I thank you for convening this meeting and I thank USG Feltman for his briefing.
It has been less than a month since Russia occupied Crimea, having used military force and brutally violated a number of international treaties and law as a whole. As a result people in Crimea are now facing numerous humanitarian problems. One of them is the problem of “internally displaced persons”. Thousands of them had to leave the Crimean peninsula (their home) to Ukrainian mainland because of the occupation regime imposed by the Russian authorities. Almost 5 thousand Crimean tatars left, not willing to live in danger to their families.
Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law on “Ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens and legal status within the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine”. The Law provides that Crimea is the unalienable territory of Ukraine where Ukrainian legislation is in effect. Occupation authorities are responsible for human rights violations on the territory. Any use of natural resources and other state resources are prohibited if done contrary to the Ukrainian legislation. My Mission will circulate this Law among member states in order to inform them on the rules and procedures established by it.
Unfortunately, Russia has not stopped after annexation of Crimea. Apparently, Russian leadership is not fully satisfied and is now targeting other parts of Ukraine. They made it a custom to brazenly interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, this time targeting our eastern regions.
The agreements reached in Geneva at the quadrilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russian Federation, the United States and the EU on April 17, 2014 provided faint beam of hope for diplomatic solution.
In implementation of commitments under Geneva statement and in order to achieve de-escalation of the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine has taken the necessary practical steps within only one week:
- It suspended an active phase of the antiterrorist operation, main objective of which was restoration of law and order and protection of civilians from terrorists;
- Government of Ukraine has initiated constitutional reform. At the extraordinary meeting it approved the decision "On organizing the discussion on amendments to the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine on decentralization of state power". Public discussion including local authorities, civil society, academic and business communities will be carried out in the span of the next few months with taking stock of the progress early in October.
- Government of Ukraine approved the Concept of local administrative reform, the main idea of which is decentralization (!) of power in the country, a significant empowerment of local communities, improving management at regional and district levels.
- A draft law on release of responsibility for participants in the riots in the eastern regions has been passed by the Government to the Parliament, which would apply to those protesters who surrender weapons and free illegally seized administrative buildings, except for the ones suspected of committing serious crimes.
- Ruling coalition invited all political parties represented in the Parliament of Ukraine to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding ways to resolve the situation in the East of Ukraine.
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Service continue implementing a nation-wide campaign to seize illegal arms from the population (more than 6,000 arms units have been handed over recently).
- Ukraine is demonstrating in practical terms its commitment to constructive cooperation with human rights institutions and international organizations, in particular by hosting a number of monitoring missions and special rapporteurs.
- The building of the Kyiv City State Administration has been vacated by the protesters. All Geneva parties and OSCE Special Monitoring Mission visited the premises of the Kyiv City State Administration on Monday.
What has Russia done as a part of Geneva Document?
Russia has done nothing.
Because of the lack of support for the separatists among the population of the eastern regions of Ukraine, Russia is seeking new ways to destabilize the situation in the region, preparing and carrying out numerous armed provocations through its agents.
Russian-sponsored illegal paramilitary units continue destabilizing the situation in the Eastern regions of Ukraine and creating grounds for a new stage of military aggression.
Russian leadership has done nothing to publicly dissociate themselves from armed separatists and provocateurs or urge them to immediately lay down their arms and release captured administrative buildings. Russia has not even joined international community in condemnation of the seizure of hostages, including journalists, as well as the facts of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, openly demonstrated by separatists.
Even more so, Russian-controlled armed groups, who in fact took hostage the civilian population of several towns in Donetsk region, have crossed the limit of humanity.
Any attempts by Russia to show that Ukrainian Government is trying to use force against peaceful Ukrainian population – is a lie.
Our Government respects the right for free expression of political views and for peaceful demonstrations. That is why people in Eastern Ukraine, even if some of them are fooled by Russian TV propaganda, are free to express their views in a peaceful manner.
BUT when heavily ARMED and professionally trained groups seize police offices and buildings, kill Ukrainian law enforcement officers and take hostages – those groups are TERRORISTS and will be treated as such.
Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation is targeted against terrorists only.
Let’s call a spade a spade. In eastern regions of Ukraine we are dealing with groups of terrorists, who, while being in an absolute minority, are heavily armed and intimidating local population. Just last week they have:
- killed member of Horlovka city council. They disemboweled him alive and then drowned into the river;
- abducted and taken hostage Ukrainian law enforcement officers, showing their photos with hands and eyes tied;
- kidnapped Ukrainian and foreign journalists, while Russian journalist are allowed to operate in terrorist-controlled areas;
- fired and destroyed military helicopter with MANPAD guided missile (you well understand that one cannot buy MANPAD in the local convenience store);
- taken hostage a group of the OSCE military observers and a number of accompanying Ukrainian staff, going as far as parading them in front of the cameras. We welcome yesterday’s strong condemnation this manifestation of terrorism received from the UN Secretary-General, who assured that “those who continue unlawful acts will be held accountable for their actions”.
The leaders of the terrorists have publicly taken full responsibility for majority of these crimes!
We are sure that all these hard facts will be addressed up front in the second report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Russia had been publicly denying participation of its Armed Forces in the occupation of Crimea. However, now President Putin openly admits this and praises his military for their “heroism” and successful completion of this special operation.
And now, despite numerous irrefutable facts of Russian military involvement in organizing separatist and terrorist groups in eastern Ukrainian regions, Moscow claims just as hard that there are no Russian troopers or mercenaries in Ukraine.
Furthermore, Russia is now threatening to use force by concentrating its Armed Forces directly on the Eastern border of our country. In a clear-cut violation of the OSCE Vienna Document on Confidence and Security Building Measures, Russia has time and again refused to give an explanation about the purpose of its intense military activity near our borders, involving Southern and Western military districts of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.
Last week we all have heard an intensified militaristic rhetoric from Russian high officials, including President Putin, Minister Lavrov and Minister Shoygu, threatening to send Russian troops to the territory of Ukraine under various false pretexts.
Russian Defense Minister Shoygu reported the start of new military exercise of a battalion of tactical groups of the Russian Armed Forces because of the "the deteriorating situation in south-eastern Ukraine". According to the Russian Minister, the exercises of Russian combat aviation will also take place near the borders of Ukraine. With this, Russian side has in fact confirmed that its military activity near the Ukrainian border during the last months has not been routine in nature, but has been directly related to the developments in Ukraine.
Even my Russian colleague Vitaly Churkin joined this war ensemble, having said that “in case the events take a bad turn in Ukraine’s southeast, Russia will remember the permission to use armed forces in Ukraine given to President Vladimir Putin by the Federation Council”. He also said that Russia has international legal basis for sending its "peacekeeping" troops into Ukraine and referred to the right for self-defense, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which Russia used during the conflict in the Caucasus in 2008.
Right for self-defense on the territory of another country?
Let me remind you that Ukraine has never threatened Russia and never will.
Ukrainians want to live in peace and want to be left alone.
The highest level of cynicism is a Russian reference to the right for self-defense in a situation where it is Russia who is aggressor, having occupied Crimea and today is brutally interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, destabilizing and trying to create an explosive situation in our eastern regions.
We suspect an unpleasant scenario is in the making, the same one which was played out by Russia in Abkhazia. This scenario envisages several stages.
Step 1 – a group of armed terrorists make local separatists proclaim the creation of so-called local Republic. We already have seen this step implemented in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv, against the will of vast majority of local population and against Ukrainian Constitution.
Step 2 – under the barrels of guns, as it happened in Crimea, terrorists along with separatists hold illegal meeting of regional councils, trying to find some fake legitimacy for their actions. We have seen such attempts in the above-mentioned regions.
Step 3 – under pressure and the threat of force such regional councils adopt decision in brutal violation of domestic and international law proclaiming independence, allegedly implementing their right for self-determination.
Step 4 – Russian Federation immediately recognizes such regional units as independent states.
Step 5 – Upon request from new self-proclaimed authorities, Russian Federation sends in its troops under the guise of peacekeepers.
It is highly alarming that such a scenario cannot be ruled out in our case. It has already been reported that some Russian heavy military vehicles have been noticed near Ukrainian borders with special signs in Russian and Ukrainian languages, saying “Peacekeeping Mission”.
Let me sum up my address with short conclusions.
12 days have already passed since Geneva meeting.
Ukraine has done its utmost to de-escalate situation.
Our steps have been acknowledged and supported by OSCE, the US and EU.
Russia has done nothing. That is why Russia is not part of the solution. Russia is a problem.
How the problem should be solved? The answer is simple – Russia has to implement the Geneva document.
First, Russia should withdraw its army from the Ukrainian borders.
Second, it should make a high-level statement calling on its “protégés” to free all hostages, to disarm and to vacate all seized administrative premises.
Third, it should stop war-time rhetoric and start acting in constructive and civilized manner.
Last but not least, it should restrain from any actions aimed at undermining the May 25th Presidential elections in Ukraine.
We call on the Security Council to exercise its Charter responsibilities and influence Russia to follow this course, thus protecting Ukraine from further violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.