Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Remarks by Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights Grigory Lukyantsev at the closing session of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Warsaw, September 22, 2017
I would like to again congratulate the new leaders of OSCE executive bodies on their appointment as OSCE Secretary-General, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. We hope that they will be neutral, impartial and objective when considering the situation on both sides of Vienna.
For many of the past years, discussions of key human dimension matters at implementation meetings in Warsaw were noted for a dramatic political slant and confrontation. Regrettably, this can also be said about this year’s implementation meeting, despite certain positive changes that have been achieved during the Austrian presidency. We have to again express our disappointment at the fact that many member states stubbornly refuse to admit that the objective cause of the serious crisis in the OSCE area is the irresponsible and aggressive Western policy with regard to the other member states.
We again call on our Western partners to renounce their hopeless attempts to force others to accept their geopolitical goals and to stop interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The results of this policy can be clearly seen on the example of the internal Ukrainian crisis. The United States, the EU and Canada not just supported but were directly involved in the organisation of an armed coup in Ukraine in February 2014. The Ukrainian people have paid dearly for the recommendations of high-ranking Washington envoys and for the mediation of some European politicians at the signing of an agreement between President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the then opposition.
The persecution and extermination campaign, which was launched against dissenters after the opposition takeover, as well as the illegitimate decision to start a punitive operation against the civilians, who stood up for their legitimate rights in Donbass, have resulted in an unprecedented number of civilian casualties. The arson in Odessa, where members of a peaceful protest died in flames on May 2, 2014, is a tragedy without precedent in modern European history. Those who are guilty of this crime have not been brought to account yet. Why don’t we hear our partners calling on Kiev to put an end to impunity for these crimes?
The glorification of Nazism and the former accomplices of the Nazis and the persecution of free speech, including national and international media outlets and journalists, plus everyone else who is considered undesirable by the Kiev authorities, have become facts of everyday life in Ukraine. The attempts to force the Russian speaking population of Ukraine into an “ethnic ghetto” are increasingly assuming the nature of a deliberate state policy, which is so far balancing on the verge of the notorious ethnic cleansing campaigns in other countries and regions of the world. Evidence of this are the draft laws on the forceful Ukrainisation and assimilation of Russian speakers and other minorities, which have been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine.
Yet another alarming indication of the persisting conflict potential in Ukraine is the striving of Ukraine’s radical and nationalist groups to interfere with the operation of religious organisations. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been subjected to unprecedented persecution. Its priests and parishioners suffer every day from violence, hatred and attempts to seize churches. Draft Law No. 4128 On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations and Draft Law No. 4511 On the Special Status of Religious Organisations with Governing Centres Located in the State that Has Been Recognised Aggressor State by the Verkhovna Rada are absolutely unacceptable as infringing upon the equality of religious organisations before the law. We hope that common sense will prevail in Kiev after all and that the authorities will hear the voice of the thousands and thousands of their citizens, who have taken to the streets to protest against the adoption of these discriminatory bills.
In 1975, the Western countries named freedom of movement as one of the most important achievements enshrined in the CSCE Final Act. Currently, our partners west of Vienna never cease to emphasise the fundamental importance of freedom of expression, otherwise known as freedom of speech. Is it not a paradox that the US, the EU countries and their “opinion allies” are using the fact that the residents of Crimea took advantage of their right to freedom of expression for a collective punishment of the entire population on the peninsula? More than that, this punishment refers to freedom of movement, something most “sacred” to them, something the Western countries fought so fiercely for as the Helsinki Act was being created. To reiterate: The practice of restricting the residents of Crimea, their right to freedom of movement with regard to both visas and the recognition of passports issued in that region of Russia is openly discriminatory and runs counter to commitments assumed by the OSCE member-states.
I would like to draw your attention to the importance of consistent counteraction to unscrupulous attempts to falsify and rewrite history. In this connection, I would like to turn to one of the tragic pages in the historical past of Europe, yet another anniversary that we will remember in a few days. On September 30, 1938, the leading European powers signed a notorious agreement with Nazi Germany, which went down in history as the Munich Deal. It is this shameful step by the oldest European democracies that gave a free hand to Third Reich leaders and opened the way to World War II. The victory over Nazism came at a great cost to Europe and the rest of the world, the death toll running into the millions of lives of adults and children, men and women, soldiers and civilians.
Our number one priority is to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. In this connection, we call on the United States, Canada, and the European Union, including the Baltic countries and Ukraine to revise their position with regard to the many acts of the glorification of Nazism and its supporters, the processions of Waffen SS veterans, the glorification of all sorts of collaborationists and organisations such as OUN and UPA, and manifestations of neo-Nazism, radical nationalism, and other aggressive ideologies.
The persisting systematic human rights problems in the Euro-Atlantic space are evoking profound concern. In this connection, we call on the EU member-countries, the United States and Canada to show a greater willingness for dialogue and cooperation in the area of human dimension and to discontinue attacks on sovereign states that carry out an independent policy. The opposite approaches are fraught with the final discrediting of the very idea of human rights protection.
At the same time, the OSCE is facing a number of serious challenges, including the need to address the migration problems, fight the manifestations of racism, intolerance and neo-Nazism, the protect children’s rights, ensure freedom of religious convictions, protect the rights of believers, and protect national minorities and journalists. Given international terrorist organisations’ use of migration flows to penetrate the European continent, the migration problem is gaining increased significance in the context of human rights enforcement and security in the OSCE region. Let me remind you that the original cause of these problems in Europe was the irresponsible actions and policies of the United States and its allies, actions aimed at replacing recalcitrant regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. In this connection, we regard the burden-and responsibility-sharing appeals made by a number of states as absolutely irrelevant.
The discussions on the key problems on our agenda create broad opportunities for further work and the adoption of additional measures.
Specifically, we call on the OSCE and its executive bodies to pursue all three vectors in international cooperation directed at counteracting antisemitism, intolerance and the discrimination of Christians and Muslims in a comprehensive and balanced way based on the principle of consensus. We confirm our readiness to upgrade the “working definition” of antisemitism in cooperation with the UN and other organisations, the academic community, and NGOs. Let me also remind you of our proposal related to the identical definitions of intolerance with regard to Christians and Muslims. We think it important to implement the OSCE ministerial council’s decision in Basel and to have the OSCE ministerial meeting in Vienna adopt ministerial declarations on the fight against intolerance and discrimination against Christians and Muslims.
I would like to say a few words about the format and organisation of our Meeting. Far from all the ODIHR-tested innovations deserve approval. We again call on the Office to abandon the practice of granting unlimited speaking time to visiting experts and members of international executive structures. These counterproductive approaches greatly restrict opportunities for the official delegations to exchange opinions and do not serve the purpose of reaching the necessary agreements at the Meeting, which is specially held for the member-states to review the performance of the obligations they have assumed.
We cannot ignore the ODIHR report published two days ago and dedicated to the issues of countries’ responsibility to provide protection to human rights activists in 2014-2016. We once again come to the conclusion that the new ODIHR heads use politically motivated approaches to situation assessment in this area and non-consensual language that goes beyond the mandate of this OSCE executive structure.
The organisational part of the Warsaw Meeting also gives rise to criticism. The practice we observed last time of several member-states boycotting the Meeting has not stopped and even developed further. This is a disturbing trend that requires urgent action. We find it unacceptable to ignore the problem and act as if nothing is happening.
We hope that the ODIHR and other OSCE executive structures will change their work style. We believe that this cannot be achieved without a serious reform. We expect them to revitalise their activities in solving real issues in the OSCE space, including countries to the west of Vienna.
As for the OSCE as a whole, our work is based on the consensus principle. We would like to warn those who seek to sacrifice this important principle for the sake of their narrow political needs.
The Russian delegation is convinced that the OSCE is due to make a useful contribution to international cooperation in humanitarian areas. We are ready to actively engage with all constructively minded forces. We see our main task as restoring the OSCE’s role as a unique forum for an equal and mutually respectful dialogue and shared decision-making on topical security-related issues in the region.
Thank you for your attention.