Remarks by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to honour the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, November 7, 2019
The situation in Donbass and the whole of Ukraine is, in general, developing in several directions. Unfortunately, the few incoming positive signals are outnumbered by alarming trends.
On November 1, members of the Special Monitoring Mission said they had been notified by self-defence fighters that the withdrawal of forces and equipment from a disengagement sector in Zolotoye had been completed. The Ukrainian side submitted a similar notification one day later. This is a positive signal that should be followed by the dismantling of fortifications and the removal of minefields inside the sector. We are urging members of the Special Monitoring Mission not to reduce the intensity of monitoring of these processes. The successful completion of the sector’s demilitarisation will help scale down tensions.
At the same time, against the backdrop of reports from Zolotoye, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have yet again defiantly torpedoed the disengagement process in Petrovskoye. It was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk and publicly announced by President Vladimir Zelensky that this process was to start on November 4. However, officials at the Headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation made an official statement in the run-up to the planned disengagement that the Ukrainian side had no intention of launching this process, and that it was suggesting another date. They cited a violation of a truce, recorded by members of the Special Monitoring Mission inside the sector on October 30. The Ukrainian side immediately blamed self-defence fighters for the violation. Judging by the Mission’s report, observers in Petrovskoye heard the sound of two shots one or two kilometres southwest of that town or near the trenches of Ukrainian forces. Indicatively, for a long time, Kiev has been reluctant to implement additional measures to monitor and enhance the ceasefire regime, including disciplinary punishment of violators. Finally, officials at the Headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation referred to a statement by self-defence fighters’ representatives about their readiness to launch the disengagement process on November 4 as “another provocation.” It appears that they perceive the intention to implement practical measures to reduce tensions as a “provocation.” Members of the Special Monitoring Mission once again observed self-defence fighters launch a signal flare and stated that there had been no response by the Ukrainian side; therefore the disengagement did not resume. We hope that it will take place in the near future by agreement between Kiev and Donetsk.
We are urging Kiev to display a responsible approach towards agreements reached by it with Donetsk and Lugansk in the Contact Group. The voicing of unilateral demands not stipulated by them highlights a desire to politicise the situation with the disengagement process, rather than a striving towards the fastest possible and real de-escalation. I would like to recall that the situation in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye does not imply the launching of the initial process, but rather the elimination of violations committed after the 2016 disengagement process there. We are noting the need to honour the procedures stipulated by the timeframe that was coordinated by the Contact Group. By the way, these agreements do not call for any seven-day truce.
The hostilities in Donbass continue to kill and destroy lives. A married couple has been killed in a grenade explosion in Kurakhovo. The SMM visited the Pervomaisk Hospital to see a 16-year-old boy who was wounded during a village event in Zolotoye-5/Mikhailovka several weeks ago. Children and teenagers in that village have become targets for Ukrainian shooters all too often. According to SMM report, on October 23, the functioning school in Zolotoye-5/Mikhailovka was damaged for the 15th time due to small-arms fire. It is a miracle that no children were injured this time.
The mission has reported damage to civilian properties in Yasinovataya, Aleksandrovka and Golmovsky in the separate districts of the Donetsk Region. A flat in a five-story residential building in Yasinovataya was damaged by a projectile fired from a west-northwesterly direction by a BMP-2 type armoured vehicle. It is obvious that these acts of intimidation against civilians have nothing to do with targeting military facilities.
The number of civilian casualties as a result of other incidents than mine explosions continues to increase. According to the SMM, at least 16 civilians have been wounded since the announcement of the “bread truce” as the result of shelling at the separate districts in Donbass. Three civilians were injured in that period on the other side of the contact line. The more than a five-time difference is proof that civilians remain targets for the Ukrainian military. We insist that the SMM’s summary reports on casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure be published without delay. A thematic SMM report on this subject is long overdue.
The continued shelling of essential facilities is aggravating the distress of civilians. We appreciate the efforts of the SMM, which has helped create approximately 1,300 “windows of silence” between the autumn of 2018 and the summer of 2019 to facilitate repairs or maintenance of essential civilian infrastructure. We have taken note of the thematic report on the facilitation and monitoring of civilian infrastructure repair in Donbass published by the SMM a few days ago.
At the same time, we regret that more armed provocations claiming lives continue to take place despite the SMM’s efforts. A recent report cites two repairmen injured near the Kondrashovka water supply plant on October 24. The situation near the Donetsk Filtration Station remains alarming. The SMM reported in August that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were entrenching themselves about 200 metres west of the Donetsk Filtration Station in the so-called grey zone. The station personnel and accompanying SMM staff members risk their lives every time they move past that trench.
We urge the Ukrainian authorities and their mentors in Washington and Brussels to open their eyes to the fact that their pandering to the militarist aspirations of the Ukrainian army and armed nationalists has extremely negative consequences for civilians. Repeated efforts are being taken to distract the Ukrainian public from the need to find solutions to the root causes of the deep sociopolitical crisis, which has resulted in this internal armed conflict. At the same time, more attempts are being made to encourage the Ukrainians to look for the enemy among fraternal people in neighbouring countries. All this is only deepening the internal contradictions in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian delegate was talking at length about the difficult position of the Donbass people. If Kiev is indeed concerned about the humanitarian situation in the region and the plight of the people, it should immediately stop the hostilities, prevent the radical nationalists’ destructive influence on the security situation and revitalise the Minsk negotiations with Donetsk and Lugansk on the entire range of settlement issues. We urge the Ukrainian authorities to lift the inhuman socioeconomic and transport blockade of Donbass and to accept responsibility for the settlement of the conflict in Donbass. The shortest way to this is a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk representatives in the Contact Group, the prompt implementation of the February 12, 2015 Package of Measures approved by the UN Security Council, and the attainment of a lasting and viable settlement. The region is tired of the war. The people want peace.
The actions undertaken by radical Ukrainian nationalists are hindering the possible settlement of current differences not only in Donbass, but also in the other parts of Ukraine as well. Horrible acts of vandalism were committed last weekend in Odessa under the passive eye of the authorities. On November 2, radicals tore a memorial plaque to Georgy Zhukov, an outstanding Soviet military leader who took part in the liberation of Ukraine from the Nazi occupiers, from the wall of the Primorsky Military Recruitment Office. Later the same day, large groups of concerned citizens created an impromptu memorial with candles and flowers at the site. But the radicals destroyed that memorial as well, smashing the glass candles and burning the flowers. Many media resources have broadcast the video of that incident. The so-called dialogue police, who witnessed the outrage, took no action to detain the disorderly nationalists or even cut short the rampage.
The radicals’ goal is, obviously, to force their distorted values onto all people in Ukraine. The people of Odessa have had a huge share of suffering. The proponents of nationalism not only tried to intimidate them, but also mercilessly burned people alive in the House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014. Five and a half years later, this crime remains unsolved. Even after the new government assumed power in Kiev, law enforcement agencies have not started working more energetically to establish the real causes of the tragedy and find those responsible for it. The initiative on parliamentary assistance for the investigation, proposed by the Odessa deputy in the Verkhovna Rada, has been blackballed. It appears that the authorities continue to close their eyes to neo-Nazi outrages and neo-Nazis’ exoneration, trying to convince the Ukrainian and international community that there are no neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, on November 1, members of the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement, acting with the permission of the local authorities, unveiled a bas-relief to Dmytro Paliiv (Dmitry Paliyev), the prime organiser and highest ranking Ukrainian officer of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician), on the Cultural Centre in Kalush, Ivano-Frankovsk District.
We would like to remind everyone that the cultivation of aggressive nationalism can have a most negative effect on European security as a whole. We urge the concerned OSCE bodies, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), to keep a close eye on these developments. We also expect the SMM to publish a report that focuses on the instances of aggressive nationalism, neo-Nazism and xenophobia in Ukraine.