Remarks by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at a OSCE Permanent Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine and implementation of the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, April 19, 2018
It has been four years since Kiev started its punitive operation against the people of Donbass which is hypocritically called a counter-terrorist operation. Renaming it an ‘allied forces’ operation’ which, according to Petro Poroshenko, will begin on April 30 does not change its nature. In violation of the Ukrainian constitution, civilians are being attacked by the troops, paramilitary forces, foreign recruits and volunteer raiders.
The random attacks on residential areas that caused a huge number of casualties and massive destruction in the summer of 2014 still continue. Ukrainian security forces sabotaged the Eastern ceasefire despite the fact that on March 29, Normandy format leaders, including Petro Poroshenko, stressed the importance of strict compliance with the truce and confirmed their commitment to the Minsk Agreements.
On April 11, there were attacks on Donetsk and Staromikhailovka. Reportedly, 120-mm mortar guns firing from the northwest injured three civilians and damaged 23 buildings in Donetsk. Two civilians were injured and ten buildings were damaged in Staromikhailovka. On April 14, Yasinovataya was under attack, with two buildings damaged. Over the two weeks between April 4-18 alone, 14 civilians were injured, 70 residential buildings and five infrastructure facilities were damaged.
On April 17, the Ukrainian Armed Forces used the Special Monitoring Mission’s aerial footage to target equipment prepared in Lugansk for the Great Patriotic War Victory Parade. This is unacceptable.
On the same day, April 17, Donetsk Filtering Station service vehicles were attacked by precision fire from the western side of the road leading to the station (where the Ukrainian Armed Forces are positioned; their trench shelter is only 70 metres from the station). Five people sustained injuries of various degrees. The station has been halted and its staff evacuated. This is threatening water supply to over 600,000 people.
We expect that the station will resume operation as soon as possible provided the safety of its employees is guaranteed. We see the Special Monitoring Mission playing the key role in this measure. As long as the observers escorted the Donetsk Filtering Station staff, the Ukrainian personnel refrained from shelling.
The concentration of arms and military equipment on the contact line continues. Since the Easter ceasefire, in violation of the Package of Measures, the Special Monitoring Mission discovered more than 100 units of Ukraine’s equipment. The military equipment is located within the boundaries of residential areas. On April 13, the SMM spotted five howitzers 100 metres away from a residential area in the town of Vozrozhdeniye. Next day, they spotted a howitzer at the eastern border of Bogdanovka.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces’ creeping offensive continues. On April 15, observers spotted a combat reconnaissance patrol vehicle with four Ukrainian troops within the separation area near Zolotoy. Clearly, there is a risk of another Shirokino case which was occupied by the Ukrainians after demilitarisation. Before implementing the right ideas of creating safe areas around infrastructure facilities at the contact line, it is necessary to guarantee that they will not be taken over by the Ukrainian army.
There is a persistent landmine threat to observers and civilians in Donbass. It has been a year since the tragic explosion of an SMM vehicle near Prishib in the LPR that killed American paramedic Joseph Stone. The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission concluded that, as British diplomats would put it, it is “highly likely” that it was the Ukrainian Armed Forces that planted the landmine and watched it detonate remotely.
Last week, the SMM found new minefields near Avdeyevka, Maryinka, Mayorsk and Lebedinsky. Kiev continues to strategically keep the SMM in the dark under the guise of landmine danger. The areas near Stanitsa Luganskaya, Zolotoy, Schastye and some others, controlled by the Ukrainian security forces, have long been closed to the observers. In the areas where the Ukrainian army conducted mine clearing operations, the SMM soon discovered more landmine barriers.
Kiev’s militaristic rhetoric is expanding. Before his US visit, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov took to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s official Facebook page to announce the return of Donbass by force “involving peacekeeping groups.” In case anyone here has forgotten, let me remind you that Section 9 of the Package of Measures lays out the process by which the government regains control over the border. It is conditioned on the overarching political settlement, the parameters of which are also specified in the Package of Measures.
Kiev is pretending that the Minsk Agreements have nothing to do with Ukraine. Once again, we urge the OSCE to analyse the so-called law on re-integration of Donbass and other pseudo-legal actions by Kiev for conformity with the Package of Measures.
It appears to us that Kiev benefits from dragging out the conflict. Officials are doing everything they can to bring the crisis settlement process to a deadlock. They are refusing to engage in a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. Yesterday, at a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk, Ukraine once again sabotaged the discussion of political aspects of the settlement as the parties were outlining the agenda for a political subgroup meeting.
Kiev is bringing back the very causes that triggered the conflict in the first place. Persecution of the Russian language and culture, the Orthodox Church and journalists is increasing. It has been three years since the murder of Oles Buzina in Kiev. The crime has not been solved yet although the perpetrators were arrested shortly after. An Orthodox church in Herzen Street in Kiev was set on fire. It was the fifth arson at the church since 2013.
Nationalists continue to commit outrages as well. Last week, radicals tried to sabotage the flower-laying ceremony at the memorial to WWII heroes, General Nikolai Vatutin in Kiev and the Monument to the Unknown Sailor in Odessa.
The hypocrisy and double standards of the Western countries when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis is astounding. It was reported that ‘Ukrainian hero’ Nadezhda Savchenko went on a strict hunger strike in Ukrainian detention. This is, of course, Ukraine’s domestic issue but it is interesting for us to follow the fate of a person who was an ongoing topic of questions here. Now there is only silence.
We are closely watching developments around the Nord crew, Russian nationals still held captive by Ukraine.
In conclusion I would like to stress once again that there is no alternative to a comprehensive political settlement based on the Minsk Package of Measures and a direct dialogue between the parties to the internal Ukrainian conflict – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.
Donbass residents deserve a peaceful sky, a life without fear of nighttime shelling, access to water, electricity, a normal peaceful life without threat to their values, without fear of being subjected to torture, violence and looting by so-called Ukrainian patriots and special services.
The situation cannot be helped by hypocritical speechmaking about violations of international law, aggression and occupation coming from long-standing violators of international law who severed a part of Serbia, destroyed peace in Iraq and Libya and recently conducted another act of aggression against Syria, all under the pretext of another ‘Powell vial.’
If Western countries do want peace in Ukraine, it is in their power to use their significant political and financial influence on Kiev to enforce the Minsk Agreements.