city council.
A video of the kidnapping as well as audio recording of phone conversations, intercepted by the Security Service of Ukraine, provide sufficient proof that terrorists’ leaders, notably self-proclaimed “mayor of Slovyansk” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov and “military commander” of terrorists, Russian agent Igor Strelkov were engaged in this murder. The real identity of this Russian agent was established – colonel Igor Girkin of the Russian military intelligence with registered permanent residence in Moscow.
On 26 April heavily armed terrorists seized three officers of the Security Service of Ukraine, who investigated the murder on the ground. They were brutally beaten, tortured and later presented to Russian media as “Ukrainian spies”. We regret to note that the Russian media savoured the process of interrogation of the officers, conducted by terrorists.
We strongly condemn the capturing in Slovyansk of the OSCE military verification mission under the 2011 OSCE Vienna Document on confidence-building and security and accompanying representatives of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Forceful detention of international observers is yet another testimony to criminal and terrorist nature of the separatist armed groups in the Donetsk region, supported by the Russian special services.
We welcome the release of the Swedish military inspector. The Ukrainian side will continue to undertake efforts aimed at releasing the hostages. We also call on all OSCE participating States, in particular the Russian Federation, to facilitate their release.
Harassment and abduction of political opponents and journalists have become a practice for the terrorists in Slovyansk. Presently they continue to hold in detention streamer Artem Deynega, journalists Serhiy Lefter, Irma Krat and Yuriy Lelyavskyi. On 26 April journalist of “Volyn Post” Serhiy Shapoval disappeared on his way to Slovyansk and his whereabouts still remains unknown.
We register growing fear of local residents for their safety amid the outburst of extremism in Slovyansk as it was also noted in the report of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission of 24 April 2014.
Regrettably, we have not yet witnessed any sign of condemnation by the Russian Federation of the cases of murder, abduction or hostage-taking in and around Slovyansk committed by the terrorist groups.
Ukraine strongly condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We believe that terrorist methods used by the armed militants in the eastern Ukraine have no excuse and require appropriate response to bring those responsible for these terrorist acts to justice.
In view of the seriousness of the committed crimes and threats to public safety the Ukrainian authorities had to resume the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation.
In this connection I would like to reiterate - the anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine aims to protect civilians from terrorist activities, murder, intimidation, intolerance of armed gangs, and to stop violence. The operation is conducted in full compliance with the national legislation of Ukraine and its international commitments.
We strongly refute all claims by the Russian Federation as to allegedly use of military force by the Ukrainian Government against civilians. Such claims are cynical towards local population, suffering from extremists.
It is clear that Russia does not only have legal, but also moral right to make such assertions regarding the counter-terrorist efforts of the Ukrainian authorities, given disproportionate use of force during anti-terrorist operations in the Russian Federation itself.
We are seriously concerned over significant concentration of Russian troops for what is referred to as “military exercises” in various areas in the immediate vicinity of the state border with Ukraine which leads to further escalation of tensions.
In order to dispel concerns over these military activities of the Russian Armed Forces, Ukraine requested the Russian Federation to provide necessary clarifications pursuant to the 2011 Vienna Document. We regret that the response by the Russian Federation did not contain satisfactory clarifications in relation to the purposes and area of military exercises of the Southern and Western military districts of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, completion date, as well as number and types of military units involved. The Russian side also communicated its refusal to host, on a voluntary basis, a visit of Ukrainian
representatives to areas of these military exercises to dispel concerns about military activities by the Russian troops close to the Ukrainian border.
We very much regret that the Russian Federation decided not to participate in today’s meeting to discuss the matter further in accordance with paragraph 16.2 of the 2011 Vienna Document. Under such circumstances Ukraine deems it important to have a joint FSC-PC meeting and urges the Russian Federation to use this platform for dialogue to dispel existing serious concerns.
As we have informed the Permanent Council, the actions of terrorist groups and provocations by the pro-Russian armed activists have a direct impact on the situation with the human rights and fundamental freedoms in the affected regions of Ukraine.
We also continue to be seriously alarmed over the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, illegally occupied and annexed by the Russian Federation in flagrant breach of international law and OSCE principles and commitments.
In particular, we condemn in strongest terms the recent decision of the occupying authorities in Crimea to ban entry of the former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, MP Mustafa Jemilev, to Crimea for a period of five years until April 19, 2019. Such an action is yet another manifestation of xenophobia, chauvinism and intolerance which are now instilled by the occupying forces in Crimea. We urge immediately revocation of this decision.
We call on the occupying authorities to allow international monitors, including from the OSCE, access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Let me conclude by reiterating our call on the Russian Federation to revoke the mandate approved by the Federation Council of the Russian Federation on 1 March 2014 on the possibility to use Russian military force on the Ukrainian soil; to withdraw Russian troops from the border with Ukraine; to denounce armed militants and terrorists in eastern Ukraine; to halt interference in the internal affairs of the country. We call on the Russian Federation to implement its part of the Geneva agreement, thus contributing to immediate de-escalation in the eastern regions of Ukraine.
In light of Russia’s ongoing violations of the imperative norms of international law, all OSCE principles and commitments, we call upon the OSCE participating States to reflect upon what extra steps can be taken to ensure implementation of these principles and commitments.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.