Statement by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting, Vienna, May 11, 2017
Response to reports by Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan
and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Special Representative
in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group Martin Sajdik
Ambassadors Ertugrul Apakan and Martin Sajdik,
I would like to start with words of support for the SMM monitors who are working in Ukraine under dangerous conditions. Russia understands the reasons for the internal restrictions enacted by the mission. Ensuring OSCE SMM security should be placed front and centre, and should not only be a matter of having monitors take the appropriate precautions, but also the responsibility of the conflicting sides. In this context, it is essential that closer contact between the monitors and the authorities on the ground be established. Russia emphasises once again that it would be advisable from a practical standpoint to reintegrate representatives of the Donbass people’s militia into the Russia-Ukraine Joint Centre on Control and Coordination (JCCC). This would greatly facilitate coordination on security issues and further efforts regarding incidents with the monitors.
There is a need to promptly clarify the circumstances of the April 23 SMM vehicle explosion near Prishib that killed a US citizen. We call for full cooperation with an investigation conducted by the authorities of some districts in the Lugansk Region, relying on communication channels offered by the Contact Group and JCCC. It is important to understand for what purpose the section of the road where the explosion took place was under video surveillance from the Ukrainian side of the contact line (the video was posted online). There is increasing evidence to suggest that this incident was a deliberate provocation. We expect Kiev to provide original footage.
Incidents with mines and explosive devices are reported almost daily in the conflict area. The Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to lay mines along the contact line in violation of the March 3, 2016 decision of the Contact Group. In its May 8 report, the SMM reported new mines in territories controlled by the security forces in Zolotoye-1, Popasnaya and near a checkpoint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine close to the Donetsk water purification plant. Commandos from the Armed Forces of Ukraine have stepped up their operations in the conflict zone. On May 3, a four-strong sabotage unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine tried to penetrate militia-controlled areas in the Svetlodarsk-Debaltsevo district in order to lay mines. According to information confirmed by the SMM, the bodies of the sabotage group members were delivered to the government forces. On May 8, there was another assassination attempt against the head of certain areas in the Donetsk Region, Alexander Zakharchenko. Two explosive devices went off when his cortege was about to pass on its way to Saur-Mogila memorial complex.
Russia strongly condemns any threats against the monitors. This relates to all possible incidents, from SMM vehicle explosions and mortar fire against patrols, as was the case near Kominternovo on March 10, to reproachful conduct by armed people, especially when alcohol-fuelled, which was reported on both sides of the contact line.
The movement of monitors is restricted on both sides of the contact line. In areas controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, entire districts including near Schastie, Stanitsa Luganskaya, Popasnaya, Katerinovka and Bogdanovka, are out of reach for the SMM under the pretext that they are mine-infested. Special attention should be paid to these areas.
Regarding the SMM juggling figures on weapons that have not been withdrawn from the designated areas, we can see that the SMM reports include the weapons that were part of the Victory Parade in Donbass. Even the tank that was used by the self-defence forces for clearing mines has been reported as a violation of the Minsk Agreements.
We urge our colleagues to see the truth which is that other weapons are being used to bomb Donbass cities and infrastructure, weapons that are deployed on the other side of the contact line. It is regrettable that SMM observers cannot see, for reasons of their own safety, the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ weapons. But it is impossible to conceal the consequences of the use of these weapons.
Even limited monitoring by the SMM provides evidence of the continued indiscriminate shelling of the LPR- and DPR-controlled territories by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to the SMM’s latest information, a woman was killed in Dokuchayevsk, three people were wounded in Donetsk, and buildings were destroyed in Bezymyanny, Kominternovo, Stakhanov and Frunze. The SMM cameras in Avdeyevka, Shirokino and the Oktyabrskaya Mine showed that intensive exchanges of fire on May 7-8 were provoked by shooting at the areas controlled by the self-defence forces from the deployment areas of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The issue of disengagement merits special attention. The process has been dead-locked by the Ukrainian party, which has deliberately prevented the withdrawal of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. On May 3, the SMM camera installed there recorded one projectile in flight from north-northeast (the government-controlled area) to south-southwest, which was followed by an exchange of fire.
We are deeply alarmed by Kiev’s policy of forcing Donbass out of Ukrainian political and economic space. This policy includes the termination of social payments and government services, the closure of banks, restrictions on the movement of people and goods across the contact line, power and water cuts, and the transport blockade. All these measures contradict the logic of the Minsk Agreements.
We see that dialogue in the Contact Group is proceeding under the “one step forward, two steps back” formula. Kiev’s representatives on its subgroup on political issues are not even willing to put on paper the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which combines local elections with the law on special status for Donbass.
The path to settling the internal Ukrainian crisis lies through the full implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures. Kiev should launch a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk and provide legal and material guarantees of compliance with the rights of their residents. It must adopt a law on the special status and seal it in the Ukrainian Constitution, hold local elections, provide guarantees of non-persecution of people in connection with developments in eastern Ukraine, and restore the severed cultural, economic and financial ties.
We are urging our colleagues and SMM observers to look closer at the situation across the whole of Ukraine rather than only in the conflict zone. The mission has the necessary resources for this. It is important that the SMM tries to monitor all socially significant events.
We appreciate the courage and loyalty to ideals which thousands upon thousands of Ukrainians have shown by attending the May 9 victory celebrations over Nazism. It was a heroic decision in modern-day Ukraine.
The current members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the so-called Azov Regiment, the Right Sector and other followers of Nazi henchmen did their very best to prevent this. They attacked peaceful marchers and war veterans, and they even got away with it in some cities.
In the cases when police did their duty by protecting the peaceful marchers from attacks by nationalist provocateurs, this provoked a negative reaction in Kiev. In modern Ukraine, people can lose not just their jobs but also their freedom and even life for resisting radicals and nationalists.
We resent Kiev’s decision to ban the use of Victory symbols. This year, Ukraine was the only country among more than 50 states where police arrested peaceful marchers for the non-violent use of Soviet-era symbols.
The so-called de-communisation in Ukraine is proceeding hand in glove with the rehabilitation of Nazism and the distortion and falsification of history. The atrocities committed by members of the OUN and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), who killed thousands of people including Ukrainians, Jews and Poles, are being presented as fighting for freedom. We are shocked by the attempts to equal UPA fighters to those who fought against and defeated Nazism.
A recent case in point is the criminal case opened in April against war veteran Boris Steklyar, aged 94, on charges of killing Nil Khasevich, an UPA member who collaborated with the Nazis, in 1952. What will we see next? The Ukrainian Prosecutor Office bearing down on Nazi hunters? We believe that the weapons of de-communisation will be ultimately turned against those who are holding them now.
Elements of aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism fall under the SMM’s authority. Regrettably, torchlight processions, attacks on WWII veterans, Nazi symbols on the uniforms of the so-called volunteer battalions, the desecration of monuments to Soviet soldiers and the Babi Yar Memorial, as well as all other elements of anti-Semitism have become facts of daily life in Ukraine.
We urge the observers to keep their eyes wide open so as to be able to report such instances, as well as to report the persecution of journalists and attacks on churches. We believe that it is high time for an integrated SMM report on these issues.
In conclusion, I would like to express our appreciation to Ambassadors Martin Sajdik and Ertugrul Apakan and to wish success to the observers.