Senior Official Warns Security Council of Dangerous Escalation in Ukraine, Citing ‘Deeply Alarming Reports of Russian Military Involvement’

28 August 2014
SC/11541

Senior Official Warns Security Council of Dangerous Escalation in Ukraine, Citing ‘Deeply Alarming Reports of Russian Military Involvement’

28 August 2014
Security Council
SC/11541
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7253rd Meeting (PM)

Senior Official Warns Security Council of Dangerous Escalation in Ukraine,

 

Citing ‘Deeply Alarming Reports of Russian Military Involvement’

 

Members Urge Parties to Seek Diplomatic Solutions

The Security Council was meeting amid a dangerous escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with intensified fighting in the last 48 hours in the south-east, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the 15-member body today, urging an immediate focus on political solutions and dialogue. 

Illegal armed groups operating in the Donetsk region had reportedly stepped up their activities, he said, and several small towns and villages were in the midst of heavy fighting.  The town of Novoazovsk had been seized by armed groups.  “We cannot ignore the deeply alarming reports of Russian military involvement in this new wave of escalation,” he said, adding, “If confirmed, it would constitute a direct contravention of international law and of the UN Charter.” 

The situation on and around the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, he said, was of particular concern and remained a key obstacle to the de-escalation of the situation, as arms and heavy weaponry reportedly continued to flow unabated into Ukraine from the Russian Federation.

The representative of the Russian Federation said everyone knew there were Russian volunteers in eastern Ukraine; no one was hiding that.  He urged other countries to also be transparent, questioning what United States advisers were doing in Ukraine and how Ukrainian security forces had acquired such advanced weaponry. 

President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan was nothing more than another step towards escalation, he said.  Kyiv was waging a war against dissent, banning political parties and threatening journalists with violence, and the peace plan was just another manoeuvre to distract attention and solve the situation by force.  He hoped the Kyiv authorities would not lose the opportunities that had emerged from the Minsk talks earlier this week.

The representative of Ukraine said his country had been open to all diplomatic negotiations, while the Russian Federation had undermined President Poroshenko’s peace plan.  It had been made clear to the Russian Federation that Ukraine’s sovereignty and the European aspirations of its people were not negotiable, he stressed.

He demanded that the Russian Federation immediately recall all its troops from Ukrainian territory, and called on the international community to provide support to resist the advance.  “The world is challenged by a nuclear might,” he said, asking “how many red lines must be crossed before that is addressed?”

Also speaking today were representatives of Lithuania, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, Chile, Australia, Chad, United States, Republic of Korea, Argentina, Nigeria, China, Rwanda, and the United Kingdom.

The meeting started at 2 p.m. and ended at 3:28 p.m.

Background

Meeting this afternoon, the Security Council had before it a letter dated 28 February 2014 (document S/2014/136) from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the President of the Council.

Briefing

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the Council was meeting amid a dangerous escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, which included intensified fighting in the south-east.  Noting that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had asked the world “to pay attention to the sharply worsening situation in Ukraine”, Mr. Feltman said, “We are here because we are paying attention, but we must also find a constructive way to urgently address the crisis, whose implications go far beyond Ukraine and the region.”  Illegal armed groups were operating in the Donetsk region and had reportedly intensified their activities over the last two days, he said, spreading violence along Ukraine’s southern coast in the direction of the key strategic port of Mariupol.  Several small towns and villages in the areas were now in the midst of heavy fighting, while the town of Novoazovsk had been seized by armed groups. 

“We cannot ignore the deeply alarming reports of Russian military involvement in this new wave of escalation.  If confirmed, it would constitute a direct contravention of international law and of the UN Charter,” he said.  The United Nations had no independent means of verifying the information coming in, and the Russian Federation had staunchly rejected those reports.  The situation on and around the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation was of particular cause for concern and remained a key obstacle to the de-escalation of the situation on the ground, as arms and heavy weaponry reportedly continued to flow unabated into Ukraine from the Russian Federation.  There was an urgent need to ensure a secure border between the two countries, with international verification, as had been discussed in Minsk.  Also critical was that elections, scheduled for 26 October, take place throughout Ukraine and become a unifying and reconciliatory mechanism.

Quoting an earlier statement from the Secretary-General, he said, “the international community cannot allow the situation to escalate further nor can we allow a continuation of the violence and destruction that the conflict has wrought in eastern Ukraine.  All must do their part to contribute to the peaceful resolution of this conflict, in a manner upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”  The immediate focus must be on finding ways to reverse the dangerous escalation of fighting over the past 48 hours and moving quickly away from armed conflict and towards political solutions and dialogue.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) condemned the invasion of Ukraine’s territory by the Russian Federation’s armed forces, calling it an “open and blatant violation” of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity and a “blow to peace, security and stability” to the region and beyond.  Giving an overview of violations of that country’s borders over past months and recent days, she noted reports that troops from a Russian Federation airborne division were occupying Novoazovsk, Ukraine, and that some 3,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers now numbered among separatist ranks.  The Council had held close to 30 meetings on the matter, and the Russian Federation had assured all of its wish for a solution to the crisis.  Instead, it had escalated the situation, as weapons, equipment, mercenaries and now troops continued crossing the border.  “People are dying in Ukraine because of the criminal acts by the illegal separatists and their Russian supporters,” she stated, calling for the Russian Federation to comply with the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, and to withdraw its military forces, weaponry and equipment from the sovereign State of Ukraine.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said that information from the ground was disturbing, with the escalating violence having serious humanitarian consequences.  All parties to the conflict must respect humanitarian law, bearing in mind the terrorized civilians.  The violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity was inadmissible.  The Russian Federation must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, stop support for the separatists, accept a bilateral ceasefire and seek a lasting political settlement.  Moscow must agree to de-escalate the conflict, halting equipment flows to separatist groups.  “We are expecting gestures from the Russian Federation to contribute to a dialogue,” he said, adding that the talks on 26 August in Minsk between President Vladimir Putin and President Poroshenko had been a positive step, allowing for direct contact.  The crisis was one of the worst in Europe since the end of the cold war.  The European Union would retain its the pressure on the Russian Federation to participate in finding a peaceful solution.  However, continuing sanctions was not in the best interest of the Russian Federation or anyone else.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) expressed deep concern at the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine and reaffirmed the need to respect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.  She called on all parties to cooperate to reach a peaceful solution based on the United Nations Charter and international law.  It was urgent to ensure that assistance, including humanitarian relief, was provided to those in need, but it must not be politicized.  She called on all parties to continue talking and consulting, a process which would hopefully result in peace.  The escalation increased risks and threatened the security of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the entire region.  Real peace would require political will from all parties and a realization that provocation would not lead to peace, but rather to a worsening of the situation.

OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg) was concerned by the serious deterioration of the situation in the areas controlled by separatists as a result of the increased fighting in those areas.  Any unilateral military action by the Russian Federation in Ukraine would be a serious violation of international law and would be considered as such by the international community.  The international community could not let the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine be violated, as the world witnessed a new, dangerous situation emerging there.  He urged the Russian Federation to put an immediate end to all hostile activity along the border.  A political solution to the crisis must be found, and Luxembourg welcomed the efforts by the Secretary-General to promote dialogue between the parties and hoped consultations between them would ensure better control of the borders, which was instrumental for peace.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) stressed the importance of reversing the recent escalation, as it was dangerous and unpredictable.  He appealed to all parties to cease combat immediately and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.  Further, all parties should refrain from carrying out activities incompatible with the United Nations Charter, and all foreign troops should be withdrawn from Ukraine unless authorized by its Government.  The growing number of internally displaced persons, as well as human rights violations, was of concern, he said, urging restoration of the rule of law.  Those responsible for such violations, “whoever they are”, must be brought to justice.  He called on all parties to seek a peaceful solution through political dialogue, welcoming the Minsk talks of 26 August.  The time had come for an inclusive process based on the fundamental principles of human rights and the right of the people of Ukraine to self-determination.

MICHAEL BLISS (Australia) pointed to credible reports of Russian Federation soldiers with sophisticated weaponry in Ukraine, the capture of Russian paratroopers by Ukrainian forces and the holding of funerals in the Russian Federation of Russian soldiers killed in the conflict.  ”All of this points to the use of force by the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” which violated the Charter.  It was also happening against the backdrop of other serious violations, including the parading of captured Ukrainian soldiers and a Russian Federation helicopter attack on and killing of Ukrainian border guards, among others.  The report of a second Russian Federation convoy entering Ukraine demonstrated a flagrant disregard of international laws and norms.  The Minsk talks had great potential, but the Russian Federation continued to participate in the conflict.  That country must ask separatist groups to lay down arms and it must control its border to cease the weapons flows. A political dialogue depended on the Russian Federation.  Concerning the downing of the Malaysian jet over Eastern Ukraine, he said that the Netherlands had made significant progress in returning remains from the site of the crashed airplane, noting his country’s own support of those efforts.  Compliance with resolution 2166 (2014), he added, was imperative.

GOMBO TCHOULI (Chad) expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of the situation in Ukraine.  The escalation was a serious cause of concern for Chad.  The solution to the crisis must be political and found through an inclusive, direct dialogue with full respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) noted that the Council had held 24 sessions in an effort to “rein in” the Russian Federation’s aggressive acts in Ukraine.  In each session, members of the Council had said, “Russia, stop this conflict”.  But, she said, “Russia is not listening”.  Instead of heeding the demands of the international community, at every step the Russian Federation had come before the Council to say “everything but the truth”.  It had “manipulated, obfuscated, and outright lied”.  If the world measured the Russian Federation by its actions, and not by its words, then the activities of the last 48 hours “spoke volumes”. 

During recent talks in Minsk, she noted, President Putin had claimed the Russian Federation was ready for peace.  Yet, on the very same day, satellite imagery showed Russian combat units south-east of Donetsk, in south-east Ukraine.  Russian armoured vehicles and rocket launchers were positioned along the border with Ukraine and the number of Russian troops in that region was now the largest it had been since late May.  Combat helicopters and advanced artillery were shelling Ukrainian positions with recent offensive pushes by armed separatists.  Family members of Russian soldiers were holding funerals for their loved ones who had been killed and were asking for answers.  Still, the Russian Federation denied that its soldiers were ever there.

For the Russian Federation, each step had paved the way for the one that followed, she continued.  Ukraine had repeatedly sought a political solution to the crisis and a path to de-escalation.  Serious negotiations were needed, but the Russian Federation must “stop lying” and fuelling the conflict.  “The mask is coming off,” she declared, adding that the international community had seen the Russian Federation’s actions for what they were, as Russian soldiers fought alongside separatists in another country.  The United States, for its part, had exerted targeted, effective pressure in hopes that the Russian Federation would de-escalate the conflict, and, if necessary, it would continue to work with partners to ratchet up targeted measures against the Russian Federation.  The crisis in Ukraine threatened international order and global peace and security. 

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that he had hoped the Minsk meeting might be a turning point in finding a diplomatic solution.  To the contrary, the situation had deteriorated on the ground.  Voicing serious concern about reports of Russian troops fighting inside Ukraine, he expressed hope that those were false and that the Russian Federation’s explanation was true.  Such acts would be gross violations of international law and would bring a new dimension to the crisis.  In light of the volatile situation, a genuine solution should be found, with an immediate cessation of violence and a continuation of talks.  It was important for peace in Europe and beyond, he added, affirming his country’s support of Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) reiterated her concern at the worsening security conditions and increased violence in Ukraine, saying it was essential for all parties to comply with international law and the United Nations Charter.  The only possible solution was through dialogue, she said, urging members to avoid confrontation through rhetoric.  Welcoming the Minsk talks, she voiced hope for future meetings to enable a peaceful resolution of the dispute.  She also underscored the primary responsibility of the Council to maintain peace and security.  However, it had not been capable of overcoming divisions aimed at finding a diplomatic solution.  She called for actors with the greatest influence to use constructive diplomacy and bring the parties to a constructive dialogue.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said recent events in Ukraine were tantamount to a dangerous escalation of the conflict, with new fronts open and the fighting spreading over a larger geographical area.  That further complicated what was already a very delicate and dangerous situation.  She called on the Russian Federation and Ukraine to resolve their differences peacefully.  Presidents Putin and Poroshenko must maintain their dialogue and build on it like a “scaffold”, as negotiations would lead to the only mutually acceptable diplomatic solution to the crisis.  A military solution was not a viable one.  The Government of Ukraine must continue to protect the interests of its citizenry and foster the necessary national cohesion.  Nigeria had consistently stressed the need to uphold universally agreed principles and the sanctity of international law, including the United Nations Charter provisions, such as on sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

WANG MIN (China) was deeply concerned and worried about the conflict in eastern Ukraine that had led to great loss of life and property.  All parties concerned must exercise restraint so as not to exacerbate the situation.  He emphasized that the crisis could only be resolved through political means and that all parties must agree to a prompt ceasefire.  They must make good use of various mechanisms for dialogue and act in a manner that was conducive to mutual trust.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) said that the Minsk talks had raised hope for a diplomatic solution and ceasefire.  However, the conflict had escalated, he said, noting reports of border crossings by Russian elements and the presence of 3,000 to 4,000 Russian Federation soldiers.  That could lead to a full-blown conflict threatening international peace and security and regional peace and security.  The issue had been on the Security Council agenda since the end of last year, but without meaningful results, except the adoption of resolution 2166 (2014).  Only talks between parties could provide a solution, and the proposed peace plan could be a viable one.  Armed groups must lay down their weapons and give peace a chance, he said, urging the “original stakeholders” to use their influences and “walk towards peace”.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the current situation in Ukraine was the result Kyiv’s reckless policies, which was under the direct influence of a number of States.  The Geneva Statement and the Joint Berlin Declaration had been cast aside by the authorities in Kyiv, which prevented a civilized solution to the crisis.  President Poroshenko’s peace plan was nothing more than another step towards escalation.  Where was the inclusive national dialogue promised by Kyiv? he asked.  Instead, it was waging a war against dissent, banning political parties and threatening journalists with violence.  President Poroshenko had pledged peace, but his plan was just another manoeuvre to distract attention and solve the situation by force.  He hoped the Kyiv authorities would not lose the positive opportunities that had come out of the Minsk talks.

He said there were hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Ukraine sheltering in their basements without water, electricity, food or medicine.  The number of those killed was over 2,000 and increasing geometrically, while the number of refugees seeking safety in the Russian Federation also continued to climb.  A large number of Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, while others had sought refuge in the Russian Federation.  Everyone knew that there were Russian volunteers in eastern Ukraine; no one was hiding that.  He called on other countries to be more transparent.  He asked what United States advisers were doing in Ukraine and questioned how Ukrainian security forces had acquired such advanced weaponry.  A message must be sent to Washington — stop interfering in the internal activities of sovereign States and restrain your geopolitical ambition.

Only the Russian Federation had contributed significantly in the investigation of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight, he said, adding that despite resistance from certain Council members, the first humanitarian convoy had reached Luhansk.  The Council must remember it was not designed to participate in guesswork or spread accusations, but rather was charged with finding a solution to the crisis.  His country proposed the adoption of a press statement on the situation in Ukraine that included a call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.  The proposed press statement should call for an inclusive political dialogue, while urging the international community to redouble its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that he was alarmed by reports of military intervention by Russian Federation units over the last 72 hours, in clear violation of and in breach of international law and the United Nations Charter.  The Russian Federation’s denials fit the patterns of its dishonest approach to conflict, including denying supplying support to separatist groups.  In fact, since the conflict had begun, heavy weaponry and personnel had crossed into Ukraine, including main battle tanks, armoured vehicles, anti-personnel weapons, rocket launchers and portable air defence systems, among others.  Such support had increased in past weeks, with overwhelming evidence that it had come from the Russian Federation. 

Providing a detailed overview of the evidence, he said there were photographs of a Russian Federation flag taken by a Russian serviceman and another taken by a Russian soldier operating an SA-11 missile, which was the same weapon that had shot down the Malaysian airplane.  Also, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) satellite images showed Russian Federation equipment in Ukrainian territory.  It was not credible for that country to keep claiming those forces were in the Ukraine by accident or on holiday.  It could no longer pretend it was not a direct party to the conflict.  President Putin had said that he was willing to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but those words had little value, in light of the “brazen” violation of the Charter and international law.  The Russian Federation must stop immediately the escalation of the conflict and seek a political solution.

OLEKSANDR PAVLICHENKO (Ukraine) said that six months ago, the Council had taken up the matter of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, starting with Crimea, and its waging of a hybrid war against Ukraine through armed groups, the shelling of Ukrainian territory and the violation of Ukraine’s airspace, including the downing of the Malaysian airplane.  There also were illegal crossings by the “so-called humanitarian convoy” without permission from his Government, and the amassing of 45,000 troops and hundreds of armed vehicles along the border.  The Russian Federation had now launched direct military action, moving into several towns with tanks, soldiers, and weapons, shelling Ukrainian forces, seizing Novoazovsk and holding its 10,000 civilians held hostage.

Giving a detailed overview of Russian military troops and equipment, he pointed to both video and photographic images as well as detained Russian soldiers and vehicles as evidence of the Russian Federation’s direct invasion.  He demanded that the country immediately recall all its troops from Ukrainian territory to save both Russian and Ukrainian lives, and to release all Ukrainians held hostage.  Ukraine had been open to all diplomatic negotiations, while the Russian Federation had undermined President Poroshenko’s peace plan.  It had been made clear to the Russian Federation that the sovereignty of Ukraine and its people’s European aspirations were not negotiable.  Article 41 of the Charter empowered the inherent right for individual and collective self-defence.  He called on the international community to provide support to resist the Russian Federation’s actions, which fundamentally and grossly violated international law.  “The world is challenged by a nuclear might.  How many red lines must be crossed before that is addressed?” he asked the Council, calling on that body to take the appropriate actions.

Ms. MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania), taking the floor for a second time, said that she appreciated the drafting of the proposed statement, but requested that more time be given to review the text, specifically in regard to language that should be included addressing separatists who had been preventing humanitarian assistance. 

Also taking the floor a second time, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) questioned the representative of Ukraine, asking why his country had not released the air traffic control data from the day the Malaysian Airlines flight had crashed.  He went on to question why Kyiv had attempted to implement a peace plan which called for insurgents to capitulate.  The Ukrainian authorities should have better understood the regional dynamics.  Instead, the call for insurgents to lay down their weapons was an obvious step towards escalation and disaster.  Kyiv also should have known that the insurgents would not just give up and leave for the Russian Federation.  He questioned whether someone had advised Kyiv to do that or if authorities in Ukraine intentionally attempted to destabilize the region.

Mr. PAVLICHENKO (Ukraine) said his country had taken an active role in the intergovernmental commission’s investigation of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet.  Ukraine had cooperated in good faith with international partners, he said, noting that the commission’s report would soon be released.  President Poroshenko had spoken clearly of his support for further dialogue to resolve the situation in eastern Ukraine.  However, issues such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and European integration were on the bargaining table.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.