|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7125th Meeting (PM)
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Updates Security Council
as It Holds Second Meeting on Ukraine in Three Days
Deputy Secretary-General Attending Kyiv Meetings, He Tells Members before Debate
The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs provided an update to the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine today, as the 15-member body held its second meeting on the subject in three days.
Oscar Fernández-Taranco told the Council that in the face of a reported troop build-up, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had, in the last 48 hours, spoken with a range of regional leaders to call for a de-escalation of tensions. Outlining other recent developments, including Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s presence at meetings in Kyiv today, Mr. Fernández-Taranco reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for dialogue aimed at finding a peace resolution.
Describing the current situation, Ukraine’s Permanent Representative said that, as of today, the Russian Federation had deployed 16,000 troops in his country, in addition to helicopters, aircraft and naval vessels. Emphasizing that their presence constituted an act of aggression, he called for Security Council mediation and monitoring.
For his part, the Russian Federation’s representative reiterated that his country had not implemented the use of force, but the Ukraine’s takeover by radical extremists was breeding serious risks, and his country was concerned about the rights of minorities. The Russian Federation was amendable to a monitoring mission and supported Mr. Eliasson’s mission, he said.
A number of speakers said that if the Russian Federation was concerned about Ukrainian citizens, armed intervention was not the right path. The United Kingdom’s representative said the era in which one country could suppress another by using force under a trumped up pretext was over.
The representative the United States said that if the Russian Federation was concerned about the rights of Russian-speaking minorities, her country would work with Moscow to protect them. It would also support the dispatch of a monitoring mission. Diplomacy could serve Russian interests, she said, noting that the world was speaking out against the use of force.
Many speakers agreed on the need to monitor the increasingly tense situation, urging all stakeholders to exercise restraint and begin a dialogue to seek a solution. France’s representative emphasized that his country wished to cooperate with the Russian Federation, but not at a price that would threaten its own principles and values.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Lithuania, Rwanda, Jordan, China, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Chad and Luxembourg.
The meeting began at 3:35 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m.
Meeting this afternoon to consider the situation in Ukraine, Security Council members had before them a letter from that country’s delegation addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2014/136).
OSCAR FERNÁNDEZ-TARANCO, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said there were reports of a troop build-up and attempts to seize control of some Government buildings in Ukraine, adding that Ukraine had called on Sunday for the withdrawal of Russian troops. The Russia Federation’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, had addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where he had expressed some of his country’s concerns. Following the Council meeting on Saturday, the Secretary-General had dispatched Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson to Kyiv, where he was now engaged in meetings, he said. In the last 48 hours, the Secretary-General had spoken with President François Hollande of France, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, the European Union, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Minister Lavrov in Geneva. He had reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for dialogue aimed at de-escalating tensions immediately and finding a peaceful resolution of the crisis in a collaborative effort.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his delegation had initiated today’s meeting because events in Ukraine “evoked within us very deep concern”. The country’s takeover by radical extremists was breeding serious risks, and today in Geneva, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had spoken in detail about the situation, reaffirming that any international crisis must be settled through dialogue, backed by all political parties, as well as ethnic and denominational groups, and undertaken with respect for constitutional processes and international obligations, including international humanitarian law. Extremists in Ukraine must be prevented from taking control of the situation through illegitimate methods, the use of violence and open terror, he emphasized. Those responsible for the crisis were well known, but some partners were disputing legitimate actions and authority, and instead supporting anti-Government statements. Kyiv had been taken over by extremists preaching anti-Russian and anti-Semitic slogans.
Recalling the 21 February agreement between the then President of Ukraine and the opposition, he said its authors were refusing to control the emergency situation, suggesting that the opposition was blameless, while illegal weapons proliferated and civilian buildings remained unprotected. Instead of fulfilling the promise to establish an interim Government of national unity, a “Government of national victims” was being formed, he said. The situation was limiting the rights of minorities, making it punishable for them to speak their own languages, and banning political parties that did not suit them. The victors wished to use the fruits of victory to trample the rights and freedoms of all other people. Millions of Russians lived in Crimea, and violence by ultra-nationalists jeopardized their interests and those of other Russian speakers.
There was new information about provocative actions in connection with the Russian Black Sea fleet, based in Crimea, he continued, noting that the Autonomous Republic had asked the President of the Russian Federation to restore order and end crime there. It was completely legitimate under national law to respond to threats against Russian citizens and the Black Sea fleet, so President Vladimir Putin had sought approval for the use of armed force until the political situation in Ukraine stabilized, he said, adding that the President had appealed for the means to “cut off” the radicals with a view to defending the rights of Russian citizens, including the right to life. The Russian Federation had received notice from the legitimately elected President of Ukraine that the situation in the latter country verged on civil war. The lives, security and rights of people in Crimea were being threatened under the influence of Western countries supporting acts of terror and violence.
The President of Ukraine had called for the use of Russian armed forces to re-establish legitimate peace, law and order and stability, and to defend the Ukrainian people, he said. Holding up a photocopy of that letter — dated 1 March — he said those trying to interpret his country’s actions “almost as aggression”, and who threatened the Russian Federation with boycotts were themselves consistently engaged in ultimatums, choosing to refrain from dialogue. Such geopolitical calculations would only serve to polarize Ukrainian society, he cautioned, calling for a sensitive approach that placed the interests of Ukraine’s people above all else. Constitutional reform supposed to have begun, to be followed by a national referendum and the establishment of an interim Government of national unity, which would consider the interests of all Ukrainian citizens. The Russian position remained consistent and open — all should refrain from turning Ukraine into “some geopolitical playground”, he said.
SAMANTHA POWER ( United States) said the facts showed that Russian forces had taken over border posts, ferry terminals and nearly all military bases. The military action was a violation of international law and of Ukraine’s territorial integrity of Ukraine in response to an imaginary threat, as there was no evidence of threats against ethnic Russians or the Russian Federation. The latter must engage in discussions with Ukraine, she said, adding that if it was concerned about the rights of Russian-speaking minorities, the United States would work with it to protect minorities and support the dispatch of a monitoring mission. Calling upon the Russian Federation to ensure that OSCE efforts were not impeded, she said its calls for implementation of the 21 February agreement rang hollow since [former President Viktor] Yanukovych had fled the country shortly after its signature. Diplomacy could serve Russian interests, she said, noting that the world was speaking out against the use of force, and that Ukraine had the right to determine its own future.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said no manipulation of television or other media could hide the fact that the Russian army was occupying Crimea. France had supported the 21 February agreement and the spirit of the proposals by the current Government of Ukraine. It had proposed a six-point plan to end the crisis, in keeping with international law, he said, adding that the plan called for the retreat of Russian troops to their bases, the disarming of paramilitary groups, as well as the establishment by Ukraine’s Parliament of a law on regional languages and a high counsel for the protection of minorities. The agreement’s final points called for constitutional reform and elections. International mediation should be negotiated, he said, emphasizing that his country wished to cooperate with the Russian Federation, but not at a price that would threaten its principles and values.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said “the pretence is now over”; the world could see that Russian military forces had taken control of Crimea against Ukraine’s wishes and in clear violation of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. It was a flagrant breach of international law and everyone could see that there was no justification. The Russian Federation said that its forces were there to protect against interference with the Orthodox Church, as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees, but it had provided no evidence. That was clearly fabricated, and on that “trumped up pretext”, the Russian Federation had contravened its international obligations, including the United Nations Charter, which sought to prevent breaches of any Member State’s territorial integrity and political independence through the use of force. If the Russian Federation was genuinely concerned about the human rights of Ukraine’s citizens, then armed intervention was not the way to protect them, he emphasized. The era in which one country could suppress another by using force under a trumped up pretext was over.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITE ( Lithuania) said the military action on Crimean soil defied all agreements, memorandums and treaties of cooperation. The presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet was regulated, but that country’s actions were in blatant violation of United Nations Charter principles and had no place in the twenty-first century. Rather, they evoked the “darkest pages” of the twentieth century, she said. Russian actions were a threat to international peace and security and must be qualified as such. Indeed, none of the events in Ukraine warranted military invasion, she said, emphasizing that the latter was trying to rebuild the rule of law and establish State institutions. Calling for the return of Russian forces to their bases, and for an end to further interference, she stressed that the international community had a wide range of instruments at its disposal — the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and others were offering mediation and good offices. The Russian Federation could not forge ahead with military actions, for which there were consequences under the Budapest accord, she said, urging that country to seize the opportunity to ease the situation before it was too late.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) urged all parties to exercise extreme restraint to de-escalate tensions, and called for dialogue to address concerns, including over Russian ethnic minorities. The United Nations had a critical role to play, including through the Deputy Secretary-General’s visit to Kyiv. Given the complexity and fragility of the situation on the ground, it was important to harmonize international efforts, he said, stressing that only a concerted effort alongside the main stakeholders that took all concerns into consideration could provide a lasting solution to the crisis.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) called on all parties to exercise calm and self-restraint. The Russian Federation and Ukraine must start serious and effective dialogue to resolve the crisis, which should lead to the return of Crimea to Ukraine’s control as soon as possible. He called on Ukraine to take immediate measures to resolve the causes of tension, while also stressing the importance of non-interference in the country’s internal affairs so that that it could decide its own political future. The Security Council must assume its responsibilities, he said, calling for more clarifications from the relevant parties on the situation on the ground, including in Crimea, so as to enable the Council to deal with the situation accordingly, including through an investigation and consideration of mediation and dispute-settlement mechanisms.
LIU JIEYI (China) condemned the recent violent actions in Ukraine, saying his Government had been urging all sides to resolve their internal differences peacefully within a legal framework and conscientiously to protect the legitimate rights of all Ukrainians. Emphasizing that China consistently stood up for the principle of non-interference and respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, he said there were reasons why events in Ukraine that country had progressed to the present stage. China would follow events on the ground closely and call on all sides to hold dialogue on the basis of international law.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said the situation was escalating, tensions were rising, and the potential for military confrontation was obvious. Since the Council’s meeting on Saturday, Russian military activity in Crimea had seriously intensified amid reports of more Russian troop deployments on the country’s eastern and southern borders, violations of Ukraine’s airspace by fighter planes and of naval vessels blocking the exits of Sevastopol Bay. Such actions, taken alongside the recent decision by the Russian parliament to authorize the use of force in Ukraine, were wholly unacceptable since they undermined the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own future, and contrary to international law. They also contravened the Charter, as well as agreements to which the Russian Federation was itself a party. The Government of Australia had urged the withdrawal of Russian armed forces and engagement in direct dialogue with Ukraine, in line with its own Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership. Australia had also called on the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) called on all parties to show restraint, saying they must refrain from actions in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. Ukraine’s sovereignty was respected under the Budapest Memorandum, and that and other treaties should be honoured. Calling upon the Russian Federation to consider undertaking consultations to find a solution to the crisis, he emphasized that it was up to Ukrainians to determine their own destiny.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said the United Nations must uphold its responsibilities under the Charter, and called on all involved to refrain from statements that could escalate tensions and to find a way out of the crisis. All stakeholders should aim to find solutions, she said, stressing that it was essential that all political forces participate in those efforts. Argentina was convinced of the need to work for a united Ukraine, she added.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) called for strict adherence to the Charter. The situation in Ukraine, especially in Crimea, represented a clear and potential threat to international peace and security, and a rapid de-escalation of tensions and hostile rhetoric was needed. The parties must embrace dialogue and seek a return to normality, she said, calling on the international community, particularly those with “constructive influence” over the parties, to intensify efforts towards mediation. The use of preventive diplomacy tools was the most expedient and effective option. All should abide by the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on security assurances, which guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also called for the signatories to consult when questions arose in relation to those commitments. The Government of Ukraine was taking steps to ensure greater political inclusiveness, which was a prudent way to address the underlying causes of the dispute and ensuring an early return to peace and stability, she said. Quoting the Secretary-General, she reiterated that “cool heads” must prevail.
PAIK JI-AH ( Republic of Korea) said her delegation was deeply concerned about the situation, particularly the escalation in Crimea, and called on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and surmount the crisis through dialogue. It was vital that Ukraine’s political independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty be respected. The Republic of Korea hoped for a peaceful settlement and supported international mediation efforts. Hopefully, the Deputy Secretary-General’s visit would bring positive results.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF ( Chad) said he was deeply concerned about the serious turn of events, despite the many international appeals for de-escalation, calm and dialogue. Any conflict between Member States should be dealt with peacefully, in line with the Charter and respect for the principles of sovereignty, non-use of force and peaceful settlement of disputes. Given the deteriorating situation, Chad reiterated its appeal for calm and restraint, in support of all mediation efforts.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, vigorously condemning the violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russian armed forces, as well as the decision to allow it, in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Echoing the European Union’s appeal for a return to the conditions for the Black Sea fleet’s presence in Ukraine, she emphasized that the situation must be resolved peacefully. An essential first step would be for the Russian Federation to accept the request to consult with Ukraine, as called for in the Budapest Memorandum signed in 1994, and in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership signed by both parties. Expressing hope that it was still possible to “avoid the worst”, she said her country understood the risk of military escalation and urged the immediate start of de-escalation in Ukraine. The very foundation of the United Nations was at stake, she stressed.
YURIY A. SERGEYEV ( Ukraine) said that, unfortunately, his country had not yet received a compelling answer to the question of why Russian forces were occupying parts of Crimea. While the Budapest Memorandum contained provisions against the use of force, as of today, the Russian Federation had deployed about 16,000 troops, in addition to helicopters, other aircraft and naval vessels. Airports and main roads had been blocked, and the Russian Federation was engaging in disinformation activities aimed at discrediting the legitimate Ukrainian authorities by calling the Russian intervention a “peacekeeping” operation, he said.
While the Russian Federation was concerned about the rights of ethnic Russians on Ukrainian territory, the responsibility to protect them rested with Ukraine, he emphasized. The presence of Russian troops was an act of aggression, and none of the pretexts for the invasion of Ukraine could be justified by the United Nations Charter. As for the 21 February agreement, the Russian side participating in the talks had refrained from signing or recognizing the document, he recalled, asking how it could be implemented if one of the major players, Mr. Yanukovych, had left the country. Describing subsequent events as a coup d’état was not correct, he said, explaining that they constituted a revolution.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor again, said his Ukrainian colleague, as well as the delegations of France and the United Kingdom, had said, among other things, that the Russian Federation was trying to pressure Ukrainian democracy. But did a forcible takeover constitute democracy?, he asked. They were saying that there must be a democratic process, but the Russian Federation was calling for democracy while others were re-defining it, he said.
Expressing condolences for the dramatic and tragic events of the past three months, he said that following the break-up of demonstrations in Ukraine, laws that existed in many other countries had been adopted, including one that stipulated that demonstrators could not cross the road during a political protest or wear masks on the streets. Why had colleagues decided that there was now a democratic Government in Ukraine? “Let’s not think violence led to democracy,” he emphasized, saying his country sought a real democratic victory with genuine democracy in Ukraine.
Recalling that his colleague from the United States had stressed the need to respect Ukraine’s Constitution, he reiterated that what was occurring in that country was neither democracy nor respect for the Constitution. There had been concerns in Crimea about a violent capture of the administration. Now that someone had come to power there, people were making it look as though the Russian armed forces were in Crimea, whereas the Ukrainian armed forces had sworn allegiance to the new Government.
As for the Black Sea fleet, 16,000 military forces were in Crimea, whereas the agreement stipulated that there could be up to 25,000 to protect their sites from extremists who also posed a threat to the lives of civilians. Maybe the representative of the United Kingdom believed that was excessive, but that was part of the agreement, he said, adding that he had been surprised to hear that all those concerns were fabricated. He said he had the impression that speakers were obtaining their information from United States television — everything in Ukraine was beautiful and a symbol of democracy. He added that he was sure the Russian media had reported the wave of violence that had ripped through Ukraine when an administration building had been “hit” and people taken from it tied to a pillar and mocked. Would that happen in Chicago?, he asked. Would people be dragged out like that? None of that was made up, he stressed. A group of armed people in eastern Ukraine had tried to remove the Government and had set up an illegitimate, undemocratic administration. Did the delegations present “really think Russia could allow a repeat of what happened” under Hitler in central and eastern Ukraine, where millions of Russians lived?
Recalling that the United States had justified its intervention in Grenadaby saying it had gone in because of the 1,000 or so United States citizens living there, he said that his country was defending millions of Russian citizens in Ukraine. “You want an observer mission of the OSCE to go there to get rid of the radicals?”, he asked. The radicals would not listen and, besides, it would take months to prepare such a mission, “so who knows what will happen in that time?” The Russian delegation had called today’s meeting, not because it sought to give a fuller picture from its own viewpoint, but because the last two meetings had been “more spontaneous”, and it was very important that the wrong conclusions not be drawn by those controlling the situation in Ukraine. The Russian Federation must refuse the intent, or any plans to establish authority through violence, he said. Imposing authority, philosophy and the culture of another’s world view could “lead to very difficult consequences in Ukraine”. However, it continued to believe that Viktor Yanukovych was the President of Ukraine and that his fate must be resolved by that country’s people. Democratic parameters must be set for resolving the crisis in Ukraine; it must be a constitutional way out and not just a cobbling together of various laws, he added, emphasizing that the process must be regional and political.
The representative of the United States, speaking in response to her Russian counterpart’s statement, commended the effort to negotiate the 21 February agreement, saying her Government would have supported it upon implementation. However, not only had Mr. Yanukovych not signed it, but he had fled Kyiv and left the seat of the presidency vacant for two days with Ukraine in crisis. In that context, the country’s democratically elected legislature had voted to impeach the former president, she said. All Council members who had spoken today, except the Russian Federation’s representative, had called for recognizing Ukraine’s territorial integrity and for sending monitoring missions. Why did the Russia Federation not support a monitoring mission or a pull-back of its troops?
The representative of France said that for the four and a half years that he had worked in the Council, the Russian Federation’s representative had repeatedly jumped up and said there should be no interference in the internal affairs of any State. Yet, his own country had interfered in the internal affairs of Ukraine and the Russian army was currently occupying it. Regarding Russian support of the 21 February agreement, he noted that it originally had neither supported nor signed the accord.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his counterpart from the United States “makes it sound like we are against something; we’re not excluding the role of some international agencies or bodies”. He said he had explained why it might not be enough to do so. He also asked the representative of France not to engage in “high hyperbole”. Protesters had not only set the tone, but also played the instruments for the orchestra and sent provocations to the east and to Crimea.
The representative of the United Kingdom emphasized: “Let’s be clear about the facts in Crimea.” Russian forces had forcibly taken over military and civilian airports, pressured Ukrainian military leaders to defect and issued ultimatums for their surrender; and blocked Ukrainian ports and vastly increased their numbers along the common border. Article 6 of the agreement concerning Ukraine’s Black Sea territory stated very clearly that any military formations shall respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, abide by its law and not interfere in its internal affairs, he pointed out. “What part of that agreement justified the actions taken by Russia in the Crimea?”, he asked, noting that his Russian counterpart had just said that he was not against sending an OSCE monitoring mission to eastern Ukraine. Could he now confirm that the Russian Federation accepted the deployment of such a mission in the next few days?
The representative of the Russian Federation said his remarks were not about OSCE, stressing that he supported Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson’s mission and that an OSCE mission “has to be discussed”. There was too much disinformation and too many unrealistic statements. Much of what the representative of the United Kingdom had said about events in Crimea was not based on reality.
The representative of Ukraine said he supported his Russian counterpart’s remarks on the need to be “extremely honest”, but wished to clarify a few points. First, regarding the occupation or threat to occupy the monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine had received information that there might be some provocation concerning the monastery. In fact, demonstrators were defending the monastery from possible provocations, he said. As for the Black Sea fleet, the accord stated that the nautical strength of the fleet would be 11,000, including some 2,000 marines and about 5,300 other military personnel from the Russian armed forces. In December 2013, Ukraine was notified by the “Russian side” that the Black Sea fleet would be maintained at 11,000, he said.
He went on to state that, according to a relevant General Assembly resolution, any violation of the agreed number of armed forces or where they went would constitute “aggression”. In fact, the approximately 14 military helicopters that had arrived should not be considered part of the Black Sea fleet, and neither should the many transport aircrafts infringing Ukrainian airspace, all of which spelled aggression.
Describing Ukraine’s first law upon independence, in 1990, he said it guaranteed equal rights and protections for all ethnic groups, including ethnic minorities. When Ukraine had approached the European Union regarding membership, it had taken on an obligation to sign and ratify a charter on minority languages. The former Ukrainian Government had “redone” that charter, saying it should not apply to languages spoken in Crimea. By voiding that law, the new Government had said that parliamentarians would look again at ratifying the charter. The Russian Federation had not done so, but Ukraine would do so in order to defend those languages at risk of disappearing, he said. As for the formerly governing Party of Regions, he said another “untruth” had been spoken because it had a large caucus in the current parliament. Moreover, one of its leaders had said he would run for President. Urging an opportunity for elections and for learning to live together and govern, he agreed that assistance was needed to “get past the years-long crisis and help to build Ukraine in a way that people are not ashamed to live there”.
* *** *