Ukraine: Security Council endorses Minsk ceasefire, calls on parties to fully implement truce

UNDP experts are selecting sites for social care restoration as part of a UNDP and Government of Japan project in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. Photo: UNDP Ukraine

17 February 2015 – The United Nations Security Council today adopted a resolution endorsing the 13-point accord on ending the Ukraine crisis agreed in Minsk – including a cease-fire – and called on all parties to the conflict to fully implement that cessation of hostilities, as the UN human rights office expressed concern over reported shelling and trapped civilians in the country’s east.

Adopting a unanimous resolution, the 15-member Council endorsed the ‘Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements,’ which was adopted and signed in Minsk on 12 February. That agreement is annexed to the resolution. It states that the immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions went into effect on 15 February, 12am local time.

Today, Council Members also welcomed the Declaration by the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine, France, and the Chancellor of Germany in support of the Minsk Agreements (Annex II), and their continuing commitment to its implementation.

The Council called on all parties to fully implement the ‘Package of Measures,’ including a comprehensive ceasefire as provided for therein. It also decided to remain seized of the matter.

In a separate statement read out to reporters by Ambassador Jieyi Liu of China, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month, Council members expressed grave concern over the continued fighting in and around Debaltseve, Ukraine, which has resulted in numerous casualties.

The Council called on all parties to ‘immediately cease hostilities and abide by commitments agreed in Minsk,’ including facilitating access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to monitor and verify compliance with the Minsk Agreements. The Council further called on all parties to treat detained individuals humanely.

The Security Council said it regretted that despite the announcement of a ceasefire on 15 February, violence has continued in recent days in some parties of eastern Ukraine.

Echoing that sentiment, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also expressed concern by reports of continued shelling and trapped civilians in Debaltseve.

While reliable information on the fighting or casualties in the area has yet to be verified, spokesperson Rupert Colville said “We believe there may be a few thousand hiding in cellars, struggling to get food, water and other basic necessities. It is unclear how many civilians are still there.”

Intense hostilities marked the days preceding the midnight ceasefire of 15 February, with dispatches reporting numerous military and civilian casualties.

Although the first two days of the truce witnessed a dramatic decrease in the number of causalities reported, especially amongst civilians, artillery and small arms exchanges did not cease completely.

“Their impact on civilian population, apparently, decreased considerably,” Mr. Colville confirmed. “So far we have only been able to document a few cases: two civilians were reported killed in Popasna in Luhansk region on Sunday, and several civilians were reported wounded in Avdiivka in Donetsk region on Monday.”

At the same, OHCHR continues to work on verifying these and other reports of civilian casualties during the ceasefire period.

The data available at this point reveals that since the beginning of the conflict – that began in mid-April 2014, until the 15 February truce – 5,665 people have been killed and 13,961 wounded in the east of Ukraine.

The UN Human Rights Mission in Ukraine and the World Health Organization (WHO) anticipate a further increase in figures in the coming days as casualty reporting during the ongoing hostilities, prior to the pre-ceasefire period was considerably delayed due.

The UN Human Rights Office will issue its next full report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on 2 March 2015.

The Ukraine crisis began to deepen in late February 2014 when it evolved from an initial internal political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country. It later reached full- scale conflict in the east. Despite an earlier Minsk cease-fire, the situation in Ukraine has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country's unity, territorial integrity and stability.

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