Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, May 4, 2017
The situation in the conflict zone in Ukraine remains tense. Ceasefire violations are reported daily. There are civilian casualties. The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue shelling residential areas and territories controlled by the self-defence forces. Specifically, the Special Monitoring Mission reported collapsed buildings in Stakhanovo and Kominternovo, while not being able to report on the consequences of a number of other shelling incidents. Data obtained from SMM cameras in Avdeyevka and Shirokino indicates that intensive shelling in these areas was provoked by fire coming from territories controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
There is now less substance in SMM reports due to patrolling restrictions imposed for security reasons. Russia expresses its support to the mission that continues its work despite all the challenges it faces. The mission plays an important stabilising role in the conflict zone. It is essential that the contact line and adjacent territories remain under its intense scrutiny.
The explosion of an SMM vehicle on April 23 right at the contact line near the village of Prishib, the Lugansk Region, should be investigated in a thorough, impartial and unbiased manner. It is important that all parties involved, including the OSCE, the Ukrainian authorities, specific districts within the Lugansk Region, the Contact Group and the Centre on Control and Coordination are involved in these efforts. Russia would be grateful to the OSCE Chairmanship and its Secretary General for a more detailed insight into what is being done in this respect by the OSCE.
Both sides are restricting the SMM’s freedom of movement. Accusations against the militia in staging an ‘anti-SMM campaign’ are groundless. SMM reports show that the militia warn the SMM of impending danger. In fact, on April 28 at a Lugansk checkpoint (Molodezhnoye), a militia fighter indicated to the monitors that they had to leave immediately. As soon as the SMM staff got inside an armoured vehicle, they heard a shell exploding in the air just 50 to 100 metres to the northwest. There was no possible doubt as to who was shelling the checkpoint. On April 27, a minesweeping team from Lugansk and Russian officers from the Centre on Control and Coordination helped the monitors recover a mini drone that landed in a mine-infested area in Stanitsa Luganskaya.
Russia highly values SMM’s efforts to facilitate the repair and recovery works, which could bring power and water supply back to the people living along the contact line. On May 2, the Donetsk water purification plant was once again shelled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and its staff had to be evacuated. To our knowledge, power supply has not been restored so far.
The atrocities committed by Ukrainian radicals continue to go unpunished. On May 2, it was three years since the Odessa tragedy. Some present here today would prefer to forget about it, but it is our duty to refresh their memory. On May 2, 2014, Ukrainian nationalists forced defenceless people into the Trade Unions House and burned them alive. The perpetrators have still not been held to account. The Kiev authorities did everything in their power in order to obscure the facts and destroy evidence, just as with the Maidan snipers. It is outrageous that the Kiev authorities arrested the victims, singling out those involved in a peaceful protest against an unconstitutional coup in Kiev, rather than those who threw Molotov cocktails at them. These peaceful protestors are the actual political prisoners in Ukraine. They must be freed as soon as possible.
During these three years the Kiev government failed to come up with any kind of an intelligible explanation, despite all its efforts. Joining the international community, Russia would like to reiterate in this room the request for a transparent and fair investigation, so that the perpetrators are held to account. However, we do not believe in the ability of the current authorities to do this. The SMM has reported on a number of occasions that the courts are influenced by radical elements, including in the case of Trade Union House fire.
When protestors were burned alive in Odessa, it signalled a turning point in the civil war in Ukraine. It showed the whole country and the entire world what the Ukrainian radical nationalism is all about. Everyone saw what nationalists can do to those who do not agree with them, and how the new authorities would respond. This was confirmed by what happened in Donbass. It is this mayhem and outrage that people in Donbass are seeking to prevent.
Today, radical nationalists in Ukraine feel total impunity. Some may have a feeling that it will not last forever, and hide their faces under masks or bandanas. We are sure they will be called to account.
The radical nationalists and the war party in Kiev are still the main forces opposing peaceful settlement in Ukraine, and are doing everything in their power to delay the implementation of the Minsk Agreements as long as possible. It is obvious that they are opposed to bringing back into the Ukrainian legal framework the millions of people who seek friendly ties with other nations, including Russia, and reject the neo-Nazi ideals professed by Bandera followers.
While Kiev is beginning to understand that another attempt to cleanse Donbass by force would lead to a catastrophe, the authorities are increasingly consistent in their efforts to alienate Donbass, separating it and its people from the rest of Ukraine. Ukrainian financial institutions no longer provide services there, pensions and other social benefits are not being paid, and the region is facing a trade and transport blockade. The people living there have a very hard time obtaining Ukrainian documents, including renewing passports or registering cars. Inter-regional economic ties across the contact line have been disrupted. Power supply has been cut off, and water supply will follow.
In fact, only the Minsk Agreements can now guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity. However, implementing them would be very difficult without exerting resolute and coordinated pressure on Kiev’s nationalist forces.
Nevertheless, there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements as far as settlement is concerned. The main tasks should be to stabilise the situation along the contact line, and stop the shelling of residential areas and infrastructure, which could be achieved by having the two sides withdraw forces and weapons. There is a need to step up efforts to implement the political provisions of the Package of Measures, establish direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, enact legislation on the special status of these regions, hold elections and carry out a constitutional reform.
Thank you for your attention.