Statement by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk accords, Vienna, March 23, 2017
The situation in Ukraine continues to worsen, and the government is increasingly losing control over the situation and is losing ground to the radicals. The Ukrainian military are shelling Donbass towns and villages. Banks with Russian capital, which account for about 15 percent of Ukraine’s banking system, have been vandalised. The Verkhovna Rada is preparing draft laws that infringe upon the freedom of speech and the rights of the Russian-speaking population and ethnic minorities in the country. The trade blockade with regard to Donbass initiated by the “activists” has been formalised by the government.
The situation on the contact line threatens to evolve into another round of large-scale hostilities. On March 20, the Ukrainian army provoked another escalation of tension in the vicinity of Kominternovo. The OSCE SMM confirms that large-scale fighting outside Lebedinsky began with shots fired (including from the MLRS) in the northeastern and north-northeastern directions, that is, from the positions of the Ukrainian army targeting the territory controlled by the self-defence forces.
The indiscriminate shelling of Donbass continues. For the week of March 13, according to the SMM data alone, 11 towns and villages were damaged. Four workers were wounded in the Kuibyshev district of Donetsk, one woman in Lozovoye, two construction workers in Zaitsevo and a watcher in Yasinovataya. Also, ICRC's heating station in the village of Luganskaya and houses in Gorlovka, Dokuchaevsk, Zolotoye-5 and Irmino were damaged. Air strikes have been dealt on the towns of Kalinovoye and Krutaya Gora. The SMM confirms the use of MLRS by the Ukrainian military (in Gnutovo, on March 17, and in Lebedinsky, on March 20).
The Ukrainian military present a threat of chemical contamination of the area as well. The SMM observers came under fire from the Donetsk filtering station on March 17 again, this time in the presence of Russian officers from the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) and self-defence forces who were trying to do some repair work.
Kiev is trying to forestall the withdrawal of forces. The SMM reported an appearance of armed military inside the town of Zolotoye (March 13), and the installation of mines in Zolotoye and Katerynovka.
The Ukrainian side is obstructing the work of the Russian JCCC officers.
The situation in Donbass and the prospects for implementing the Minsk agreements directly depend on the internal political situation in Ukraine. The fleeting targets of the internal political strife may lead to an outbreak of violence on the contact line. The more, and the more loudly, the world talks not about actual casualties and destruction in Donbass, but about so-called hybrid threats, the more difficult it will be to achieve de-escalation.
Tales about the Russian threat backed by provocations by the Ukrainian army on the contact line remain the main trick to distract the attention of the population and Western sponsors from real problems in Ukraine.
The SMM periodically informs us about demonstrations under social and economic slogans. So, on March 7, 1,800 people protested against an increase in utilities bills and government policy in Ivano-Frankovsk; on March 8, there was a rally under the slogan “no to violence of all forms from maternity homes to enlistment offices” in Kiev. On the same day, an anti-fascist march took place in Kharkov, and so on.
Contradictory statements by the country’s leaders that sometime condemn the blockade of Donbass, and then legitimise it, are no longer surprising, but are deeply alarming.
The government, just as in the case of the Donbass blockade, is not only pandering to the attacks of radicals against banks with Russian capital, but is also supporting them. According to the SMM, just in the last few days an ATM in Kharkov was put out of order; an office of a Russian bank in Dnepropetrovsk was defaced with paint and covered with posters; offices of Sberbank and Alfa Bank in Kiev were sealed with foam and defaced with paint. In October 2016, Kiev already banned the operation of a number of Russian payment systems in Ukraine, which were used, among other things, by Ukrainians to wire money home from Russia. Clearly, all this is not just a case of disorderly behaviour, but a planned campaign under nationalist slogans.
We have noticed that despite various signals coming from Western capitals, the representatives of the United States and Canada have not said what they think about Kiev’s blockade policy in the OSCE.
A concrete block now stands next to the notorious symbol of the Maidan coup: a burning tyre. The radicals use the former to wall up bank branches, occasionally with employees inside. Don’t be surprised if soon, businesses partially owned by Russian citizens are designated with a special sign (as, for example, is already being done for Russian-made goods in Ukrainian stores). We believe the analogies are too obvious to ignore.
The preliminary approval by the Ukrainian Rada on March 16 of a draft law on language quotas, which is designed to cut down broadcasting in Russian and minority languages on Ukrainian television to 25 per cent, is another matter that causes us concern. This limits the right of Russian-speaking people to receive information in their native language and participate in public and political life. Such a step openly contradicts Article 10 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which guarantees free use and protection of the Russian language. As you may recall, in 2014, an attempt to amend the law on the fundamentals of the language policy was one of the key factors that inspired the residents of southeastern Ukraine to protest against the Maidan government.
The decision of the Kiev authorities to deny entry to Ukraine to the Russian participant of the Eurovision Song Contest Yulia Samoilova is regrettable and even disgraceful. A good chance to demonstrate to the world a case of humanism and a depoliticised attitude toward culture has been missed.
However, humanism doesn’t appeal to today's Ukrainian authorities. The style of Kiev is to block the supply of water, gas, electricity and goods, and ban TV stations, telecasts, films and books, as well as performances by Russian artists. It is also about throwing “domestic separatists” into security service holes and secret prisons.
To support, or even worse, to promote Russophobia is extremely dangerous, since it’s difficult to keep a lid on aggressive nationalism.
It is time for the Kiev authorities to realise that the only way to ensure peace in Ukraine is to consistently implement the military-political and economic provisions outlined in the Package of Measures. The proposals by the SMM senior officials to ensure the prompt withdrawal of heavy equipment and disengage the parties are logical and obvious. It's time to stop fruitless attempts to win back Kominternovo, Yasinovataya or Debaltsevo, as well as to stop equally destructive attempts to use a total blockade to force Donbass to surrender. These reckless acts are paid for with human lives.
The Package of Measures is not about the surrender of Ukraine, but a chance, perhaps the only one, to overcome the crisis, and to preserve the unity and sovereignty of the country. To do so, it is imperative to show will, to stop the punitive operation that has come to a dead end and to agree, in a direct dialogue with the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk, on practical aspects of the political settlement concerning local elections, permanent legislation on special status, constitutional reform and amnesty, to name a few. So far, Kiev has been moving in the opposite direction, so no one should be surprised by the consequences.