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19 February 201610:27

Remarks 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 comply with the Minsk agreements, Vienna, February 18, 2016

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Dear Mr Chairman,

Since this Permanent Council meeting has turned into a contest of who did the best job reading the OSCE SMM reports, I’d be remiss not to remind the audience of certain facts.

The observers have noted an increase in tensions in the security zone in southeastern Ukraine and frequent shelling, which causes suffering among civilians. In the evening of February 11, the Petrovsky District of Donetsk came under fire. Several household buildings were destroyed. On February 13, the village of Staromikhailovka and the outskirts of the town of Zaitsevo controlled by militia came under heavy artillery fire from an area where the Ukrainian forces are stationed. Several buildings were destroyed, and a 63-year-old man was wounded. The next day, the shelling of Staromikhailovka resumed, and another residential house was completely destroyed.

The SMM continues to record military equipment disappearing from the Ukrainian army warehouses. In a matter of a week, the observers saw 55 tanks, seven mortars and one cannon go from the warehouses. The Ukrainian weapons have again been seen in the security zone.

Notwithstanding the casualties among civilians caused by the landmines, the Ukrainian army is not doing anything to eliminate this threat. Last week, the SMM observers again made a note of the anti-tank mines located near the Ukrainian checkpoint in Maryinka.

Instead of dealing with these issues, the Ukrainian side is trying to shift attention to other issues that are not related to life-threatening situations for civilians. Instead, they are ratcheting up hysteria surrounding SMM access to border areas despite the fact that the observers go there on a regular basis. On February 12, they visited the Chervonopartizansk checkpoint in the Lugansk Region, and on February 14 Marinovka and Uspenka, which are located on the territory controlled by the armed forces of individual areas of the Donetsk Region. The SMM has never seen anything unusual on the border.

I would like us to focus on analysing the situation from the perspective of resolving the Ukraine crisis and the obstacles that lie in the way.

One of the key problems is that our colleagues pretend that Kiev is faithfully complying with the Package of Measures. In fact, it’s the other way round.

The ceasefire introduced after September 1, 2015 shortly after the local elections were held in Ukraine was replaced by an escalation in artillery attacks. Today, the Ukrainian forces are regularly shelling residential areas near the line of contact, often with the use of prohibited weapons. Missing equipment from Ukrainian warehouses has, unfortunately, become routine practice.

A trip by Alexander Hug, the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, to Zaitsevo, which was subjected to a major shelling attack the day before, proves again that the observers have a serious deterrent effect. Their continued presence in the security zone is an important factor in stabilising and de-escalating the situation.

The political aspects of the settlement have clearly entered a deadlock. Amendments to the constitution, which our colleagues refer to from time to time, are irrelevant to the Minsk agreements. The law on the special status of Donbass has been adopted, but its enactment depends on conditions that are not provided for in the Package of Measures. The amnesty law has been drafted but never enacted. The all-for-all exchange of prisoners and detainees has not taken place.

In the humanitarian field, we are witnessing the continued blockade of Donbass. Checkpoints, which are supposed to at least alleviate the situation with the local population, are few and far between. There’s a trend towards shutting down already operating checkpoints.

So, we have to offer reminders that before we talk about returning control over the border to the Ukrainian authorities, all political reforms stipulated in Minsk agreements must be carried out.

With the assistance of the OSCE Representative, the Contact Group’s subgroup continues to work to harmonise the modalities of local elections. The question, however, is if the Verkhovna Rada will be able to impart the force of law to these agreements, if they are worked out eventually. Looking at the balance of power in the Ukrainian parliament, there are major doubts in this regard.

I would like to draw my colleagues' attention to the statement by Vladimir Gorbulin, the Ukrainian president’s adviser and a member of the negotiating process within the Contact Group (in an interview with the Ukrainian Zerkalo Nedeli, Issue 5). I quote: "The decisions taken to date as part of the Minsk process are, to a large extent, the result of the pressure of critical circumstances and external factors, and therefore their binding force rests solely on the Ukrainian side’s goodwill." Another quote: "The main and sole stratagem of the Ukrainian state is to bide time and build up strength."

Notably, the Contact Group members from Ukraine have been showing recently an increased proclivity for public and fairly contradictory statements. They are supposed to promote the President Poroshenko-supported Package of Measures rather than provide their own interpretations of these agreements (before that, Roman Bessmertny shared his view of the situation).

Unfortunately, Mr Gorbulin’s words are confirmed in real life – Kiev spent the entire year after signing the Package of Measures increasing the combat potential of its army. Large fresh forces equipped with new weapons have been brought to the contact line. Foreign instructors and mercenaries have been brought in as well. The risk of resuming the use of force to resolve the crisis has increased dramatically. Clearly, foreign partners not only turn a blind eye to this, but sometimes even act as enablers in such dangerous moves.

A few days from today, we will mark two years since the February 21, 2014 agreements, which provided for a peaceful evolutionary path of reforms in Ukraine. That document was signed by representatives of a number of respected European countries. The fate of the document is well-known – it was trampled. Radical forces turned things around and forcefully seized power. Then, they unleashed a bloody civil war against those who disagreed. Today, those who two years ago broke into government offices in Kiev wielding Molotov cocktails are now, in fact, holding the entire Minsk process hostage.

At our last meeting, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine promised to clarify the actual role of the Ukrainian radical forces, which he called true patriots. Indeed, it would be useful to know the difference between so-called "patriots" and nationalist and extremist groups like "Azov", "Right Sector" and others. How do the activities of such groups stack up against the rule of law, which the Ukrainian representatives swear they adhere to?

There were numerous recorded military clashes between radicals and regular Ukrainian troops. There were numerous cases of murder, rape, looting, robbery, and kidnapping, both near the line of contact, and in other places in Donbass and the rest of Ukraine. The so-called activists have played a key role in organising the humanitarian and economic blockade of Donbass, which provides them with income from extorting money for goods and people crossing the contact line.

It would be likewise interesting to learn from our colleagues – particularly the United States, Turkey, and the European Union – what their respective law enforcement bodies would say about blowing up the overhead line poles or blocking lorry traffic.

I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media to another ban of Russian TV channels in Ukraine, including Kukhnya TV (food channel), Moya Planeta, Nauka 2.0, Shanson-TV, Auto-Plus, and others. Clearly, this time the Kiev authorities felt the need to protect their people from the "illegal annexation" of Ukrainian borscht or the "aggression" of Russian dumplings.

Unfortunately, this is not a laughing matter. After all, such a policy with respect to the media is portrayed by Ukraine as compliant with OSCE standards. Based on such paranoid principles, the Ukrainian side is going to organise Ukrainian media broadcasting in Donbass.

In closing, again, the Minsk Package of Measures is the foundation of the peace process via a direct dialogue between the parties to the Ukraine conflict. It provides a framework for a sustainable solution to the crisis, defines the principles of conserving the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as part of Ukraine with constitutional and legislative guarantees ensuring the rights of the people of Donbass. Any attempts to discredit the Package of Measures, to destroy or alter the format of negotiations and the oversight mechanism will lead to the further destabilisation of the situation, which is not in the interests of either the Ukrainian people or its neighbours.

Thank you.