Speech by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Andrei Kelin in response to a report by the head of the Special Monitoring Mission Ertugrul Apakan at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine, Vienna, 18 September 2014
Esteemed Ambassador Apakan,
Welcome to the Permanent Council, and congratulations on your reappointment as the Head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. We positively regard your work, and the work of the Mission's observers, who have taken on a very important task. We have carefully reviewed your comprehensive written report and your speech today.
We agree that the Contact Group protocol of 5 September is an important step on the way towards a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
At the same time, the situation surrounding the implementation of the cease-fire agreement remains quite fragile. While the cease-fire has been observed overall, there have been numerous violations, for which the parties are blaming each other. This has been confirmed by the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) reports. It is important to prevent these incidents from escalating into large scale clashes, which could lead to the resumption of hostilities. We also note the assurances of the parties that they have no plans to disrupt the cease-fire. We will closely monitor the situation on the ground.
Today, joints efforts are needed to strengthen the implementation of the cease-fire regime. Parameters for this are currently being developed. The most important thing is the political will of the conflicting parties. No less important are verification of the ceasefire and the prevention of new violations.
The selfless efforts of the OSCE observers can hardly be overestimated. They have been ensuring an impartial monitoring of the cease-fire implementation and facilitating the process of POW exchanges between the conflicting parties.
We strongly condemn the incident of 14 September, when the OSCE observers repeatedly came under fire by Ukrainian forces.
We strongly support Ambassador Apakan's appeal to the conflicting parties to ensure safe conditions for the activity of the OSCE observers. We note the efforts by the mission's leadership to provide the observers with the necessary equipment and vehicles, and to establish contact and coordination with both conflicting parties to reduce risk and ensure the safety of the OSCE mission.
Some of our colleagues claim that the mission is allegedly failing to "see the obvious," as it is not allowed in the regions controlled by the self defence forces. The observer reports from the field suggest that these allegations are not true. We insist that the member states should continue to receive reliable and verified information from the OSCE observers.
The SMM reports state that both conflicting parties are experiencing command and control issues. In essence, this has also been acknowledged by the Ukrainian side. The decisions to disband some of the volunteer punitive battalions and to launch criminal investigations of the war crimes and other offenses committed by their members speak for themselves.
With the Minsk agreements taking shape, SMM assistance will be even more important, and the range of the practical tasks to be implemented under its mandate will be expanded. To this end, we support the efforts to increase the mission's staff to 500 observers, the limit specified under its mandate. In addition, steps should be taken to ensure the mission's safety and to provide it with the necessary equipment to work in the field.
Russia will continue to actively support the mission's activities. We have already nominated and will continue to nominate more candidates to the mission. All of them are well-qualified specialists with the necessary experience.
While monitoring the cease-fire implementation remains a priority today, the mission shouldn't ignore the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Donbass Region, where cities and villages were subjected to air strikes and massive shelling by the Ukrainian armed forces for several months. In fact, according to our information, the shelling hasn't stopped.
The SMM should also not forget about the need to facilitate the inquiry into the crash of the Malaysian airliner. We strongly insist on conducting a comprehensive, independent, and transparent international investigation, which, unfortunately, is being delayed.
Under its mandate, the mission should also focus on monitoring the situation in other regions of Ukraine.
We have noted the section on UAVs in the report by esteemed Ambassador Apakan. We hope that the OSCE countries will be fully informed on the modalities, the areas of use, and the characteristics of the UAVs. To avoid any problems, this must be coordinated with both conflicting parties.
All the information received through UAVs should be the exclusive property of the OSCE. We proceed from the assumption that these issues will be taken into account with regard to the proposal of our French and German colleagues to put their UAVs at the disposal of the Special Monitoring Mission, which deserves consideration.
I would like to remind you that the geographic area of the mission's deployment and operation is strictly defined by its mandate as specified on 21 March 2014. It reflects the political and legal realities existing as of then, and arising from the fact that the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are integral parts of the Russian Federation.
In conclusion, allow me to thank you, esteemed Ambassador Apakan, and your entire team, for your selfless efforts. You can count on our support.