Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, March 8, 2018
The latest ceasefire, which was coordinated between the representatives of Kiev and certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, began on March 5. According to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), the number of ceasefire violations in Donbass has radically decreased. We welcome this.
In order to further stabilise the situation on the contact line, the parties must publish ceasefire orders, withdraw heavy weaponry and the radical Ukrainian volunteer battalions from the contact line, as well as return military equipment to the permanent weapons storage sites. An important step towards this goal will be investigations conducted by the parties on SMM reports of damage due to firing at residential areas and bringing those guilty to account.
We pinned strong hopes on the disengagement of forces and weapons in Stanitsa Luganskaya, which would offer an opportunity to coordinate new security areas where necessary on the contact line. The ceasefire along this section of the line lasted nine weeks from December 26, 2017. We urge the SMM to analyse video information so as to clearly establish who opened fire there on March 3.
Over the week preceding the start of the Spring Ceasefire, the SMM reported six shooting attacks on the residential areas controlled by the self-defence forces from the government-controlled positions. On the evening and night of February 24 and 25, the SMM reported an attack at the power substation in Mikhailovskoye, where large amounts of mercury are stored. An oil tank was damaged in the attack and started leaking oil, which is fraught with an environmental disaster that can cause irremediable damages. Residential buildings in Dokuchayevsk, Kominternovo and Slavyanoserbsk have been damaged in these and other similar attacks. Artillery attacks have been delivered at Zaitsevo and Molodezhnoye.
Over the past month, the Ukrainian army accumulated weapons on the contact line in violation of the Minsk Agreements. The SMM observed Ukrainian military aircraft at the frontline, in particular, a Mi-8 helicopter flying over the entry-exit checkpoint in Maryinka on March 6. This amounts to a gross violation of Clause 7 of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014 and an alarming signal that may point to Kiev’s preparations for a large-scale offensive operation.
In this situation, the SMM must monitor the contact line especially closely and the flashpoint areas around the clock. The SMM’s freedom of movement at the contact line must not be restricted by the “mine threat.” SMM observers have a restraining effect on the parties. The SMM must be able to promptly report new ceasefire violations and try to identify the shooting parties. The SMM must make wide use of its technical equipment, primarily unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to monitor the contact line. We hope for the resumption of operation of the SMM forward patrol base in Popasnaya as soon as possible.
We condemn cases of threats against SMM observes, such as the one that took place near Kozatsky on March 5, when a man in military-type attire pointed an assault rifle at an SMM vehicle.
The alarming increase in militant rhetoric and confrontational acts must be reversed. We urge our colleagues to see the dangers of this situation and to send a clear signal to Kiev regarding the unacceptability of opportunistic military activities in Donbass.
Kiev has recently taken a number of other dangerous steps in addition to the accumulation of forces and indiscriminate shelling.
The law on the so-called reintegration of Donbass, which aims to disrupt the Minsk Agreements, has come into force and is being used as the basis for planning a so-called joint military operation. More foreign military shipments are expected in Ukraine. The number of foreign mercenaries and instructors is growing.
On March 4, a US RQ-4B unmanned aircraft made yet another 10-hour-long reconnaissance flight along the contact line in Donbass in violation of Clause 7 of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014.
Recent statement by US officials regarding the need to eliminate the structure of certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are pampering militarist sentiments of the Ukrainian authorities and hinder the possibility of negotiations within the Contact Group.
On February 28, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine invalidated the law On the Principles of the State Language Policy. The first attempt to invalidate this law was made on February 23, 2014, immediately after the state coup in Kiev. It exposed the true intentions of the radical forces that seized power in Ukraine and poured fuel on the flames of the internal divisions in Ukraine. Alexander Turchinov, who seized the position of president, decided against signing the order invalidating this law. He opted for a gradual offensive on the Russian language.
In the autumn of 2016, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law on the mandatory quota for Ukrainian language content on the radio. The law on language quotas on television followed in May 2017. Since the autumn of 2017, radio and television broadcasting in Russian and other minority languages has been reduced to nearly zero. The Law on Education, which was adopted in September 2017, restricted the right of non-Ukrainian-speaking people to receive education in their native tongue.
This has had a direct effect on the humanitarian situation in Donbass. According to the Donetsk administration, Kiev rejects applications for the restoration of Russian language infrastructure in the country.
We have tried to draw international attention to rampant nationalism in Ukraine more than once. The cause of Nazi accomplices from OUN-UPA has been taken up by their modern-day followers. Radicals have been attacking foreign property more often recently. On February 26, they again attacked Russia’s Consulate General in Odessa. On February 27, they set fire to the Hungarian culture centre in Uzhgorod. There are more cases like this. On March 3, nationalists held a march under the banner “Lvov is not for Polish gentlemen.” Ukrainian radicals keep up their pressure on the authorities. On February 27, they scuffled with police while trying to influence a court hearing for the mayor of Odessa. On March 8, radicals attacked women’s rights marches in Uzhgorod and Kiev. Several people have been injured. We urge the OSCE SMM to monitor investigations into these incidents. We also reaffirm the need, long overdue, for a comprehensive report on nationalism in Ukraine.
We cannot accept the statements made by US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker in Warsaw on March 7. Seeking to justify the actions of Ukrainian nationalists, he said that Ukraine was strengthening its national identity and needed respect and understanding. Aggressive nationalism is not an acceptable means for strengthening one’s identity.
This brings to mind what the Ukrainian representative to the OSCE said about the right to a “peaceful protest” in February 2014 and at the most recent meeting of the Permanent Council. The removal of a tent camp for protestors near the parliament building in Kiev on March 3 has demonstrated the current authorities’ selective attitude to the peacefulness of protests. We have seen such hypocrisy among our Western colleagues as well.
I would like to remind everyone that the most active “peace protesters” on Maidan in 2014 later joined punitive battalions and are guilty of murder, torture, plunder and looting. Ukrainian radicals and some unscrupulous Ukrainian soldiers are now plundering residential buildings in Katerinovka and Novoaleksandrovka, which the Ukrainian army has occupied recently. The police have closed their eyes to this despite numerous complaints from local residents.
In conclusion, I would like to say once again that a comprehensive political settlement based on the Minsk Package of Measures is the only peaceful option for ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine and preserving the country’s territorial integrity. Any attempts to revise this document will only deepen the crisis.