Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
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, August 31, 2017
The representatives of Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk in the Trilateral Contact Group have agreed on a school armistice, which was to begin on August 25, a week before the new academic year. This decision was approved by the leaders of the Normandy four countries at their meeting.
Despite the agreement, the Ukrainian forces have not stopped the shelling of populated areas that are located on the contact line in Donbass.
We urge Kiev to ensure that all units involved in hostilities against the Donbass people strictly comply with the ceasefire regime in accordance with the obligations that have been taken within the framework of the Contact Group.
We are especially concerned about shooting at fire and rescue units, the increased mining of roads and other important facilities by Kiev special forces, as well as the increased activity by snipers on the contact line (they wounded a man in the Petrovsky District of Donetsk).
We urge the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to more carefully analyse the consequences of shooting attacks, to register such attacks and identify whether the targets were civilian or military, as well as try to identify the side from which the fire came.
We have to say that the vital process of disengagement has skidded to a halt. Kiev has refused to comply with its commitments in the coordinated disengagement area near Stanitsa Luganskaya. The implementation of this agreement would allow the sides to start coordinating new disengagement areas on the contact line. We believe that the withdrawal of the sides’ weapons and forces from the contact line is a crucial condition for a lasting ceasefire.
Kiev appears to be reluctant to launch practical work on the political aspects of the Minsk Package. These include giving a special status to Donbass and formalising it in the Ukrainian Constitution, coordinating local election modalities with Donetsk and Lugansk and monitoring these elections by observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Furthermore, Clause 5 of the Minsk Package says that pardon and amnesty must be ensured by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the conflict. Clause 6 stipulates the release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons based on the “all for all” principle.
It should be remembered that the issue of a special status for Donbass and its formalisation in the Ukrainian Constitution and law is the fundamental condition for a comprehensive settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
The law on local self-government order in certain areas of Donbass, which incorporates some provisions of the Minsk Package, has not been implemented and is an interim rather than permanent piece of legislation. But even this interim law will expire in October 2017. A law on reintegration is being unofficially discussed in the Verkhovna Rada. If this reintegration law contradicts the Minsk Agreements, it would deliver a fatal blow to the settlement process.
At the same time, the Kiev representatives in the Contact Group have refused to formalise the Steinmeier Formula, which has been coordinated in the Normandy format. Likewise, it does not look as if Kiev will lift the economic blockade of Donbass.
Taken together, the above confirms Kiev’s resolve to continue to sabotage the Minsk Agreements and hence its interest in carrying on the military conflict.
The mandate of the OSCE SMM includes the monitoring and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of ethnic minorities, as well as promoting respect for these in other regions of Ukraine. Given the mission’s resources, it is unjustifiable how little attention is paid to this task.
Double standards are unacceptable when the point at issue concerns elements of neo-Nazism, intolerance and discrimination. We have seen torch marches, corresponding symbols and slogans, the advocacy of hatred, and the rehabilitation or glorification of Nazism and its henchmen in many countries. In some countries, these actions met with public censure, while other societies look on in silence and tolerate it. The practice of extremism and the advocacy of hatred by Svoboda, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Azov Battalion, the Right Sector and other similar organisations in Ukraine must be condemned firmly, openly and unambiguously. If our colleagues are committed to their principles, as they claim to be, they will do so without delay.
It is unacceptable that problems with the freedom and safety of journalists are hushed up in Ukraine, where European values are only upheld in word while in practice we see the worst examples of double standards in regard to the media.
It is regrettable that media personnel often become the targets and victims of harsh treatment. The latest example of this was reported on August 30, when a group of journalists who went to Yasinovataya to shoot a report about the school armistice came under fire in a shooting attack by Ukrainian servicemen. Journalists have been persecuted for doing their professional duty, and their lives have been put at risk. The notorious Mirotvorets website, which is monitored by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, posts the personal data of persons who the Ukrainian extremists view as undesirable. Russian journalist Maxim Dodonov, who is involved in the Russian-Ukrainian dialogue association for members of the media that is sponsored by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has been recently put on the Mirotvorets list.
Problems persist with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. A Ukrainian Orthodox church was recently seized in the village of Divichki, the Kiev Region.
In conclusion, I would like to say again that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements for settling the crisis. They must be implemented in full with the aim of reaching a comprehensive political settlement.
Until the Kiev government shows the political will to move towards this goal, prospects for a settlement will remain remote. For our part, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance towards a productive direct dialogue between the Ukrainian sides in the Contact Group, as well as to work together to expedite the settlement of the crisis within the framework of the Normandy format. We hope that the other parties involved will do everything necessary to encourage the sides in the conflict to show restraint and to comply with the school armistice.