A stable Ukraine meets the interests of all countries of the European continent. The Minsk Package of Measures was coordinated by the Ukrainian sides to the conflict, approved by the leaders of the Normandy Format countries and, lastly, formalised in UN Security Council Resolution 2202. The Minsk Package is the only real framework for a settlement that will retain Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its current borders. It stipulates a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict through the formalisation of the special status for Donbass and the incorporation of this provision into the Ukrainian Constitution. We urge our colleagues to read the Package of Measures again so that they will not forget about the essence of the special status of Donbass. We have to say this again because Kiev continues to take unilateral steps that are undermining the foundation of the Minsk Agreements.
Enforcement of the Law on the Special Status of Donbass back in 2014 would have resulted in an early settlement of the conflict. However, the law did not become effective after the signing of the Minsk Package or after the coordination of the Steinmeier Formula within the Normandy format in October 2015. The replacement of this law with a document that contradicts the Minsk Package will only escalate the conflict rather than promote a settlement. We will thoroughly analyse the draft laws on Donbass that have been submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament for compliance with the Minsk Agreement.
The long list of Kiev’s unilateral and destructive steps has been complemented by a fundamentally unsound law on education, which infringes on the right of Ukrainian citizens to receive an education in a native tongue. Taken in such a multinational country as Ukraine, this latest attempt at ethnocide will only increase tensions, which are already running high. This law on education directly violates the Minsk Agreements, which stipulate the right to linguistic self-determination in Donbass.
We do not see any positive steps that would at least indicate Kiev’s intention to settle the conflict based on the Minsk Agreements. We only see a desire to apply military force, blackmail and intimidation so as to suppress Donbass regardless of the rights of those who live in this region. We remember the rallying cry of Ukrainian nationalists: “Crimea will either be part of Ukraine or empty.” They would gladly apply this to Donbass.
Ukrainian government forces continue to violate the coordinated ceasefire. Over the past week, the Armed Forces of Ukraine shelled populated areas in some territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions six times. Three buildings and a hotel were damaged in Dokuchayevsk on September 26; a female resident was wounded in Vasilyevka on September 27; five buildings and the gas main were damaged in Dokuchayevsk, and one building was hit in Trudovskikh, the Petrovsky District of Donetsk, on September 28; two buildings and a hotel were damaged in Yasinovataya on September 29; a guard was wounded and a building was damaged at the Trudovskaya Mine on September 30. The Ukrainian military have admitted that they shot a man as he was crossing a bridge near Schastye on September 6. In violation of the Minsk Package, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are concentrating heavy weaponry in proximity to the contact line. Over a period of seven days, observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine reported 39 howitzers in Aleksandropol, 12 anti-tank guns in Severodonetsk, four multiple launch rocket systems in Khlebodarovka, and four anti-tank guided missile systems in Muratovo. They also reported that over 90 weapons were missing from the permanent storage sites.
On September 30, the government forces violated the ceasefire, which had been held for five weeks, on the disengagement line in Stanitsa Luganskaya. At 4.02 am, the SMM camera recorded two projectiles in flight from north-north-west (where the Armed Forces of Ukraine are deployed) to south-south-east assessed as infantry fighting vehicle cannon fire.
Disengagement of forces and pulling back equipment from the line of contact is essential for ensuring a lasting ceasefire. However, Kiev and other capitals apparently want something else, specifically, to continue the hostilities and to read daily reports about victims and destruction. Only in this way is it possible to continue intimidating the people of Ukraine and other countries with idle stories of “Russian aggression,” which are diverting attention from the real problems.
Let me remind those who have forgotten about this, that in the winter of 2014 Ukrainian nationalists seized weapons and government offices in the West of the country. Molotov cocktails were thrown at law-enforcement officers in Kiev and snipers fired at police and demonstrators from the buildings occupied by radicals. The police kept a low profile, bound by orders to refrain from using force and by the requirements of some Western leaders. Let me also recall the tragedy in Odessa where nationalists killed and burned dozens, if not hundreds of people – there are still no exact figures.
The conflict was started by the nationalists that were encouraged from the outside to commit atrocities, a coup in Kiev and a desire to punish the disaffected rather than come to terms with them.
We are witnessing the results of nationalist aspirations for Euro integration. The Russian language and culture began to be suppressed right away – from the laws on the language and education, the destruction of history, and the glorification of the Nazis and their accomplices to attacks on the Russian Embassy and consulates and attempts to shut down the Russian Cultural Centre.
The Kiev authorities are trying to break up the family, economic and cultural ties with Russia: from banning direct air flights and tightening border control regime to imposing trade restrictions and setting fire to the affiliates of Russian banks, and desperately refusing to pay off debts.
The travesty of justice launched in 2014 continues to this day – the cases of the Maidan snipers and the perpetrators of the Odessa tragedy have been subverted and the culprits have not been held responsible. There are hundreds of political prisoners in Ukraine. The latest case is the arrest of Yevgeny Mefyodov and Sergey Dolzhenkov who have already spent about three years in prison on charges that eventually collapsed. They were accused of organising disorder in Odessa.
The persecution of dissent has become routine in Ukraine and affects the press – Kiev bans objectionable media, including the Russian TV channel “Hunter and Fisherman.” Journalists are being subjected to pressure. Consider Ruslan Kotsaba, the Inter TV Channel, and Editor-in-Chief of Strana.ua Igor Guzhva. Journalists Dmitry Vasilets and Yevgeny Timonin have been sentenced to nine years in prison. The Russian journalist for NTV channel, Vyacheslav Nemyshev, was detained yesterday and deported from Ukraine just this morning. According to the Ukrainian publication Korrespondent, 11 attacks on journalists were recorded in September alone. The Ukrainian Union of Journalists reported 75 instances of physical violence against journalists in 2017 committed by authorities – law enforcement officers, deputies and other officials. Let’s not forget the journalists that were killed – Andrei Rokelli, Igor Kornelyuk, Anton Voloshin, Anatoly Klyan, Sergey Dolgov, Andrey Stenin, Oles Buzina and Pavel Sheremet. This is only a partial list.
Yesterday’s session of the Contact Group in Minsk showed that Ukraine is prone to confrontation and unprepared for a constructive direct dialogue with Donbass. Let me remind you that granting permanent special status to Donbass is an inalienable condition of political settlement in Ukraine.
Thank you for your attention.