Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, March 22, 2018

Friday, 23 March 2018 13:37

Mr Chairperson,

The number of ceasefire violations in Donbass and the use of weapons that have been prohibited under the Minsk Agreements have decreased thanks to the so-called spring truce. However, an increased number of shoot-outs has been reported recently. The shelling of residential areas has resumed, and civilians have been affected. The OSCE SMM has reported that a woman was wounded in Kominternovo on March 14 and a building was damaged in Sakhanka on March 17 in attacks that originated from the government-controlled territory.

On March 12 and 13, Ukrainian forces shot at buses carrying the staff of the Donetsk Filtration Station (DFS). Damage control carried out leaves no doubt as to the origin of the attack. We are grateful to SMM observers, who have accompanied the DFS staff since March 14.

We are seriously concerned about the situation, because the government forces are using the truce to regroup and reinforce their positions. They have established positions in the disengagement zones in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye. The SMM has reported seeing Ukrainian soldiers, flags, equipment and munitions there. The number of Ukrainian military equipment deployed on the contact line is growing. Over the past week, SMM observers reported seeing over 30 items of military equipment in government-controlled areas, including four MLRS systems in Khlebodarovka, in violation of the Minsk Package of Measures. They have also confirmed that the government forces held live firing exercises on the contact line.

On March 18, Kiev once again openly refused to withdraw its forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya despite the fact that conditions have been created for withdrawal and the self-defence forces have indicated their readiness for the disengagement of forces.

We urge all OSCE countries that can influence Kiev to do their best to prevent a military escalation in Donbass. General Sergey Nayev, the new commander of the punitive operation in Donbass, which has been renamed the Joint Forces Operation, has said in public that he will only deal with Donbass militarily. It is a path to catastrophe.

We support the initiative advanced by Donetsk and Lugansk on an additional re-verification of the ceasefire during Easter, which should at long last result in a lasting and sustainable termination of hostilities on the contact line.

It should be recalled that a sustainable peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is only possible through the full implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, including the provision on a comprehensive political settlement, by means of a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.

We call for launching this process as soon as possible, because there are evident signs of destabilisation in the situation in Ukraine.

Nationalist radicals are increasing pressure on the Kiev government. The SMM has reported new demonstrations by the radicals, as well as growing instances of nationalist behaviour, which is especially evident in the western regions of Ukraine. Over the past week, nine vehicles with Hungarian licence plates have been damaged in Uzhgorod and Beregovoi, a grenade was thrown into a residential building, and active protesters against a nationalist march were beaten. The nationalist march was nevertheless held on March 17. The birthdays of military criminals from the UPA and other “black” dates in the Ukrainian history are marked on a large scale.

Radicals have attempted to pressure Ukrainian courts. On March 15, they burned flares at the Kiev court where a trial over the Maidan events was underway. On March 14, they gathered at the Italian Embassy to demand that the suspect in the murder of Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli be set free.

Attacks on the Orthodox Church continue. On March 10, a chapel was set on fire in Kiev. This is yet another crime committed by the radicals under a zero-tolerance campaign launched by the ultra-right group C14 against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. We share the concern of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights over the failure of law enforcement agencies to effectively prevent these actions, to thoroughly investigate them and bring the culprits to account.

They are drafting a new state language law that will not respect the linguistic rights of ethnic communities living in Ukraine. We are urging the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities to focus on this matter and to prevent the country’s all-out Ukrainisation.

The Myrotvorets (Peacemaker) website continues to function unhindered on US-based servers and to publish personal data of journalists and people disagreeing with the official line. Experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights believe that the posting of personal data of media employees and NGO activists on this website violates the right to privacy and the presumption of innocence.

Nadezhda Savchenko has been arrested in the Verkhovna Rada and charged with preparations for a terrorist attack. Information about her is also posted on the Myrotvorets website. We are confident that people who had closely followed her fate three-four years ago will be interested to learn what is happening to the “hero of Ukraine” today.

Journalists are still being actively harassed in Ukraine. On March 17, the authorities deported Natalia Goncharova, a journalist from Rossiya 24 television channel, under far-fetched pretexts. We are noting that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has drawn attention to this outrageous act by Kiev authorities on his Twitter account. We are expecting a more detailed response to this illegal act.

This is the eighth incident when Russian journalists are being mistreated in violation of Ukraine’s international obligations and the country’s domestic legislation. From November 16, 2017 until February 15, 2018, experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights documented nine incidents involving attacks or the use of force against journalists by employees of state agencies or members of far-right groups acting with impunity. There is no progress in investigating instances of violence against journalists, which contributes to creating an atmosphere of impunity and fear. Those responsible for the murders of Oles Buzina and Pavel Sheremet have not been exposed to date.

Ukrainian authorities use more brutal methods for harassing those who disagree with the policy of rampant nationalism and hatred for Russia. The Security Service of Ukraine continues to operate secret prisons. Amnesty International submitted new evidence of this the other day, citing cases of torture and illegal detention without court verdicts and official warrants. According to Amnesty International, by denying the existence of secret prisons of the Security Service of Ukraine, the authorities deny victims the right to establish justice and hamper the investigation of continued major human rights violations. 

Experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have recorded new cases of illegal detention, torture and mistreatment on Kiev-controlled territory. Masked persons abducted the victims, beat them up and threatened them, forcing them to confess to allegedly cooperating with the Russian secret services or armed groups. The Security Service of Ukraine subsequently arrested those people. They are noting the lack of progress in bringing the culprits to account for major human rights violations during the murder of Maidan protesters and the May 2, 2014 acts of violence in Odessa. Investigations and trials linked with the conflict show the reluctance of law enforcement agencies and politicians to impartially investigate human rights violations by state agencies.

The apologists of the Kiev regime claim that nationalists who are allegedly strengthening the sovereignty of Ukraine should not be criticised. This is a major fallacy. No one, except nationalists, has done so much for the sake of degrading Ukraine and undermining its sovereignty and unity. Today, it is precisely these people who are the main advocates of a policy for resolving the crisis by military force, and they also oppose a peace settlement, dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

There are enough reasonable people in Ukraine who reject the ideas of war, hatred and officially imposed Russophobia, but they have to live in conditions of an impending all-out ban on dissent and tough pressure from the nationalists, on the one hand, and security and law enforcement agencies, on the other hand.

In conclusion, we reaffirm Russia’s absolute commitment to the peaceful settlement in Ukraine, and we are ready to continue facilitating this process in all available negotiating formats. There is no alternative to resolving the crisis but to fulfil the Minsk Package of Measures through direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.

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