Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the
International Organizations in Vienna, to the 1168th meeting of the Permanent
Council, 14 December 2017
The discussions at the OSCE Ministerial
Council last week in Vienna have again testified to the broad recognition that
the on-going Russian aggression against the territorial integrity and
sovereignty of Ukraine remains the gravest threat to the European security. The
illegal occupation and attempted annexation of the Autonomous Republic of
Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, grave human rights violations in the
peninsula constitute flagrant breaches of the OSCE principles and commitments.
The hybrid warfare led by the Russian mercenaries and troops in certain areas
of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine
continues to take away scores of lives of civilians and Ukrainian servicemen,
sow destruction and bring sufferings and hardships to millions of people living
in parts of Donbas under Russia’s effective control, with the flags of the
Russian Federation flying “outside certain public buildings” in the Luhansk city as reported by the SMM.
On 4 December 2017 the International
Criminal Court released its Report on preliminary examination activities 2017
where it recalls its assessment that the situation within the territory of
Crimea and Sevastopol amounts to an international armed conflict between
Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which entails application of respective
international law. While examination of available information on the conflict
in parts of Donbas is ongoing, it points out that “the existence of a single
international armed conflict in eastern Ukraine would entail the application of
articles of the Statute relevant to armed conflict of an international
character for the relevant period”.
Russia’s presence as an invasion
force in Donbas continues to be registered by the SMM even under the conditions
of significant and systematic restrictions imposed upon the activities of the
SMM in the areas controlled by the Russian hybrid forces.
The armed persons “with
military-style clothing bearing the image of a black bat” (the emblem of the
military intelligence of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) keep
moving around Donbas, most recently spotted by the SMM in Dmytrivka
85km east of Donetsk.
The Russian heavy weapons continue
movement in the non-government controlled areas of Donbas, while further
intentions of the Russian military command are unknown. Enough is to look at
the fluctuating numbers of combat tanks observed by the SMM in Manuilivka 65km east of Donetsk and reported in the daily
reports of 30 October and 6 December, and weekly report of 29 October.
The large numbers of the heavy
weapons and military equipment, including “military-type vehicles arranged in
column formations”, as observed by the SMM on 28 November near Buhaivka 37km south-west of Luhansk,
the constant supply of fuel and ammunition point out to the readiness of the
Russian hybrid forces to launch military offensives at any time when Moscow
The SMM cameras at the Donetsk
Filtration Station and in Shyrokyne continue to
register daily dozens and hundreds of projectiles in flight from east to west,
indicating Russia’s intent to maintain provocations and hostilities. Access of
the SMM patrols to the towns of Siedove and Novoazovsk near the Ukrainian-Russian state border
continues to be systematically denied which enables Russia to conceal its
military presence in that area.
The Russian hybrid forces intimidate
the SMM patrols, restrict their access to the permanent weapons storages and
aim to damage the SMM assets with the purpose of “blinding” the Mission. A week
after the SMM UAV had been fired at near non-government controlled Dovhe on 27 November, the SMM spotted newly dug trenches
and underground bunkers near the same Dovhe on 2
The Russian hybrid forces have no
sympathy for civilians and their fate as they keep shelling the objects of
critical civilian infrastructure at the contact line in Donbas and deliberately
heighten the risk of ecological and humanitarian disasters. Last week, the
Donetsk Filtration Station was shelled again and the SMM reported on 5 December
about fresh impact sites “caused by a mortar round fired from a
south-south-easterly direction”, where the positions of the Russian hybrid
forces are located. Earlier, the SMM reported about attacks at DFS on 15 and
16 November, when the SMM camera recorded the incoming explosions very close
to it. The projectiles were fired “from a southerly direction, in the vicinity
of known “DPR” forward positions”.
The SMM weekly report of
29 November points out that the repairs of a number of installations,
which have already been damaged by the shellings,
“remain stalled due to lack of security guarantees from the armed formations”,
as is the case with the Krasnohorivka gas
distribution centre and the water pipeline near Avdiivka.
These observations are extremely
important for clear understanding of Russia’s ongoing aggression and the utter
cruelty of its behavior under the cover of Moscow’s political declarations to
This situation makes it imperative
to maintain and even strengthen the international pressure on Russia to make it
implement its commitments under the Minsk agreements. Russia must stop the
aggression and withdraw its troops and weapons from the sovereign territory of
Ukraine. It depends on Russia to allow the OSCE to play the role agreed to by
Moscow as defined in the Minsk agreements. The rejection of this OSCE’s role by
the Russian delegation during the negotiations on the draft Declaration on the
OSCE’s response to the crisis in and around Ukraine in the run-up to the last
week’s OSCE Ministerial Council can only be viewed as another testimony of
Russia’s unwillingness to implement the Minsk agreements. In this connection we
wish to remind the Russian delegation that the Minsk agreements assign a
specific role of the OSCE in: monitoring and verification of the ceasefire
regime; ensuring the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border and
verification with the creation of safety zone in the border regions of Ukraine
and the Russian Federation; monitoring the ban on the deployment of heavy weapons
and military equipment in designated areas; monitoring the withdrawal of the
heavy weapons from the specified line of contact; monitoring the withdrawal of
all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from
the territory of Ukraine; and monitoring local elections, to be held in
accordance with Ukrainian legislation and relevant OSCE standards.
The implementation by the OSCE of
the above agreed functions is effectively denied by the Russian Federation and
its forces in Donbas, which necessitates a heightened attention to this issue
on the part of the OSCE Chairmanship and the CiO’s Special Representative.
Throughout this year a lot of
attention was paid to the plight of civilian population in the conflict-affected
areas of Donbas. To our deepest regret, these people continue to suffer as the
Russian invasion force maintains hostilities and occupation, neglecting the
needs, rights and freedoms of the civilians living in the certain areas of the
Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.
They refused to open a crossing
point in Zolote when a crossing point in Stanytsia Luhanska, a single one
in the Luhansk region, was closed for two days to
enable repairs of the damaged bridge. Instead, the Russian proxies suggested that
the civilians use the border check-point point in Izvaryne,
at the uncontrolled segment of the Ukrainian-Russian state border. They keep
preventing civilian traffic through the village of Nova Marivka
by deliberately placing an 82mm mortar round in the surface of a road, as
informed in the SMM daily report of 6 December. They cut electricity (which
also affected the water supply) to the village of Travneve
as stated in the SMM weekly report of 29 November. Electricity has been later
restored by the Ukrainian authorities on 10 December.
When the SMM patrols attempt to
establish contact with the local population, in order to gather information and
to establish facts in full compliance with the SMM mandate, they are
continuously denied such contacts by the Russian hybrid forces. The medical
staff at hospitals in the non-government controlled areas of Donbas is
intimidated and instructed “not provide information on reported civilian
casualties to the SMM without the permission” of militants. As highlighted in
the SMM daily report of 6 December, “while the SMM was speaking with staff at
the hospital, another staff member told the SMM that the OSCE was not on the
list of organizations with which he was allowed to talk.” On 8 December, when
the OSCE monitors were talking to a group of civilians near a checkpoint in Horlivka, “armed “DPR” members approached the SMM” and
“told the SMM to stop talking to civilians and leave the area”.
Last Sunday, the international
community observed the Human Rights Day marking the adoption of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights by the UN GA nearly 70 years ago, in 1948.
Presently in the OSCE area the most glaring violations of human rights happen
in the territories, illegally occupied by the Russian Federation and placed by
force under its effective control – the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the
city of Sevastopol, and a part of Donbas region in Ukraine.
Last week in Vienna two deputy
chairmen of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz shared their
personal experiences and shocking stories of persecution and impunity for
crimes against Crimean Tatars and others. Thousands of people continue to
suffer every day. On Monday, another Crimean Tatar and civil society activist Rustem Osmanov was detained in Bakhchysarai. His name is now added to the long list of
civil society activists, journalists and lawyers persecuted by the Russia’s
occupation regime and fake “courts” to silence opposition to the occupation.
In the next few days, the UN General
Assembly will vote for the resolution “Situation of human rights in the
Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. We once
again call upon all OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation to
give their votes for this resolution as one of the instruments to put an end to
grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Crimea.
As the ultimate restoration of
numerous violated rights can only be achieved through de-occupation of Crimea, we
again strongly urge the Russian Federation to return to the tenets of
international law by reversing the illegal occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol,
and by stopping its aggression against Ukraine, including by withdrawing its
troops from the Ukrainian territory.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.