Remarks by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Dmitry Balakin on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, June 22, 2017
The situation in Ukraine continues to arouse grave concern. Kiev’s militant nationalist agenda is undermining the chances of a peaceful settlement of the internal conflict in Donbass and plaguing the economic, cultural and family ties between Ukraine and Russia, which the organisers and instigators of the Maidan coup in Kiev, both Ukrainian and foreign, would be eager to break off once and for all. The split in Ukrainian society is growing deeper.
Contrary to the Ukrainian representatives’ propaganda-laden assertions, Russia is not punishing Ukraine for its so-called “European choice.” The nationalists are doing a better job destabilising their country than any invented Russian “aggression” or “invasion.” It makes no sense to deny that there is an internal civil conflict: it is Ukrainian citizens that are manning both sides of the divide. It is shortsighted to close our eyes to this and think that a solution could be found outside of Kiev’s direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk.
Russian spoken by a considerable part of the population is being ousted from all spheres of public life, the media and government agencies. There are many bilingual and multilingual countries among the OSCE member-states, and these countries know well how different languages can coexist within a single state.
The historical memory related, among other things, to the victory over Nazism is being distorted. Present-day Ukraine’s heroes are the henchmen and followers of the Nazis guilty of massive extermination of civilians in Ukraine and some neighbouring countries. The attempt to destroy our common history, the thoughtless and wholesale “decommunisation” is extremely dangerous. The official nonfeasance in relation to the armed neo-Nazis from the Azov regiment, who, for example, attacked a peaceful protest against the renaming of Prospekt Vatutina in Kiev on June 16, is fraught with sinister consequences. The neo-Nazi leaders, including some deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, are looking forward to what they call the Night of the Long Knives. The historical connotations are clear.
Attacks continue on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, its parishioners and its property.
Persecution of dissent has become normal practice in Ukraine. This includes shadowing by the secret services, reports to the authorities, the ban on using the social media and Russian web browsers, and a Criminal Code article for “homegrown separatism.” A chain of mysterious deaths of politicians and public figures, including author Oles Buzyna, should not be forgotten either. We also remember slain journalists Igor Kornelyuk, Anton Voloshin, Anatoly Klyan, Andrea Rocchelli, and others.
The continuation of clashes in Donbass benefits the nationalist wing, or the “party of war.” They do not want peace, nor do they need the Minsk Agreements. Nevertheless, there is no other basis for a peaceful settlement.
Following the Contact Group meeting in Minsk, it became clear that the draft law On the Reintegration of Donbass, which is being discussed in Kiev, does not provide for a comprehensive political settlement of the crisis. There is no special status for Donbass or modality of local elections. The draft has disregarded even the “Steinmeier formula.” The procedure for implementing Paragraph 5 of the Minsk Package of Measures, which emphasises the need to “ensure pardon and amnesty by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events” that took place in the conflict zone.
Regrettably, the promotion of this draft law, as well as the calls to replace the punitive operation with something else that is strongly reminiscent of martial law are all signs that Kiev is still considering a military, not political, solution to the Donbass crisis and trying to misrepresent the Minsk Agreements.
We hope that the new regime of quiet, or the so-called “bread ceasefire,” which the parties in Minsk have agreed to impose as of June 24, will not be, as usual, disrupted by the Ukrainian armed forces.
So far, however, the situation in Donbass is not being stabilised. On the contrary, the Kiev-controlled military continue provoking a rise in tensions on the line of contact. A clear proof of this is a Ukrainian armed forces attack on the village of Zhelobok in the Lugansk Region during the Contact Group meeting on June 7. Based on satellite data, the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has confirmed that nearly 200 artillery strikes were delivered at the self-defence forces’ positions. The military continue indiscriminate shelling of populated localities in Donbass. According to media reports, the period from June 12 to 18 alone saw fire strikes issuing from Ukrainian deployment sectors, including those delivered by multiple rocket launchers, at Donetsk, Trudovskoye, Sakhanka, Starolaspa, Yasinovataya, Oboznoye and Khristovo. As a result, three civilians were killed and three wounded; a boarding school and several houses were damaged.
The disengagement of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya has been put off ten times in a row through Kiev’s fault. In the small hours of June 17, a local SMM camera recorded an exchange of fire, with the fire attack launched in the north-to-south direction, which means that it was initiated by the Ukrainian armed forces. That the latter is not interested in diffusing tensions is evidenced by the deployment of numerous military equipment close to the line of contact (including 3 multiple rocket launchers (MRL) and 7 howitzers in Konstantinovka, 4 MRL in Stepanovka, 3 MRL in Yablonovka, 6 howitzers in Volnovakha, 3 guns in Zhelannoye, 3 howitzers and 3 antiaircraft missile systems in Zelenoye Pole, and a mortar in Novosyolovka Vtoraya). Immediately behind the lines of withdrawal, the monitors have spotted 36 tanks and 6 self-propelled mortars (at the railway stations in Zachatovka, Konstantinovka and Khlebodarovka).
Concerns were expressed today that the monitoring in the territory under the control of the self-defence forces was largely restricted in comparison with the other side of the line of contact. This is not true to fact. While the monitors face certain cases of transit bans in individual areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, there are entire districts in Ukrainian-controlled Stanitsa Luganskaya, Schastye, Popasnaya, Bogdanovka and Katerinovka that have been off-limits to the SMM for a long time under the pretext of a mine threat. The existence of “prohibited areas” was confirmed by SMM deputy head Alexander Hug at a news briefing on June 12.
As for the incident in Yasinovataya on June 20, the reports posted on the DPR and LPR news websites the following day said that the local security services had detained the culprits. According to preliminary information, the detained persons were members of a raiding and reconnaissance party belonging to the Ukrainian government forces. Their mission was to discredit the authorities of certain districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and to intimidate the OSCE SMM. We have repeatedly pointed to the Ukrainian armed forces’ increased raiding activities in Donbass.
We hope that Western countries will look at the imposition of restrictions on the SMM’s freedom without bias and will not try to politicise the issue.
In conclusion, we are again calling on states that have influence on Kiev to use it for the purpose of bringing about an early settlement of the Ukrainian crisis on the basis of the Minsk Agreements, something that will certainly have a positive effect on the general security and cooperation climate in the OSCE space.