|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7165th Meeting (PM)
‘Emerging Spirit of Compromise’ Evaporates as Violence Escalates
in Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council
The “emerging spirit of compromise” of the 17 April Joint Geneva Statement on Ukraine appeared to have evaporated amid different interpretations of the document and fresh violence in the eastern and southern parts of the country, including the shooting of a local mayor, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council today.
Updating the 15-nation body in an evening meeting, Jeffrey Feltman said that a group of military monitors and Ukrainian staff for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had been detained on 25 April. “The United Nations strongly condemns this act,” he stated, urging those responsible to release them “immediately, unconditionally and unharmed”, and those with influence to assist in resolving the situation.
He said militia groups and armed civilians were springing up in cities across the region, seizing buildings and shutting towns off from the rest of the country. There were increasing reports of torture, kidnappings and clashes. Earlier today, self-declared separatists reportedly had begun to take control of Lugansk and, a few hours ago, had stormed police headquarters.
On 27 April, he continued, the Mayor of Kharkiv had been shot by unknown assailants, while self-declared separatists had seized a local Government building in Kostyantynivka. In Donetsk, a “pro-Unity” rally had turned violent when separatists reportedly attacked the group. “These developments should alarm us all,” he said, urging expeditious work towards peace and stability.
Ukraine’s representative said it had been one month since the Russian Federation had occupied Crimea and that country was now “brazenly” interfering with Ukraine, despite the “beam of hope” the recent Geneva meeting had provided. His Government had taken practical steps to restore law and order, approved the decentralization of power in the country and drafted an amnesty law for protestors, except those suspected of serious crimes.
“Russia has done nothing,” he said, except sponsor paramilitary units to destabilize the eastern region. It had done nothing to urge separatists to lay down arms and hand over seized buildings. Ukraine respected the rights of peaceful assembly, but not for heavily armed, professionally trained people who attacked civilians and police. The Russian Federation had repeatedly stated it had not sent troops to Ukraine, yet had built up battalions along the Ukrainian border.
The representative of the Russian Federation said there was no confidence in the current coalition in Kyiv. Armed groups were forming military battalions, the Maidan remained occupied and political prisoners were being tortured instead of being given amnesty. Amid such violence, it was not possible to speak of a free Ukraine.
People in eastern Ukraine did not want a repeat of the Kyiv situation, he said, emphasizing the need for national dialogue. Regarding the kidnapped personnel, he said it had not been wise to send monitors on a bus without proper papers to an area filled with armed groups. His country was doing all it could to speed their release. Further, Russian troops had conducted training exercises in line with regulations.
On that point, the representative of the United Kingdom said the Russian claim to the right to self-defence was irresponsible, as it was not under threat by Ukraine.
France’s delegate demanded the immediate release of OSCE monitors, stressing that as the Russian Federation had not lived up to its commitments the European Union had announced new sanctions against it. That was not its preference. Regardless, the holding of the upcoming 25 May presidential elections must not be threatened.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Rwanda, Argentina, United States, China, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Jordan, Chile, Australia, Lithuania, Chad, and Nigeria.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of the Russian Federation.
The meeting began at 5:53 p.m. and ended at 7:37 p.m.
As the Security Council met to consider the situation in Ukraine this afternoon, members had before them a 28 February 2014 letter (document S/2014/136) from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council President, requesting, in accordance with Articles 34 and 35 of the United Nations Charter, an urgent meeting due to the deteriorating situation in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. He also requested that a representative of the Ukraine Government be allowed to participate in the meeting, in accordance with relevant Charter provisions and rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, regretted that the “emerging spirit of compromise” during the Geneva talks on 17 April appeared to have evaporated. The implementation of the Geneva Statement had stalled, as parties sought to give different interpretations of what had been agreed, while “unhelpful” rhetoric by many escalated already high tensions. Meanwhile, the situation in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine continued to deteriorate, with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) military monitors and Ukrainian staff detained on 25 April.
“The United Nations strongly condemns this act”, he said, urging those responsible to release the monitors and staff “immediately, unconditionally and unharmed”, and those with influence on the situation to assist in resolving it. In other events, militia groups and armed civilians were springing up in cities across the region, seizing buildings and shutting towns off from the rest of the country. There were increasing reports of torture, kidnappings and clashes. Today, self-declared separatists reportedly had begun to take control of Lugansk, and only a few hours ago, had stormed police headquarters, opening fire with automatic weapons and throwing stun grenades at police inside.
Separatists, he said, had also seized the regional administration building and prosecutor’s office earlier today, as well. On 27 April, the Mayor of Kharkiv had been shot by unknown assailants; self-declared separatists had seized a local government building in Kostyantynivka; and in Donetsk, a “pro-Unity” rally had turned violent when separatists reportedly attacked the group with clubs. Also on that day, clashes in Kharkiv between some 400 opponents and 500 to 600 supporters of a unitary Ukraine had resulted in injuries.
Those events had occurred only in the last four days, he said, stressing: “These developments should alarm us all.” The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission provided factually based and publicly available information on the state of human rights in Ukraine, while the Secretary-General continued to engage with world leaders. Time was of the essence and Mr. Feltman urged working expeditiously towards peace and stability.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said he had requested today’s meeting as his Government was deeply concerned about the situation in southern and eastern Ukraine. Because the 17 April Geneva Statement had yet to achieve its objectives, the Security Council must keep the situation under close scrutiny. The Russian Federation had claimed that it was Ukraine that was destabilizing the situation, but it was the Russian Federation that was doing so. Russian military jets had been seen flying over the skies of eastern cities and military exercises were being conducted on Ukraine’s borders. The Russian claim to the right to self-defence, stipulated in Article 51 of its Constitution, was irresponsible rhetoric because the country was not under threat by Ukraine. The Geneva agreement called on all sides to refrain from provocative actions. Ukraine had the right to uphold the rule of law on its territories. The Russian Federation was threatening international peace and security.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) condemned the taking of OSCE monitors hostage and demanded their immediate release. The 17 April Geneva Statement, in which the Russian Federation, Ukraine, United States and the European Union agreed to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, showed the road ahead, calling for an end to illegal occupation of public buildings and urging all sides to lay down arms. However, while Ukraine faithfully was seeking to implement the Geneva agreement by pledging a constitutional reform and removing barricades in Kyiv, the Russian Federation had not lived up to its commitments, including the vacating of Government buildings. He urged the Russian Federation to choose the path of de-escalation. The European Union had announced new sanctions against the Russian Federation, but that was not their preference. The holding of the upcoming 25 May presidential elections must not be threatened.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) said that, as recent events undermined efforts to diffuse tensions, the situation was slowly leading to an open war that could involve countries in the region. He condemned the attempt to kill the Mayor of Kharkiv and the detention of OSCE military monitors, demanding their immediate release. While welcoming the 17 April joint de-escalation measures, he was concerned that many of them had not been implemented. He urged the disarming of military groups and the return of seized buildings. Reiterating the call to respect Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said the country had a right to restore public order, provided it did so in a proportional manner. The only way to resolve the crisis in eastern Ukraine was through a political solution.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) recalled that during the talks on 17 April, parties had expressed a desire to reach an agreement. She urged a return to constructive dialogue, as the situation could not be solved through unilateral acts. The Council was meeting today to repudiate the violence seen in various aggressions, notably that suffered by the Mayor of Kharkiv. She also called for the safe, unconditional release of OSCE monitors unharmed.
SAMANTHA POWER ( United States) said the hard-negotiated joint declaration issued on 17 April had laid out concrete steps toward de-escalating the situation in Ukraine, and had offered a moment of hope. Since then, Ukraine authorities had been faithfully fulfilling their commitments. The same could not be said of the Russian Federation. Pro-Russian groups in the streets of Donetsk and other cities were sharply undermining law and order. Those were not peaceful protests, but well-orchestrated campaigns. Forty people had been taken hostage by pro-Russian groups, including OSCE inspectors. Her country joined other responsible Governments in condemning those acts, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained. Since 17 April, Ukraine admirably implemented the agreement, voluntarily offering truce over the Easter holidays, publicly committing itself to far-reaching constitutional reform, and promising to protect Russian-speaking populations. It would also grant amnesty to those who surrender arms. On the other hand, the Russian Federation’s many statements were at odds with its actions. It continued to fund heavily armed separatist groups in Ukraine. The United States supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the principles of the Charter, in advance of the upcoming presidential elections there, while the Russian Federation committed to de-stabilization.
LIU JIEYI ( China) insisted that, given the intertwined situation, a political solution was the only way to resolve the crisis. In order to tackle the crisis at its root, both historical and current developments must be taken into account. Despite the Geneva agreement, which had sent a positive signal for de-escalation, regrettably, tensions had worsened in southern and eastern Ukraine. His Government urged both sides to keep in mind a larger picture of peace and security in the region and implement the agreement already reached. China had remained objective, calling on all parties to seek dialogue, not confrontation, and stood ready to continue playing its constructive mediating role.
PAIK JI-AH ( Republic of Korea) said her country was deeply concerned over continued tensions in Ukraine, including incidences of violence and aggression by armed groups. All provocative actions that had been aimed at destabilizing Ukraine must cease immediately. To ameliorate the situation, the OSCE monitoring mechanism was an indispensable tool. She called for all international personnel being held hostage to be released promptly and for all parties to the Geneva Statement to implement commitments made. It was essential to ensure that Ukraine experienced fair and free elections in the coming month.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said next month’s elections were threatened by the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine. Yesterday, armed pro-Russian groups had not only attacked peaceful protesters advocating for unity, but had also attacked police today. De-escalating measures were sorely needed. Ukraine’s Government had proposed an amnesty policy covering those occupying official buildings. The Russian Federation should condemn separatists and call upon armed groups to vacate seized buildings. She strongly condemned the kidnapping of OSCE monitors and mission members, emphasizing that the OSCE monitoring mission should play its full role in the Geneva Statement. She called for the immediate release of those being held hostage and for dialogue to resolve tensions.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) reaffirmed the right of Ukraine to protect its territories. What was happening in eastern Ukraine was a breach of international law. Activities of separatists were not a peaceful demonstration. He condemned the detention of OSCE monitors and called for the implementation of the Geneva Statement by all sides. Armed groups should leave the occupied buildings. Ukraine authorities should work to find a peaceful solution in dealing with mutinies, while respecting human rights. Ukraine’s acceptance of the competence of the International Criminal Court was a demonstration of its readiness to honour international sanctions and law.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET ( Chile) deplored the intensifying crisis in Donetsk and other cities due to the acts of violence by separatist groups, which would have fatal consequences. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, including OSCE monitors. Both sides must return to the confidence shown in the negotiation towards the Geneva Statement, which called for restoration of security for all citizens, among other objectives. He welcomed constitutional reform to be undertaken by Ukraine authorities and stressed the need for respect of that country’s sovereignty. Member States should not resort to use of force and should abstain from unilateral actions.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said Ukraine was living up to the Geneva commitments, including initiating a process on constitutional reform, disarming radical movements and guaranteeing the right of Russian-speakers to use their language. However, the Russian Federation had not abided by agreed-upon obligations. The detention of international personnel was deplorable and he called for their immediate release. Recent violence included the shooting of the Mayor of Kharkiv, the occupation of Government buildings in the east and the intimidation of populations. The Ukrainian Government must take measures to enforce the rule of law. The international community remained united in support of Ukraine. He called on the Russian Federation to meet its Geneva commitments and to exercise its influence over separatist actions.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said the Geneva agreement had required that all sides refrain from violence, and yet violations of those commitments had occurred days later. The Right Sector had mobilized its units in the south-east of Ukraine. In Geneva, there had been a window of opportunity for de-escalation. Nonetheless, following the meeting, it was clear there was no attempt to implement such efforts. There was no confidence in the current coalition in Kyiv. Armed groups were forming military battalions, the Maidan remained occupied and political prisoners were being tortured, instead of being given amnesty.
In light of kidnappings, violence against politicians and other incidents that needed to be investigated, he said it was not possible to speak of a free Ukraine. Constitutional reform had excluded certain groups and did not address federalization and the status of the Russian language. Sanctions against the Russian Federation were pointless and counterproductive, and the future of Ukraine and the world was not being considered. People in eastern Ukraine did not want a repeat of the Kyiv situation. National dialogue was needed. Addressing issues that his counterparts had discussed, he said, regarding the kidnapped personnel, it had not been wise to send monitors on a bus without proper papers to an area filled with armed groups. His country was doing all it could to speed the release of those detained. Regarding statements about Russian troops, he said they had conducted training exercises in line with regulations.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the Geneva document was just the latest in a list of the Russian Federation’s signed and breached commitments, including the United Nations Charter, Helsinki Final Act, 1991 Almaty Declaration, 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. Despite provocations, the Ukrainian authorities had taken steps to implement the Geneva Statement, from removing barricades in Maidan to constitutional reform discussions in Parliament. Yet, not one seized building had been handed back, violent attacks continued and the Russian Federation had taken a threatening tone, warning of consequences if Ukraine failed to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory. She strongly condemned the kidnapping of international monitors and other violent acts committed by armed separatists and their external sponsors.
BANTE MANGARAL ( Chad) said there had been new escalation of violence, including taking of hostages and assassination attempts. He called for the release of those hostages and reiterated the importance of seeking every possible means for dialogue. His Government supported the principles of the Charter, including the territorial integrity. The international community should step up its mediating efforts to bring Ukraine and the Russian Federation closer to a peaceful solution.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria), Council President, speaking in her national capacity, said the current situation required the utmost care to ensure that it did not degenerate into a civil war that would, consequently, affect international peace and security. The Geneva Statement had called for the disarmament of all illegally armed groups, the return of seized buildings and an amnesty for protestors. Yet, that “glimmer of hope” was waning as tensions were escalating, she said, calling for the immediate release of kidnapped international monitors. The way towards lasting peace rested in dialogue by all concerned parties. The alternative would “bleed the already-open veins of Ukraine” and a strong surgical procedure would be needed to mend those veins. The clock was ticking, Ukraine was the patient and the Council was the surgical team. “Let us stabilize and restore the patient to health or many more might bleed,” she said. “It is our collective responsibility.”
YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine) said it had been one month since the Russian Federation had occupied Crimea and violated international law. Now, the Russian Federation was brazenly interfering with Ukraine despite the “beam of hope” gleaned from the recent Geneva meeting. His country had taken the necessary practical steps, including restoring law and order, approving the decentralization of power and drafting an amnesty law. In addition, a nationwide campaign had resulted in 6,000 weapons being handed over. “ Russia has done nothing”, he said, but sponsor paramilitary units to destabilize the eastern region. The Russian Federation had also failed to urge armed separatists to lay down their arms and hand over seized buildings.
Ukraine’s Constitution respected the rights of peaceful assembly, he stated, but that did not included heavily armed, professionally trained individuals attacking civilians and police. Recent events had included the kidnapping of Ukrainian journalists and the destruction of a military helicopter, shot down by a man-portable air defence system, a weapon not likely to be purchased in a shop by peaceful demonstrators, he observed. The illegal armed groups had admitted responsibility for the above-mentioned crimes and many of their leaders were Russian Federation citizens. The Russian Federation had repeatedly stated it had not sent troops to Ukraine, but meanwhile had built up battalions along the Ukrainian border.
Ukraine had never threatened the Russian Federation and never would, he stated. And yet, the Russian Federation was destabilizing parts of Ukraine, he pointed out, cautioning that the scenario in the east might mirror events in Crimea. Twelve days had passed since the Geneva commitments. Ukraine had done its part and now the Russian Federation must fulfil its commitments, including freeing hostages, handing over seized buildings and refraining from any actions aimed at undermining the 25 May elections in Ukraine.
Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that he wished to read his statement again, as it seemed it had been so misunderstood by other delegations. What he wished to hear from his Ukraine colleague was a scenario that covered Kyiv’s actions, which were simply lacking.
* *** *