Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Dmitry Balakin at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, July 19, 2018
Responding to the reports by Chief Monitor of
the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to
Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan and Special
Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-
Office in Ukraine and in the Contact Group
Your Excellencies ambassadors Martin Sajdik and Ertugrul Apakan, we are glad to welcome you at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council.
You have shared your perspectives on the situation in the country and at the Contact Group talks in Minsk, confirming yet again that the Kiev authorities are deliberately delaying the settlement of Ukraine’s internal conflict. The continued tension ahead of the election enables them to deliver on a number of objectives simultaneously.
On the foreign policy front, Kiev can secure the support of Western countries without them being aware of the actual state of affairs by blaming Ukraine’s failure to meet its own commitments on special “war-like” conditions. On the domestic front, Kiev can play on the patriotic feelings of the Ukrainians, while also subjecting state agencies to its own electoral agenda. Kiev officials are confident that anything can be justified as long as there is “war.”
People in Ukraine have become hostage to the political ambition of Ukraine’s senior government officials. Kiev is seeking to water down the Minsk Package of Measures approved by a UN Security Council Resolution, derailing the work of the Contact Group, and ignoring the initiatives proposed by Contact Group mediators and coordinators on military, political, humanitarian and economic matters.
Russia shares the view of the SMM Chief Monitor who has said that the situation along the line of contact has been deteriorating over the past three months. Between April 1 and July 17, Ukrainian Armed Forces opened fire 64 times against residential communities controlled by the militia, killing seven civilians, wounding 51, and damaging residential buildings. The “bread truce” resulted in fewer ceasefire violations. However, Kiev is not ready for a complete ceasefire.
The Joint Forces Operation may result in a massive escalation along the line of contact. The Chief Monitor confirms in his written report that in April the Ukrainian Armed Forces were the first to occupy the disengagement area in Zolotoye. After that, they stepped up their military activity in the Zolotoye and Petrovskoye disengagement areas. Kiev persists in its attempts to derail the disengagement of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. On July 13, the SMM reported another signal by the militia to start a withdrawal, but the Ukrainian military did not respond. The weapons and personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to advance, taking new areas within the security area under their control. The Ukrainian military advanced their frontline by 300 metres near Vodyanoye, by 1 kilometre near Zhelobok, and took control of Chigari District in May. This is a direct violation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which prohibits any offensive action.
According to the SMM, only 17 per cent of military equipment and vehicles subject to withdrawal are located within the storage facilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. After the “bread truce” came into force, monitors discovered that multiple rocket launcher systems were concentrated near Severodonetsk (20 Uragan rocket launchers) and Poltavka (12 rocket launchers).
Against this backdrop, it is understandable that Kiev is not eager to implement the additional measures proposed by Ertugrul Apakan within the Contact Group to help de-escalate the military tension, including the disengagement of forces and weapons, withdrawal of artillery, as well as publication of orders proclaiming the ceasefire and announcing disciplinary action for violations. Just as before, the Armed Forces will justify shelling Donbass as “an adequate response.”
We call on Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan to focus the efforts of the Minsk Contact Group security subgroup on the disengagement of forces and the withdrawal of weapons from the line of contact. Otherwise, the ceasefire cannot be achieved. The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to come up with pretexts in order to sidestep their commitments to ensure the disengagement of forces, despite the fact that the SMM has reported a number of seven-day periods without fire in Stanitsa Luganskaya. What does the SMM leadership think about the presence of Ukrainian weapons in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, from where they had been withdrawn earlier?
We expect the SMM to step up its monitoring efforts and report promptly on any dangerous military preparations by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Patrols on both sides of the line of contact must be more balanced, including by using long-range UAVs. These currently cover only the area within a few kilometres of the line of contact in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, failing to properly track developments at a greater distance.
It is obvious that a total ceasefire is not on Kiev’s agenda. According to the logic of the Ukrainian authorities, this will not make it possible to weaken the trade and economic blockade of Donbass and go over to the implementation of the Minsk Package’s political provisions. Kiev alone can break this vicious circle.
Coordinator of the Contact Group’s Political Working Group Pierre Morel has confirmed that Ukraine is unwilling to work in line with the concept of parallel steps approved by the heads of the Normandy format countries. Kiev does not want to extend political guarantees to Donbass by adding the Steinmeier Formula to the national legislation. We urge Mr Sajdik to continue to pressure Kiev into launching a practical dialogue on political measures with Donetsk and Lugansk.
We share the opinion of the SMM Chief Monitor that the punitive Joint Forces Operation launched in keeping with the law on reintegration has greatly complicated the far from easy life of the people in south-eastern Ukraine, especially near the contact line. The number of civilian casualties is on the rise. As we did before, we demand a comparative analysis of conformity of the Ukrainian law on reintegration to the Minsk Package. In our estimate, this law runs counter to the Minsk Agreements.
The humanitarian problems of Donbass, which have been or are created by Kiev, must be resolved without delay. The SMM has confirmed that there were fire attacks on civilians at the Yelenovka checkpoint from the territory controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces, and that several senior citizens have died after spending long hours in queues at the Ukrainian checkpoint in Stanitsa Luganskaya. Ukrainian negotiators in the Contact Group have been blocking the adoption of a decision to repair the bridge in Stanitsa Luganskaya under a project that would allow the passage of ambulances on the bridge. The matter of pensions and social allowances due to be paid by Kiev to people in eastern Ukraine deserves special attention. We urge Martin Sajdik to interfere in the work of the Contact Group’s relevant subgroup.
We welcome the SMM efforts to promote the establishment of local “silence” regimes for maintenance and repair purposes. We would like to express our appreciation of the SMM assistance to the delivery of workers to the Donetsk Filtration Station. Largely thanks to the SMM’s contribution, over 300,000 people in south-eastern Ukraine still have access to clean running tap water. We hope that the matter of protecting civilian infrastructure and maintaining ecological safety in Donbass will be addressed within the framework of the Contact Group with due regard for the legitimate interests of all Donbass residents.
We have taken note of the increased monitoring of the situation in central and western Ukraine by SBM observers. As elections are drawing near, tension is growing in the Ukrainian capital as well as the regions. The radicals of all stripes, who have been trying to strengthen their political influence since the Maidan events in 2014, are joining the fight for power. The Kiev authorities are not just unwilling to curb the nationalists, but are actively playing up to them. This has led to the increased number of neo-Nazi attacks as well as ethnic and religious hate crimes. The SMM has confirmed that Roma have been attacked, murdered and wounded in Kiev, Lvov and Ternopol, and that radicals have held defiant demonstrations. Nationalists have torched nine cars with Hungarian licence plates in the Zakarpattia region. It is no longer possible to keep the lid on the scale of the nationalist disaster. This subject was recently addressed in the 22nd quarterly report of the UN Human Rights Council. International human rights organisations Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House sent their appeals to Ukraine’s Interior Minister and Prosecutor General. It is strange, to say the least, that the OSCE has limited its activities to reporting nationalist crimes. We remind the SMM once again of the importance of preparing themed reports on radical nationalism, neo-Nazism as well as racial intolerance in Ukraine.
The revocation of the Ukrainian law on national language policy and the adoption of the discriminating law on education deprives the country’s Russian-speaking population and other ethnic minorities in Ukraine of the right to study in their mother tongue. This stands in direct contradiction to the right to language self-determination of the Donbass people that was fixed in the Package of Measures. We share the criticism of these legislative initiatives that is based on the opinions of the people living in Ukraine. We expect that the Special Monitoring Mission will very closely be following the developments in Ukraine regarding native-language education and provide regular updates.
Persecution of the Orthodox Church has become more frequent. Between February and April, the Special Monitoring Mission reported attacks on and arson incidents in churches across Kiev, Odessa and Lvov. In April, a church in Ptichye suffered a hostile seizure. Kiev is purposefully orchestrating a discord in the Ukrainian society based on faith. This contributes to further aggravation of the intra-Ukrainian conflict.
Freedom of speech in Ukraine is also in crisis. Kiev is strangling the voices of those who try to communicate an objective account of the events that is contrary to its own course. RIA Novosti Ukraine Editor-in-Chief Kirill Vyshinsky was detained on a ridiculous pretext. The Security Service of Ukraine searched the RIA Novosti office and tried to recruit Russian journalist Irina Vysokovich. They also denied entry to Russian journalists Yevgeny Primakov and Paula Slier as well as their British colleague John Warren and banned them from Ukraine for five years. They staged the assassination of Arkady Babchenko. They are even punishing those who only recently were “Heroes of Ukraine.” Why is nobody demanding – like it happened not so long ago in this room – the release of Nadezhda Savchenko, who is on a hunger strike once again?
On May 18, Ukrainian army opened fire on Russian journalists in Donbass yet again. They injured VGTRK crew members, journalist Pavel Vydrin and sound engineer Igor Uklein. Russian information agencies Rossiya Segodnya and RIA Novosti Ukraine were banned from operations in the country for three years. It is with connivance of the authorities that radicals continue the persecution of media representatives via the Myrotvorets website. Verkhovna Rada initiated the reading of a bill “on countering national security threats in the media” that would permit blocking “hostile” online resources without court rulings. We call on the Special Monitoring Mission to start to monitor on a regular basis the situation concerning freedom of speech, journalists’ rights and people’s access to information.
I would like to address the distinguished Ambassadors Martin Sajdik and Ertugrul Apakan.
Amid the complications in the domestic political situation in Ukraine, it is becoming extremely important to take purposeful action across the entire spectrum of Ukrainian crisis resolution efforts. There is a high risk of large-scale opportunistic de-stabilisation in Ukraine, including in the conflict zone. It is necessary that the Special Monitoring Mission monitors in a balanced manner both sides of the contact line and pays more attention to the acute domestic political problems all over the country. The Contact Group in Minsk needs to overcome the current deadlock. Kiev must start searching for mutually acceptable solutions to the problems via a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk representatives. Sabotaging the obligations under the Package of Measures only complicates the prospects of settling the intra-Ukrainian conflict.
In conclusion, allow me to thank the distinguished Ambassadors Sajdik and Apakan for their dedication and pass words of gratitude to the members of the Special Monitoring Mission.