Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Remarks by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Vladimir Zheglov at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, October 31, 2019
Recent developments testify to the very controversial situation in Ukraine. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is reporting new victims and new destruction. Two water pipeline repair workers were wounded near the Kondrashevskaya pumping station close to Lugansk on October 24. A 50-year old local resident was wounded in his house in Mineralnoye village, Donetsk Region, on October 25. Residential buildings in some districts in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions were damaged as a result of residential area shelling. The school in Zolotoye-5/Mikhailovka was hit for the fifteenth time this year. All this is the price that the Donbass civil population has to pay for the Kiev’s ongoing military operation and the procrastination in implementing the Minsk Agreements.
The resumption of measures to eliminate the violations at the site of disengagement in Zolotoye gives hope for improvement of the situation. On October 29, the SMM reported the beginning of military equipment and personnel pullback by the parties from their positions in that location. Although, it does not follow from the SMM report that the Ukrainian side gave notice of its intention to begin disengagement as was stipulated in the timetable.
Nevertheless, this is just the first step towards carrying out the agreements reached between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk at the Contact Group meeting in Minsk on October 1. This process must also be effectively launched at the other agreed location in Petrovskoye. We expect the disengagement in both locations to be performed without delay and within the time set by the Contact Group and with SMM verification. It is important to remove the hardware and those with firearms, who could violate the ceasefire agreement.
This disengagement is a sign of the willingness for further de-escalation. However, let us recall how convincing the Ukrainian representatives tried to look in justifying the disruption of disengagement in Zolotoye three weeks ago. They solemnly spoke of the need to observe the preliminary seven-day period of “total silence.” They set out this condition suddenly and unilaterally on the day the disengagement activities began. It turned out that militant Ukrainian nationalists interfered in the government’s plans to pull back. As you know, the radicals arrived at Zolotoye with weapons in hand and for the obvious purpose to prevent not only the disengagement but also the further implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The situation has somewhat improved only after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky visited the village.
Restoring trust is a key factor in ensuring progress in security. It is important to understand that the Ukrainian authorities’ sluggish reaction to the radicals’ activities is not conducive to success. There is a need for political will and a consistent and responsible approach to complying with obligations. The SMM has an important role to play here. It must closely monitor, and reflect in its detailed reports, the nationalists’ destructive actions. We need a thematic report on this issue. We also urge the relevant OSCE units, including the ODIHR, to focus on cases of aggressive nationalism in Ukraine.
The dialogue on the settlement’s political implications continues to stall. The Ukrainian negotiators in the Contact Group have chosen to filibuster the discussions and to overly prioritise security issues to the detriment of progress on the political track. More pre-conditions are being put forward. This approach runs counter to the agreements reached by the Normandy Four leaders on the need for simultaneous advancement in resolving political and security issues.
As you may recall, granting special status to Donbas and enshrining it legislatively, including constitutional reform, lie at the basis of the settlement process. Kiev assumed corresponding written obligations in the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015. Now, with the law on the special status of Donbas not likely to enter into force (it was extended until December 31, 2019), we hear President Zelensky say that there will be a new law. When asked about the main provisions, he said that “he is not sure what kind of law it will be.” Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmitry Razumkov went as far as to link the future of the law with convening a Normandy format summit.
We consider Kiev’s attempts to shift responsibility for implementing the political aspects of the Minsk Agreements to the Normandy format unacceptable. It is counterproductive to revise the already agreed upon decisions, and to downplay the meaning of the letter and the spirit of the Minsk Package of Measures and the efforts of the Normandy format in supporting its implementation.
Each day of the conflict brings more suffering to the people of Donbas. The Ukrainian government continues to blockade the region. Keeping the situation in Donbas tense, Kiev seems to stick to the “neither war, nor peace” approach. Thus, it is delaying the solution to pressing humanitarian problems. Promises to resume social payments, restore transport services and improve the people’s movement across the line of contact remain unfulfilled. The Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Ombudsperson Lyudmila Denisova said Kiev owed more than $1.3 billion to Donbas pensioners for the period from June 2016 to April 2018 alone. The debt is even more now. Given these conditions and in order to prevent the humanitarian situation from sliding even more, Russia will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Donbas. The eighty-ninth humanitarian convoy was sent to the region today, October 31.
We urge the United States and the EU to encourage the Ukrainian government to take concrete steps towards peace. So far, we have only seen them flirt with the “party of war” in Kiev and persistently try to draw Ukraine into a geopolitical confrontation, the parameters of which are outlined overseas. These days, October 30 and 31, the NATO North Atlantic Council and the Ukraine-NATO Commission are meeting in Kiev. Despite the lack of consensus in Ukrainian society on relations with NATO, they are stubbornly trying to impose a false geopolitical choice in terms of bloc thinking on Ukraine. This creates rifts not only in Europe, but Ukraine as well.
Arms are being delivered from NATO countries to Ukraine. Last week, the media reported that Baykar-Makina completed the delivery of Bayraktar-TB2 attack unmanned aerial vehicles. We urge everyone to refrain from exporting weapons that may end up in Donbas and be used against civilians.
Legislative initiatives adopted in Ukraine in recent years are indicative of an all-out attack on the Russian language and the rights of the Russian-speaking residents. Printed materials from Russia and screening Russian television programmes and films have been banned, and language quotas have been introduced on television and radio. Kiev continues linguistic and educational discrimination contrary to the requirements of the relevant international organisations. These actions run counter to the Minsk agreements, which guarantee language self-determination for the residents of Donbas, where over 80 percent of the population routinely uses Russian. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic recently expressed her concern about language discrimination in Ukraine and the lack of a dialogue between the authorities and society on language rights.
The situation with regard to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church remains tense as well. Its church buildings continue to come under attack. The Holy Alexander Nevsky Church in the village of Nevskoye in the Kiev-controlled part of the Lugansk region was desecrated on October 31.
There’s more to it. The odious site Myrotvorets continues to function using servers located in the United States. The UN has repeatedly stated that this violates the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. Recently, Deputy Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Benjamin Moreau, reiterated the recommendation to shut down this website. A similar demand was made by other representatives of the international community, including the German government. The problem was brought to the attention of the European Court of Human Rights. The other day, the representative of Ukraine at the ECHR was made aware of the groundlessness of the Ukrainian government’s excuses saying that it allegedly “has no influence” on the above website.
In closing, recent opinion polls in Ukraine indicate that its residents are expecting the government to do more to bring peace to Donbas. The path to a settlement is well known, that is, the full implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015, that was approved by the UN Security Council.