Statement by 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 25, 2017
The situation in Ukraine is escalating. The domestic political struggle is intensifying, which takes the nation further away from settling the conflict and aggravates the contradictions in society.
Such measures as the blockade of Donbass, the so-called de-communisation, rewriting history, the hunt for “separatists,” restrictions on information through banning Russian-language TV channels, websites and social networks are working against the peaceful settlement of the conflict. The list of such measures continues to expand.
On May 18, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) reported a 2,500-strong rally in Kiev against draft laws submitted to Verkhovna Rada on the status of religious organisations. Those draft laws restrict the rights of Ukraine’s citizens and violate the Constitution of the country, which states the principle of non-interference and separation of church from the state, and also guarantees the freedom of conscience and the freedom of worship. On May 15, the SMM confirmed the seizure of yet another church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kinakhovtsy in western Ukraine.
The policy of discrimination against a considerable part of Ukrainian residents is being continued. On March 23, Verkhovna Rada passed in the second reading a draft law on introducing language quotas on Ukrainian television, which restricted the content in Russian and other minorities’ languages to 25 percent, and to 50 percent on regional channels. The access to information and participation in the political and public life has been restricted for the majority of citizens in a country where a huge part of population speaks and thinks Russian.
It is not only Russian speakers that have been hit by this policy. We have information about protests among the Polish and Hungarian minorities in Ukraine. The Transcarpathian Region’s Hungarian community filed a petition to President Poroshenko on May 21. It had gathered 64,000 signatures.
Ukrainian nationalists are pushing on. According to the director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, the country’s residents should terminate all contacts with their relatives residing in Russia.
The idea of introducing a visa regime with Russia is under consideration. What is their objective? Entry to Ukraine for Russians is hampered even now. Many are denied entry without any reasonable explanation. This is probably aimed at provoking response measures to hit millions of Ukrainians who travel to Russia to work or visit their relatives.
Kiev continues repressions against dissidents. On May 21, a 73-year-old organiser of the Immortal Regiment march was arrested in Vinnitsa. He is facing up to 15 years in prison for organising a peaceful march.
On May 23, a court in Kharkov sentenced 69-year-old Yuri Apukhtin to six years in prison for “organising mass unrest accompanied by pogroms, and for public calls to violent change of the constitutional order of Ukraine and seizure of state power.” He was arrested in April 2014. It is easy to see that all those accusations fully apply to the initiators and leaders of the Kiev Maidan, whose actions led to a government coup. Those charges apply even more to those who in early 2014 occupied government offices in Kiev and western Ukraine.
Unfortunately, it is no surprise that against this background the Kiev law enforcement agencies and army are escalating tensions on the line of contact in Donbass, increasing random shelling of towns and villages. According to the SMM, three people were wounded in Petrovsky District of Donetsk, one civilian was killed and one wounded in Krutaya Balka, four residential buildings were damaged in Dokuchyevsk, two houses in Makeyevka, Kominternovo, Sokolinoye, Telmanovo and Yakovlevka suffered artillery shelling.
The Ukrainian Army yet again aborted the disengagement in Stanitsa Luganskaya on May 18.
The free movement by the observers is restricted by both sides. The Ukrainian Army closed entry for the SMM to the roads in Stanitsa Luganskaya, Schastye, Popasnaya, Bogdanovka and Kantemirovka citing the danger of mines. The Ukrainian Army routinely, without any sensations or special reports from the SMM, closes access for the observers to the armaments storage sites.
The SMM must step up interaction with local authorities. We note the assistance rendered by militia fighters to the observers on May 19 and 20 in obtaining drones that had made unplanned landings in Stanitsa Luganskaya and Zhernovo.
The SMM should conduct regular monitoring on both sides of the engagement line, and it must not turn a blind eye to the discriminatory policy pursued by Kiev, to the violation of citizens’ rights and basic freedoms in Ukraine, the situation in the western and central regions of the country, manifestations of radicalism, neo-Nazism and extremism, and growing public and internal political conflicts.
Settlement in Ukraine is only possible by observing the rights and interests of all the residents of the country. The only roadmap for peaceful solution of the problems existing in Ukraine today is the Minsk Package of Measures approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202. According to it, Kiev is to grant a special status to some districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, stating it in the Constitution. The disrupted social and economic relations with Donbass must be restored and the discriminatory checkpoint regime must be scrapped as it benefits the radical elements on the engagement line and their masters in Kiev. Kiev must give up the policy of nihilism and cynical provocation of tensions in Donbass, and seriously take up a whole range of political, economic and social obligations to its citizens. It is possible as long as the political will exists.