Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, July 20, 2017
Following reports by Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan and
Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to the Trilateral Contact Group Martin Sajdik
We are grateful to Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to the Trilateral Contact Group Martin Sajdik and Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan for their assessment.
The conflict in Ukraine has continued for over three years now. We have a clear roadmap for settling this conflict – the Minsk Package of Measures, which has been approved by the heads of the Normandy format states and supported by the UN Security Council. A direct dialogue is ongoing between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk within the framework of the Contact Group. However, the efforts to settle the conflict have stalled. No progress has been made either in the area of security or in the field of politics.
The results of the Contact Group’s meeting in Minsk yesterday have once again demonstrated Kiev’s unwillingness to seriously look for solutions and to talk with representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions about matters that are of special concern to them. The Kiev delegates in the Contact Group’s political subgroup are not prepared to formalise the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which sets a connection between local elections and the law on the special status for Donbass. The Ukrainian delegation has been trying to revise or dilute the essence of the agreements that have been reached at the top level.
We need to coordinate both political and military measures so as to be able to settle this conflict. An agreement to this effect was reached at the Normandy format summit meetings in Paris in 2015 and in Berlin in 2016. The people of Donbass need constitutionally sealed guarantees of their safety, including the special status, the amnesty and local elections that will be monitored by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
We regret to say that no progress has been made in the security subgroup either. The Kiev delegation’s stand at the July 19 meeting prevented an agreement on a new timeframe for the disengagement of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. The discussion of new disengagement areas has been blocked as well. In light of this, we support the initiative advanced by Ambassador Apakan regarding the use of SMM observers to monitor critically important infrastructure facilities – the Donetsk water filtration station and the power line in Vasilyevka.
Work in the economic subgroup remains stalled. It has not managed to ensure that Kiev resumes social payment, including pensions, to those who live in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. There is also an acute problem concerning water pollution from hazardous Ukrainian facilities. There should be a broad-based discussion of environmental challenges in the region with the participation of local and international experts.
Minor progress has been reported in the efforts of the humanitarian subgroup to secure the release of forcibly held persons. But this process is taking time and has been hindered by many things getting in the way. We point to the importance of coordinating the ICRC proposal to repair the footbridge near Stanitsa Luganskaya.
The stalled talks within the framework of the Contact Group have had a negative impact on the security in Donbass. Another planned disengagement was prevented in Stanitsa Luganskaya on July 8. The SMM observers witnessed the Ukrainian armed forces’ disinclination in response to the self-defence forces’ signals for the start of disengagement. The SMM camera there again recorded shooting. The opponents’ forces at the contact line remain dangerously close to each other, which heightens tension.
The situation has again deteriorated after a short period of tranquillity at the start of the “harvest ceasefire.” According to the SMM, as a result of shooting from the government-controlled areas reported in the past three weeks, five civilians have been killed in Kominternovo, Staromikhailovka, Trudovskoye and Yasinovataya, four civilians have been wounded in Donetsk, Dokuchayevsk and Stakhanov, over a dozen buildings have been destroyed or damaged in Donetsk, Dokuchayevsk, Veselaya Gora, Zaichenko, Zolotoye-4, Kirovsk, Kominternovo, Leninskoye, Sakhanka and Trudovskoye. The SMM observers have reported the concentration of Ukrainian weapons near Mirolyubovka. There is a persistent threat of the resumption of hostilities.
In this situation, the SMM observers must be able to maintain a permanent presence in flashpoints, make equal and consistent observations on both sides of the contact line, act promptly and ensure objectivity and full disclosure of SMM reports. We hope that the provision that confines SMM patrolling to hard surface roads will be lifted soon. So far, we see a certain imbalance due to the fact that there are considerably fewer hard surface roads in the government-controlled area than on the other side of the contact line. We point out that the mine threat is being used to keep SMM observers away from the government-controlled parts of Stanitsa Luganskaya, Schastye, Popasnaya, Zolotoye, Bogdanovka and Katerinovka. We strongly condemn all and any attempts to intimidate or threaten SMM observers, no matter who makes them. We point to the practical expediency of returning representatives from the self-defence forces to the Russian-Ukrainian Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC). This would greatly simplify the coordination of security matters. We urge the SMM to more closely cooperate with local authorities and to promote a dialogue between the sides.
We support the observers’ efforts to facilitate the establishment of local ceasefires for repair purposes. We appreciate the SMM’s contribution to repairing the power line in Mikhailovka.
We urge the SMM to more closely monitor the situation in the western and central regions of Ukraine and to report manifestations of radicalism and aggressive nationalism, infringements on the rights of ethnic and language minorities, as well as persecution against the Church. The SMM reports about unrest during the July 7 march of teenagers who were dressed in fatigues in Kiev and the July 13 attack by radicals on a Greek Catholic Monastery in the Lvov Region, as well as NBC reports about the Azov nationalist military summer camp for children, are evidence of growing radicalism and ethnic strife in Ukraine. The international community must keep a watchful eye on this problem and react to it.
In conclusion, I would like to express our gratitude to Ambassadors Sajdik and Apakan once again and to convey our appreciation and support to the SMM observers.