Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 23 June 2016
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Against the backdrop of deteriorating security situation in Donbass, last week the foreign policy advisors to the leaders of the Normandy Four countries met in Minsk to give a thrust to the process of conflict resolution. We welcome that the meeting resulted in agreeing the principles for disengagement of forces and in defining three pilot areas for the disengagement to be confirmed and notified by the SMM. Ukraine proposed to move swiftly to preparing detailed disengagement plans to translate the agreement into practice. We initiated a TCG video-conference for today to address pressing security issues.
Meanwhile, the combined Russian-separatist forces continued to provoke armed hostilities in Donbass. The SMM reports on high number of ceasefire violations along most of the contact line. Heavy weapons, mostly mortars and high caliber artillery, are widely used by the combined Russian-separatist forces. As a result 7 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 18 were wounded between 16 and 21 June.
The Russian hybrid forces continue to resort to the cynical tactics of using the civilian population of Donbass as a human shield while shelling the Ukrainian positions. As registered in the SMM’s weekly report of 15 June, 'the so-called 'DPR members continued to place civilians in danger by using residential areas for their firing positions and thus attracting fire.'
The illegal armed formations also continue deliberate shellings of residential areas, resulting in new casualties and damages of housing and infrastructure. We are outraged that yesterday in the village of Vodyane the SMM patrol came under mortar fire of the Russian hybrid forces. It is utterly unacceptable and we strongly condemn this and other attacks. Yesterday, apart from Vodyane, the Russian hybrid forces also shelled residential areas in Avdiyivka and Pervomaiske by 122 mm artillery.
On 20 June the SMM reported on its visit to Krasnohorivka, where the monitors found the local school and a number of residential buildings damaged by 125 mm shells from an easterly direction. We recall the SMM report of just some days ago that the kindergarten had been destroyed. 2 civilians were wounded on those days in nearby Maryinka, which also sustained heavy artillery shelling from the east.
We are extremely concerned over yet another loss of the SMM monitoring equipment, which indicates the systemic nature of the attacks. Last week the SMM lost its third long-range UAV after the global position system of the UAV was heavily jammed while flying near the occupied Horlivka. The Ukrainian side calls the SMM to conduct a thorough investigation of this crash.
It is noteworthy that the above incident happened a few days after the reported demands from the Russian representative at the JCCC to the SMM to provide routes and times of the UAVs flights, threatening that otherwise the security of the drones could not be guaranteed. We fully support the SMM in rejecting these demands as such that violate its operational independence.
On June 22, the Security Service of Ukraine announced that based on the article 26 of the Law of Ukraine 'On the Legal Status of Foreigners and Stateless Persons' it notified a Russian citizen, Chief of Staff of the Russian Representation in the JCCC, colonel V.Cheban about his compulsory return to Russia and ban of his entry to Ukraine for 5 years. The Security Service of Ukraine has, in particular, a documentary evidence that colonel V.Cheban handed over to the so-called first deputy chief of staff of the first army corps of the terrorist organization 'DPR' with the nickname 'Yakub' monthly schedule and routes of flights of the SMM UAVs.
We find it deeply worrying and unacceptable that the SMM continues to experience significant problems with its freedom of movement and access in the occupied areas of Donbass. As consistently reported by the SMM, the overwhelming majority of restriction incidents happened in these areas.
Over two years that have passed since the beginning of the Russian aggression, Moscow attempts to mask and deny its actions, to distract and convince the international community of its peaceful intentions and commitment to conflict resolution. Real deeds, however, run counter to the peaceful assurances. Russia continues its military build-up in the occupied part of Donbas and in adjacent Russian territory. Last week Russia formally announced plans to deploy a new motor rifle division in Rostov oblast of Russia close to the border with Ukraine.
Commenting on this decision, Kremlin claimed the 'sovereign right to freely move the military forces throughout the entire territory of Russia'. The comment dismisses the fact that Russia is the country, which resorted to open military aggression against Ukraine, its troops and fighters invaded the Ukrainian territory and it maintains constant resupply of personnel, weaponry and other military equipment to the occupied areas.
For instance, on 16 June the SMM reported that its mini-UAV again spotted an advanced jamming communication system R-330ZH Zhitel in the vicinity of the occupied Donetsk. The imagery of this system is attached to the weekly report. It is not the first time that this modern Russian system is spotted by the SMM. Moscow, however, has ignored until now the requests by the participating States to provide explanation of how this equipment, adopted exclusively by the Russian Army, emerged in Donbas. We again call on the Russian delegation to shed light on this important issue.
Zhitel is just one in a long list of conclusive evidence of the presence of Russian modern weapons and sophisticated military equipment in the occupied part of Donbass, many of which can be operated only by highly trained military personnel from the regular units of the Russian Armed Forces. Recently the Delegation of Ukraine presented new evidence to the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation and we consider it pertinent to make a highlight of this presentation to the Permanent Council.
These are hard facts. Dealing with these hard facts must remain part of the OSCE role in facilitating the resolution of the conflict, taking place in Donbas, with full respect to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
It is critically important that reinforcements to the illegal armed formations in Donbas be stopped by establishing due control and monitoring of the state border with Russia in the occupied part of Donbass. The concrete proposals, including the establishment of security zones in the border areas of Ukraine and Russia with OSCE border monitoring, as agreed in Minsk, were presented by Ukraine at the Normandy Ministerial in Berlin in May. We urge Russia to constructively engage in translating these proposals into practical steps on the ground.
We reiterate that full implementation of the initial security provisions of the Minsk Package of measures by Russia and its proxies is the only way to create a solid security ground, required for progress on other aspects of the Minsk Agreements. Deployment of an armed police mission would meet the needs for enhanced international security presence in the conflict area.
We note with deep regret that the last week’s TCG meeting in Minsk reached no progress in releasing the hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of 'all-for-all' principle. Many of them remain in critical health conditions while Russia and its proxies deny all options of their release, regularly proposed by Ukraine. In particular, over a half a year we seek release of Volodymyr Zhemchugov, a civilian who lost his limbs and eyes as a result of an explosion and was turned by militants’ propaganda into a subversive agent.
We reiterate that paragraph 6 of the Minsk Package of measures applies equally to the Ukrainian citizens, who are held as political prisoners in illegal detention in Russia. We insist on their immediate release. Upon return to Ukraine from Russian detention, Henadiy Afanasiev and Yuriy Soloshenko revealed shocking details of torture and mistreatment in Russia.
The human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, illegally occupied by Russia, remains deeply alarming. The recently presented research by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center on missing and killed in the occupied Crimea since 2014 portrays a grim picture of repressions by the Russian occupying authorities. The paper notes, in particular, 24 arrests on political ground, 16 missing and 5 killed persons. It is telling that in 70% of serious cases the so-called 'prosecutor’s office' in the occupied Crimea refused to open criminal investigation.
We reiterate our persistent call on the Russian Federation, as an occupying power, to take responsibility for stopping all human rights violations on the peninsula and to facilitate free and unconditional access for permanent international monitoring in Crimea.
We thank our international partners for firmness and unity in maintaining the political and economic sanctions, which were imposed on Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine. They remain a critically important instrument for stimulating Moscow’s return to the tenets of international law and full implementation of its Minsk commitments on peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbass.
We urge Russia to restore its respect for the norms of international law and the OSCE principles and commitments, to halt its aggression against Ukraine and reverse the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.