Speakers Urge Prompt Compliance with Minsk Accord
Faced with “the worst hostilities in eastern Ukraine since a ceasefire” and accusations of increased Russian support to separatists, the top United Nations political official told the Security Council this afternoon that all actors must urgently work to implement the Minsk agreements of September 2014.
“All of us, especially the parties to the conflict, have a responsibility to concertedly, and on a most urgent basis, assist in moving from a narrative of confrontation to a narrative of cooperation, from a logic of war to a logic of peace,” said Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
He added that a solid basis for resolution was still offered by the Minsk Protocol, which called for a ceasefire, Government reforms and related actions. “There cannot be any unilateral attempts to change their provisions, nor should any party selectively interpret the accords’ stipulations,” he added.
Mr. Feltman said he hoped that meetings planned for today in Berlin at the ministerial level could help return to implementation of Minsk. However, he worried that the recent escalation would unravel the agreements. Fighting was at first concentrated mainly around Donetsk Airport, but the numbers of dead and injured, including innocent civilians, were quickly rising as violence spread throughout Donetsk and Luhansk, including to cities that were until recently relatively quiet.
Reinforcement of fighters and the deployment of heavier weaponry were reported on both sides, he said, noting that today Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated that there were more than 9,000 Russian regular troops in his country, an accusation refuted by Moscow.
Mr. Feltman said that the United Nations had no means of independently verifying the facts of a 13 January incident in which a bus was hit and 12 civilians lost their lives, although the Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been able to approximate the missile’s trajectory. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s view that the incident must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
With a deteriorating humanitarian situation, he stressed the obligation of all parties to the conflict to guarantee unhindered access to all people in need. He added that a recent directive on crossing the contact line from Government-held to rebel-held areas could make it exceedingly difficult to move aid into areas beyond Government control. He reported, in addition, that the 2015 Strategic Response Plan had requested $189 million but as yet had garnered few commitments.
With mutual recriminations between Kyiv and Moscow, he said there was an impasse on the diplomatic and political front. There was, however, “no substitute for direct and constructive dialogue to move peace forward”. The enforcement of a sustainable ceasefire, which he said now existed in name only, was an urgent and primary concern. The line of contact should be observed, and the other elements of the broader Minsk peace plan also required expeditious implementation.
Relaying his experiences in continuing the Secretary-General’s good offices on a visit to Kyiv from 15 to 17 December 2014, he said that all interlocutors from the Government and from bilateral and international partners had expressed their convictions that there was no more scope for delay for a ceasefire and political reforms. He pledged the unwavering support of the United Nations to bring about a durable and lasting peace and help usher in the necessary changes.
Following that briefing, Council members expressed continued deep concern over the violence in eastern Ukraine and again called on all parties to implement the Minsk agreements without further delay. Representatives of Lithuania, United States, France, the United Kingdom and other Western countries again called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, end support to the separatists and pursue the peace process. Some said Ukraine had taken unilateral steps towards compliance.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the only purpose of his country’s involvement in eastern Ukraine was to provide much-needed humanitarian aid. He accused the Ukrainian Government of pursuing punitive military action in the region and walking away from the Minsk agreements, which he said drew the line of separation between the forces in a way that kept the Ukrainian side out of the Donetsk Airport, among other provisions. The military path followed by Ukraine had resulted in the loss of many civilian lives, including the passengers of the bus hit last week. “This will result in catastrophe,” he warned.
Also addressing the Council, the representative of Ukraine said his country was fighting terrorists backed by the Russian Federation. He wondered why Russian battalions were seen in various locations in his country. “Were they on vacation?” he asked. Saying the OSCE report indicated separatist responsibility for the attack on the bus, he said his country remained fully committed to the Minsk agreements, having unilaterally declared and adhered to ceasefires. He appealed to the Russian Federation to sign and keep to the timetable of a ceasefire, which would bring about conditions for resolving all issues.
Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Chad, Spain, Jordan, China, Venezuela, Malaysia, Nigeria, New Zealand, Angola and Chile.
The representatives of the Russian Federation, the United States and Ukraine took the floor again.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the conflict in eastern Ukraine was not a civil war, but a calculated, systematic foreign-sponsored attempt to destabilize the country. Noting a recent disturbing increase in ceasefire violations, including a massive onslaught by the militants on the Donetsk airport, she said that growing evidence pointed to the militants’ systematic use of residential areas as a cover for launching Grad rockets and shelling Ukrainian forces. Lithuania looked forward to the results of a thorough investigation into the reprehensible Volnovakha bus attack, whose perpetrators must be brought to account.
She said her country rejected all calls to renegotiate the terms of the ceasefire and urged all sides, particularly the Russian Federation, to fully implement the Minsk agreements without further delay. The Russian Federation must stop destabilizing Ukraine and sending military supplies to the illegal separatist groups, and withdraw all its military equipment. The Ukrainian-Russian border must be secured, and continuous monitoring by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) must be ensured. All hostages and illegally detained persons must be released, including the Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, who was being illegally held in the Russian Federation. International observers must be allowed full, unfettered access throughout Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States), noting the alarm sounded by Mr. Feltman, said that the Council was meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine for the first time this year. The Russian Federation had consistently chosen the path of escalation, fighting alongside the separatists and breaking its commitments to stability. The Russian Federation continued to train rebels and provide them with military equipment in violation of the Minsk agreements, international law and other protocols. In eastern Ukraine, OSCE monitors had confirmed rockets launched from the direction of areas controlled by the Russian-supported separatists. That monitoring mission, which was allowed to operate in only two border checkpoints, had caught hundreds of people in military dress crossing the border. She wondered what the Russian Federation had to hide if those convoys were humanitarian as it claimed. Russia’s words made peace but its actions made war, she said, urging the country to adhere to the Minsk agreements, remove all military equipment and personnel from Ukraine and release all hostages, including a Ukrainian pilot on a hunger strike. In contrast, Ukraine was taking steps to reduce tension. She stressed the similarities of Russian actions to redraw the borders in Crimea and two Georgian regions.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that after some 30 Council discussions on Ukraine, he wondered whether speakers were truly interested in peaceful resolutions of conflict. His country was fully committed to the Minsk agreements. However, Kyiv did not show up for a recent meeting on the accord, as fighting raged over Donetsk Airport and the Ukraine military continued to shell populated areas. His country had called for a swift withdrawal of weaponry from agreed areas and had expressed readiness to exert influence on rebels to take those steps. However, the Ukrainian side had resumed shelling. Since the Minsk agreements, there had been a constant militarization of the situation with support of other countries. “This will result in catastrophe,” he warned.
Those who came to power in a coup d’etat had set aside all intentions of a peaceful solution, he said, listing a number of actions he said Kyiv had neglected to take and speaking of signs of a Nazi resurgence in Ukraine. He called the Ukrainian military operation a punitive action, saying that residential areas had been destroyed with total disregard for international law, and maintaining that the bus tragedy was being used to generate hysteria even though the shelling seems to have come from the direction of Government forces. Speaking of numerous other incidents of civilian deaths and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, he said Russia was providing significant humanitarian aid, despite accusations from some in the Council. He pressed all conscientious members of the international community to urge the Ukrainians to halt their military action, work for implementation of the Minsk accords and make the necessary reforms.
BANTE MANGARAL (Chad) noted that after a period of relative calm, exchanges of fire broke out around the Donetsk Airport in serious violation of the Minsk agreements. He condemned the recent shelling of a bus that claimed civilian lives, a majority of whom were women. Taking note of the recent decision by the Ukraine parliament to mobilize tens of thousands more military reserve personnel, he urged both sides to show calm in order to bring about national reconciliation. With more than 4,800 lives lost in the ongoing conflict and millions more displaced, he called for intensified efforts towards peace negotiations.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that he heard many people say they were tired of talks on Ukraine as the matter was repeatedly discussed by the Security Council and the General Assembly. But his delegation would never tire of reiterating the importance of defending the territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine. Spain supported any diplomatic efforts, including those of the Trilateral Contact Group. The Minsk Protocol was a fundamental reference point, which should not be re-interpreted. Noting the need to guarantee effective delivery of humanitarian aid, he voiced concern about some aid going to separatist-controlled areas. Spain’s Foreign Minister would visit Ukraine in February, he added.
ALEXIS LAMEK (France) stressed the need to get political dialogue back on track and to implement the Minsk agreements in good faith, expressing support for any international efforts along that line. In a political statement, the OSCE had called for stabilization. That was a step in the right direction but there must be verifiable action. The risk of backsliding should not be underestimated, requiring sustained attention by the Council. With the Minsk agreements, the prospect was a bit more promising. The road map had not been called into question, but implementation was too slow, he said, urging both parties to show courage to commit. With much remaining to be done, he called on Ukraine to implement institutional reform and urged Russia to stop transferring military equipment and personnel into Ukraine.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said that the international community must urgently work to solve the Ukraine crisis as it was deteriorating dangerously, resulting in perilous human rights violations. He called on all parties to avoid more violence, refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and return to the Minsk peace process, the legitimate framework for resolution. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected and the flow of foreign fighters to the separatists must be stopped. He called on all actors to take all measures to protect civilians and to hold accountable those who had committed crimes. He looked forward to the upcoming diplomatic meetings, in order to calm the situation and bring about permanent peace.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) expressed deepening concern over civilian deaths and reports of more Russian military support crossing the border, which he said flouted the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The separatists must allow Ukrainian humanitarian convoys to enter all areas and Russia must stop using the cover of humanitarian aid to provide military aid to the separatists and withdraw its troops. All sides must engage in constructive dialogue and bring about an end to the violence. Evidence of Russian involvement was beyond denial, he maintained, listing Russian materiel seen in eastern Ukraine. Implementation of the Minsk agreements was crucial; however, Russia continued to undermine implementation prospects, by not allowing checkpoints of the OSCE monitoring mission on its border and by keeping its troops in Ukraine. Suggesting that it was part of a pattern of Russian interference with its neighbours, he called on the country to stop such activities and help implement the Minsk agreements without delay.
LIU JIEYI (China), expressing deep concern over the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, said that the Minsk agreements must be implemented immediately. A political solution was the only way out, with full account taken of the interests of all ethnic groups of eastern Ukraine. He hoped all parties would join hands and find a lasting political settlement as soon as possible. Noting that it was China’s longstanding position to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, he pledged his country’s efforts in trying to find a solution to the crisis.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) supported the principles of peaceful settlement of disputes and the need to put an end to the conflict, rejecting acts of violence, irrespective of who committed them. There should be no interference from outside, he said, also cautioning against any application of unilateral or coercive measures imposed, or military action. Any incidents must be investigated independently. It was important to protect civilians and guarantee access for humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons and refugees.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) deplored the severe destabilization around Donetsk Airport, calling on the conflicting parties to fully implement the Minsk agreements. A military solution was unsustainable. He was saddened by the recent shelling of a bus, which claimed lives of civilians, including women, and he called for an investigation to hold the perpetrators to account. Following the downing of MH17, he expected a de-escalation of tension, but instead saw the conflict persist. Adhering to the United Nations Charter, such as principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in domestic affairs, was of paramount importance to maintaining international peace and security. He urged the sides to explore all possible avenues, respect rule of law, including human rights and humanitarian law, and adopt moderate approaches.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) noted that the situation in Ukraine had not changed and that fighting between the Government forces and rebels remained unabated. He called for a political solution and urged respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. The Minsk agreements were a workable framework for a peaceful resolution.
JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) expressed deep concern over the conflict and urged closer cooperation between the relevant parties, including the OSCE, to provide urgently needed humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations. He called on all parties to fully implement their commitments under the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, and for the release of detainees by both sides. Such conditions must be met promptly to allow productive discussions to resume, especially the planned summit-level consultations, which were now of great urgency. Alarmed by continued reports of the involvement of Russian troops and materials in the conflict, New Zealand urged the Russian Federation and pro-Russian separatists to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to use its influence on pro-Russian separatists to fully respect the ceasefire. The Council met 27 times last year to discuss Ukraine, but so far there had been little impact from that high-level attention. There should be “more purposeful” Council engagement on the matter with a real focus on supporting efforts to negotiate a resolution to the conflict.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) agreed that all peaceful means must be found to resolve the Ukraine crisis on the basis of the Minsk agreements, and he called on all parties to work to implement that accord. In addition, it was critical to relieve the humanitarian suffering in Ukraine, especially given the winter conditions there. “Let us all use our intelligence to find a solution that safeguards international peace and security in this conflict,” he said.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) expressed his deep concern over the situation in eastern Ukraine and violations of human rights by all parties there. He called on all to implement the Minsk agreements and to continue high-level dialogue towards a peaceful solution, as well as to refrain from unilateral activities. Humanitarian efforts should be stepped up in conjunction with national authorities. He stressed respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine and the principle of non-interference.
YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said that the Russian Federation had annexed Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which were sovereign territories of Ukraine. Sooner or later, the country would be brought to justice for that crime of aggression. Today, it continued its military aggression in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine by sending military units, delivering heavy armaments to the local terrorist groups, and training, equipping and financing mercenaries. He wondered why Russian battalions were seen in various locations in his country. “Were they on vacation?” he asked. The OSCE report indicated separatist responsibility for the bus attack, but his country remained fully committed to the Minsk agreements, having unilaterally declared and adhered to ceasefires. On 13 November 2014, representatives of Ukraine and Russia had signed a working document envisaging a clear implementation schedule for the Minsk provisions, particularly regarding assurance of the bilateral ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and return to the “touchline”. But the Russian side had recalled its signature. On 18 January, Ukraine had appealed to the Russian Federation to sign and keep to the timetable of a ceasefire, which could have started on 19 January.
Taking the floor again, Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that his counterpart from the United States tried to create yet more propaganda by going beyond today’s topic. That was why he had to talk about United States policy. In Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, where the United States intervened, there was more bloodshed. While some capitals in Europe had started to understand that, others still made accusations against Russia. On Ukraine, some delegations expressed grievances about Russia. He urged them to follow a press conference held in Moscow today and to carefully read his statement.
DAVID PRESSMAN (United States), responding to the statement by the Russian Federation, said that that country was changing the subject because it had taken no steps to implement the Minsk agreements, while the Ukrainian Government had taken many. Contradicting numerous claims made by the Russian representative, he said it appeared that the Russians were working to alter the accord. “We need more facts and less fantasy,” he said, as well as more implementation than deviation of the Minsk agreements.
Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said that the United States’ statement was merely a repetition of the early one delivered by Ms. Power; it did not add to it.
Mr. SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said that concrete reports refuted the claims of the representative of the Russian Federation. Ukraine had a right to defend itself, he stressed, insisting that the country was facing terrorism as civilians were being killed and destructive acts were being carried out.