Remarks by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, March 15, 2018

Friday, 16 March 2018 11:32

Mr Chairperson,

Russia welcomes the five-fold drop in the number of ceasefire violations since the Spring Truce entered into force. However, there is the lingering threat that hostilities could resume. Kiev has not given up on its warlike rhetoric or plans to cleanse Donbass of those who refuse to follow its line.

For the ceasefire to take root, it is necessary that both sides publish orders announcing the ceasefire, hold violators to account, eliminate creeping offensive tactics that bring the firing positions of the two sides closer to one another, withdraw heavy artillery to the agreed distance, especially in terms of the distance from residential areas, and ensure civilian infrastructure safety.

We have no evidence to support the notion that the Ukrainian government is ready to begin the withdrawal of heavy artillery, the disengagement of forces near Stanitsa Luganskaya, where according to the Special Monitoring Mission the ceasefire has been observed for no less than the required seven days. There are now expectations that the disengagement may take place March 18. The Contact Group met in Minsk on March 14 to discuss an Easter truce starting April 1. At the same time, troops are being transported to the line of contact. In the week between March 5 and 11, monitors detected 20 pieces of military equipment operated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in violation of the Minsk Package of Measures. They also reported more than 200 weapons units missing from the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ warehouses.  On March 6, a Mi-8 Ukrainian helicopter was detected in Maryinka in violation of Par. 7 of the September 19, 2014 Minsk Memorandum. The next day, March 9, the Ukrainian Armed Forces held a military training exercise with battle shooting near Lomakino, in violation of a decision adopted by the Contact Group on March 3, 2016.

If Kiev cannot be forced to observe the truce, the least we can do is prevent the situation from escalating. The SMM must step up its patrols along the line of contact.

It is unacceptable that the Ukrainian military and security officials refuse to review applications for repairs filed by authorities from specific Donbass districts. The requirement to have the documents drafted in the Ukrainian language is only indicative of Kiev’s intention to keep fanning the flames of conflict. Russia calls on the Italian Chairmanship and the interested countries to influence Kiev authorities.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have been regularly shelling communications leading to the water purification station in Donetsk lately. On March 7, a truck delivering fuel to the station came under fire. Over the last week, a bus carrying workers to the station was shelled three times.     

We are grateful to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission for its prompt intervention – accompanying a regular shift of the Donetsk water purification station, which made it possible to continue its operations. We urge the heads of the SMM to continue this practice until it is provided with proper security.

We would like to draw your attention to the exacerbation of the political struggle in Ukraine and the invigoration of the nationalists. We call on the SMM to more attentively document all manifestations of aggressive action by extremists.

We would like to warn our US colleagues against the continuation of the policy of encouraging Ukrainian nationalism. If you really care about consolidating Ukraine’s sovereignty, compel Kiev to fulfil the Minsk agreements and reach a comprehensive political settlement, including the special status for Donbass, local elections and constitutional reform. Flirting with radicals, especially those that preach neo-Nazi ideology and worship Nazi accomplices will only lead to trouble.

Ukrainian radical nationalists are expanding their activities and are vigorously searching for support abroad. They recruit young people in Britain, Germany and other European countries. Publications on this issue have even appeared in the Western media – Der Spiegel and the Guardian. Radical nationalism is creating a threat to the stability of European society. It requires a collective international response.

Nationalists continue attacking Orthodox churches in Ukraine. On the night of March 10 radicals set fire to a bell tower at a Ukrainian Orthodox church in Kiev. This is not the first attack this year. In January, Molotov cocktails were thrown into the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God.

As usual, radicals are also pursuing criminal goals by trying to take away expensive land in the centre of Kiev. Criminal excesses are on the rise in Ukraine. During the infighting in Kiev on March 7 and 8 two hand grenades were thrown into a car with SSU (Security Service of Ukraine) officers inside, and a restaurant was fired from a grenade launcher.

Ukrainian nationalism is becoming increasingly ugly. The Verkhovna Rada has come up with a draft bill on total Ukrainisation. The proposals include the exclusive use of the Ukrainian language during exams and certifications, medical services, work with pensions, household services, posters and exhibitions. The abrogation of the law on the foundations of a language policy has proved that there are no limits for nationalists.

Esteemed Mr Chairperson,

The presidential election in Russia will be held on March 18. In accordance with international practice, voting stations will be opened abroad as well, including the Russian Embassy in Kiev, and consulates-general in Kharkov, Odessa and Lvov. Ukrainian nationalists from the Right Sector, National Corps and Svoboda (Freedom) have openly threatened the security and safety of the Russian diplomatic missions and any citizens that might use these voting stations. They promised to bloc entrances to Russian foreign missions to prevent Russian citizens from freely expressing their will.

We are urging Kiev to fully abide by its international commitments, including those under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In conclusion, we would like to remind our colleagues that the only road to a peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis lies through the full implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures and direct dialogue between Kiev and Lugansk and Donetsk. As before, we are ready to facilitate this in every possible way. We hope that other OSCE countries will also work in this vein.

Thank you for your attention.

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