Permanent Representative of Russia to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, February 8, 2018
In reference to the reports by Head of the OSCE SMM
in Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan and Special Representative
of OSCE Chairman-in-Office for Ukraine
and in the Contact Group Martin Sajdik
Distinguished ambassadors Martin Sajdik and Ertugrul Apakan,
Your activities seek to achieve peace and harmony in Ukraine. We appreciate this and wish you success. The key condition is full compliance with the Minsk Package of Measures. This cornerstone document, approved by UN Security Council resolution, will turn 3 years on February 12. None of its provisions have been implemented so far. An impartial analysis makes it possible to understand who is to blame for this.
As you know, the conflict in southeastern Ukraine began with Kiev’s punitive operation against its own people, which brought untold suffering to the people in that region. Many were forced to flee, including to Russia. Since April 1, 2014, about 1.7 million Ukrainian citizens have applied to the authorities in Russia for legal status, including Russian citizenship, refugee status, temporary asylum, temporary residence permit, etc. Even more Ukrainians regularly go to Russia to work. The authorities there come up with propaganda labels like the “aggressor country,” but the people vote with their feet.
Futile attempts to portray Russia as a side in the intra-Ukrainian conflict constitute an integral part of the policy of sabotaging the Minsk agreements, prolonging the conflict, maintaining a hotbed of tension on the borders of the European Union and Russia, and creating competitive advantages for extra-regional powers. All this is being done at the expense of the peoples of Ukraine.
Kiev completely ignores the political part of its obligations – the law on the “special status” of Donbass was not put into effect because of conditions which were not provided for by the Package of Measures. Kiev must agree the conditions for holding local elections with Donetsk and Lugansk. This is not happening. Even the Steinmeier formula, which combines these two key issues, is going nowhere.
The law on non-persecution in connection with the Donbass events remains on the back burner. Kiev is blatantly cheating with the lists of individuals subject to exchange, and is not conducting a proper legal “cleaning” of the released persons. We have not heard much in a while about the constitutional reform envisaged in Paragraph 11 of the Minsk Package of Measures.
The shelling of Donbass towns and villages continues in violation of Paragraph 1 of the Package of Measures. The SMM has reported on some incidents. The most recent shelling of a civilian bus in Yelenovka on January 21 and blocks of flats in Dokuchayevsk on January 22 resulted in casualties among civilians. The continuing concentration of forces and means of the Ukrainian armed forces is a cause for concern for us. In violation of the Package of Measures, Ukraine keeps increasing the number of large-caliber artillery units at the contact line, bringing 57 artillery units last week alone. Poorly controlled formations of militant nationalists can still be found in Donbass. Kiev has so far failed to issue ceasefire orders.
The September 21, 2016 decision of the Contact Group on disengagement of forces and means is not being complied with, whereas it is one of the key elements of de-escalation at the contact line. Kiev refuses to fulfill the obligations it assumed at Stanitsa Luganskaya (seven-day complete ceasefires were recorded at least 20 times at this SMM section).
The Ukrainian armed forces continue to use provocations, seizing villages in the “gray zone” close to the contact line, such as Novoaleksandrovka, Gladosovo and Travnevoye. This leads to a dangerous rapprochement of positions and the risk of escalation.
Kiev’s representatives consistently dodge a direct coordination of measures to resolve the crisis with the other parties to the conflict, Donetsk and Lugansk, although such coordination is explicitly stipulated in the Package of Measures. The Contact Group was formed precisely for this purpose, in which Ukraine is represented by all the parties to the conflict. We expect that Ambassador Martin Sajdik will still be able to fulfill the key task – have all the parties engage in an effective dialogue.
The developments on the economic and humanitarian tracks are depressing. The central authorities, along with the extremists, are making every effort to further isolate Donbass from Ukraine. Social payments are a big problem (in direct violation of Article 8 of the Minsk package); there is a trade and transport blockade; the region is frequently cut off from water and electricity, and now also from Ukrainian mobile phone networks.
Instead of making good on its commitments, Kiev has drafted the so-called reintegration law, which is in conflict with the Minsk package.
Kiev’s destructive actions have made it impossible for Russian officers to remain in the Joint Centre on Control and Coordination. The SMM needs to work directly with representatives of local authorities in Donbass.
As follows from the OSCE SMM reports, observers regularly visit the border areas. More attention should be given to the rear of the Ukrainian armed forces, where a concentration of weapons has been observed. Many government-controlled areas are closed to the SMM under the pretext of mine danger – in fact a purposeful tactic used by Kiev to blind the observers, which was evidenced by the January 31 incident, when the Unsafe Mines, Keep Out sign was put on a Ukrainian forces’ facility gate. However, that facility seemed to be overlooked by the statistics of obstacles hindering the SMM work, which looks like skewing the facts in the interests of one party to the conflict. In the meantime, pro-government forces have fired at the SMM UAV twice over the past week. On February 2, an observer patrol also came under fire in the vicinity of Yasinovataya.
The SMM should act objectively, transparently and impartially. This largely depends on you, Mr Apakan.
It is hard to overestimate the deterrent effect that the presence of observers on the contact line has. We support more intensive observational activities in this key area, including with the use of equipment. The SMM plays an important role in the early warning of military escalation, all the more so as there are reports of the Kiev military leadership’s offensive plans.
There is an obvious connection between the political situation in Ukraine and the Donbass conflict. The government has repeatedly tried to divert attention from domestic problems, including economic problems, by fueling tensions in Donbass and escalating empty rhetoric.
Radical Ukrainian nationalism is the preferred tool of the war party. We expect the SMM to pay closer attention to the socio-political developments in the country outside the conflict zone.
The Russian language and minority languages issue requires constant monitoring. As you know, in 2014, this issue came to the fore in fueling the crisis, along with Ukraine’s policy toward historical memory.
It is worth paying special attention to the education law, which directly violates Paragraph 11 of the Minsk Package of Measures, as well as regulatory acts on broadcasting, on artistic performances, on print and audio products (Ukraine again has banned a number of books, including children’s books). The harassment of journalists in Ukraine requires a prompt reaction from the SMM – the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media does not seem to always have time to address this. We have already mentioned that editor-in-chief of the Country.ua website Igor Guzhva has asked for asylum in Austria because the Ukrainian authorities have threatened him with a prison term.
In accordance with Paragraph 3 of its mandate, the OSCE mission has to report violations of the rights of ethnic minorities in Ukraine.
The current Ukrainian authorities’ expectations that non-organised nationalist groups would help resolve the important issues facing Ukrainian society through the street riots; the extremist forces’ claims on involvement in law enforcement activities, including by criminal methods such as forceful actions against their opponents, create an alarming environment in the country and unintentionally evoke an allusion to Germany in the 1930s.
The Mission should especially look at the activities of neo-Nazi movements, the so-called national vigilantes who come from the Azov Batalion, admirers of Stepan Bandera, as well as the nationalist organisations responsible for crimes against humanity during and after the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
More and more representatives from other ethnic groups living in Ukraine suffer from the militant nationalists. On February 4, extremists tried to set fire to the office of the Transcarpathian Hungarians Union in Uzhhorod.
Nationalist forces continue their attempts to give the conflict a religious dimension. On February 3, St Vladimir’s Church in Lvov was burned down. On January 25, an attempt was made to burn the Desyatinny Monastery in Kiev, and on February 3, extremists staged a demonstration of force in front of this church during a service.
The manifestations of neo-Nazism and fascism, radical nationalism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance, which have become common in modern Ukraine, require consistent and concerted efforts on the part of the international community to counter these extremely dangerous trends. They threaten not only stability in Ukraine and a potential political settlement in Donbass, but also peace and security in Europe.
In conclusion, allow me to wish all of you success, endurance and good health.