Deepening Pockets of Violence in Ukraine Can Be ‘Return to Intractable Conflict or Momentary Upsurge’, Top Political Officer Tells Security Council

SC/11920
5 June 2015
7457th Meeting* (AM)

Deepening Pockets of Violence in Ukraine Can Be ‘Return to Intractable Conflict or Momentary Upsurge’, Top Political Officer Tells Security Council

Debate Focuses on Mitigating New Clashes, Facilitating Return to Negotiations

The military track as a means to end the crisis in Ukraine had not been abandoned, and a prospect of a return to a deepening, intractable conflict was emerging, the Security Council heard today following the recent escalation of hostilities in eastern parts of that country.

Although the ceasefire was generally holding in most parts of the conflict zone, the death toll in the crisis had exceeded 6,400, with 400 lives lost since the signing of the February 2015 Minsk accords, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a briefing.  The 15-member body also heard from Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

Highlighting an additional 28 deaths, including nine civilians, near Marinka on Wednesday, Mr. Feltman said that the full implementation of the Minsk pact was indispensable to lead Ukraine out of conflict, warning that the continued non-implementation entailed “dangerous limbo”.

“We are either looking at a return to a deepening, intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict zone.  We cannot afford either scenario,” he said.

Turning to the dire humanitarian situation, he said that Ukraine now ranked among the top 10 countries in terms of internally displaced persons, numbering more than 1.3 million.  The complete lack of humanitarian access across the contact line was of immediate concern, he said, urging the Ukrainian Government and the authorities in non-Government-controlled Donetsk to remove impediments to the delivery of life-saving aid.

He also stressed the important roles played by three political and diplomatic mechanisms — the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group and the four Working Groups on political, security, humanitarian and economic issues.  Those, he added, were interconnected and equally important.

Providing a more detailed account of the fresh hostilities via video link from Kyiv was Mr. Hug, who said that “the military track has not been abandoned in favour of the political one”.  After the signing of the Minsk package of measures, large parts of the conflict region had initially been quiet.  In May, however, the security situation started to deteriorate, with towns such as Horlivka or Hranitne in the Donetsk region seeing increased violence.  Villages north of Luhansk, including Shchastia and Stanytsia Luhanska, also were witnessing regular shelling.

In visits to “heavy weapons holding areas” that were in use by all sides, he said the Monitoring Mission had noted irregularities:  weapons previously recorded were now more often missing, and heavy weapons were now in areas prohibited by the Minsk accord.  In many cases, the Mission had been denied access to the holding areas and entry to locations along the Russian-Ukrainian border.  Unmanned aerial vehicles had been jammed, and monitors had been threatened and even fired upon.

Despite those obstacles, he said, the Mission had gathered extensive first-hand evidence of violations through its 375 monitors in Donbas and its unmanned aerial vehicles in the sky.  Tensions had increased and ceasefire violations were becoming more frequent and severe, with the re-introduction of “GRAD” rockets and other multiple-launch rocket systems a cause for added concern.  The ceasefire and political process prescribed under the Minsk accords remained the “only available framework for peace,” he stressed, urging parties back to the negotiation table.

When the floor opened for debate, the representative of Lithuania said that 13 points of the Minsk accords had been ignored or wilfully breached by the Russian proxy militants, who continued to intimidate and threaten OSCE observers.  She called on the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts, including by setting up a United Nations support office on the ground.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that if the Minsk accords had been implemented, Ukraine would have undertaken constitutional reforms and the world would have seen democratic development of the country.  Instead, he said, the Ukrainian parliament had introduced amendments that had not been agreed with Donetsk and Luhansk.  Additionally, Kyiv had said elections could only take place when the south-east was under its control.

Ukraine’s delegate said that the militants, with the direct backing of the Russian regular armed forces, had carried out a massive targeted assault on Ukrainian forces around Maryinka and an attack near Schastya on 3 June.  About 1,000 people, including Russian regular military cadre, and 30 tanks were engaged into that assault.  Ukrainian forces were shelled 82 times, including 11 times with the multiple launch rocket system.  On the other hand, Ukraine had consistently fulfilled the Minsk accords in full and in good faith, and tried to use all possible diplomatic leverage to deter escalation.

The representatives of France, United States, Jordan, New Zealand, Angola, Venezuela, Spain, United Kingdom, China, Chile, Chad, Nigeria and Malaysia also spoke.

The meeting began at 9:32 a.m. and ended at 11:32 a.m.

Briefings

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, while the situation in eastern Ukraine had remained tenuous, some grounds for hope existed:  the ceasefire continued to be largely held in most parts of the conflict zone; the number and pace of casualties had generally slowed; and the political process aimed at fully implementing the package of measures in the Minsk agreements was finally under way.  “The full implementation of Minsk is sine qua non for leading eastern Ukraine and the country out of conflict,” he said, stressing that the continued non-implementation of various provisions of the accord entailed “dangerous limbo”.

He expressed the United Nations’ grave concern over the almost-daily deadly clashes, the use of heavy weaponry, the laying of mine fields on both sides of the contact line, the reported continued presence of foreign mercenaries on Ukrainian soil, as well as reported flows of heavy weaponry into eastern Ukraine.  All of that ran contrary to key provisions of the Minsk package.  The death toll since the outbreak of the conflict exceeded 6,400.  Since the signing of the Minsk agreements, 400 more lives had been lost; on Wednesday, an additional 28, including nine civilians, were killed in deadly clashes around Marinka.

“We are either looking at a return to a deepening, intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict zone.  We cannot afford either scenario,” he said, stressing that the ceasefire must be fully respected, with civilian protection a priority concern.

Turning to the dire humanitarian situation, he said that Ukraine now ranked among the top 10 countries in terms of internally displaced persons, totalling more than 1.3 million.  Of immediate concern was the complete lack of humanitarian access across the contact line in either direction, which was preventing life-saving aid from reaching those most in need.  Furthermore, the $316 million 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan faced a shortfall of $221 million, he said, urging Member States to fulfil their pledges.  

On the political and diplomatic front, he noted three mechanisms — the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group, and the four Working Groups on political, security, humanitarian and economic issues.  Those were interconnected and equally important.  From 7 to 10 May, the Secretary-General had visited Poland, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, holding several constructive meetings on the Ukraine conflict, including with the Presidents of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, who both had reassured him of their continued commitments to a peaceful resolution.  The Secretary-General would continue his good offices’ role on Ukraine, and remained open to considering how best to further support the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and more broadly, the implementation of the Minsk agreements. 

The critical work of the human rights mission in Ukraine, evidenced by its 1 June report, as well as of the humanitarian and development actors on the ground remained priority areas for the Organization, he said.  The package of measures, including the reinstatement of full control of the State border by the Ukrainian Government, had a deadline, which was fewer than six months away.  Neither Ukraine nor the region, nor the international community could afford to have that process fail.  He highlighted the tremendous human cost of the conflict, which could only begin to be addressed through respect for the ceasefire and fulfilment of the political, economic, social, humanitarian and human rights provisions of Minsk, reiterating the United Nations’ unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  “The people of Ukraine deserved nothing less,” he concluded.

ALEXANDER HUG, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, highlighted a “significant” deterioration in the security situation in eastern Ukraine, with the violence in and around Marinka, near the line of contact, which was a worrying development.  After the signing of the Minsk Package of Measures, large parts of the conflict region had initially been quiet, notably in the Luhansk region.  However, there had been continued fighting in hotspots, including near the destroyed airport in Donetsk, in Mariupol, and near the village of Shyrokyne.

The Monitoring Mission had observed a pattern of heavy fighting in those two locations, he said, with occasional flare ups in other places.  In the beginning of May, the security situation had started to deteriorate further, with towns in the Donetsk region, such as Horlivka or Hranitne, seeing increased violence.  Villages north of Luhansk, such as Shchastia and Stanytsia Luhanska, were now witnessing regular shelling.  The violence in Marinka, in that context, did not necessarily represent an intensification.  Rather, it appeared to represent a “refocusing” of weaponry and personnel.

Describing the Mission’s work, he said it had seen the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the contact line.  It had visited so-called “heavy weapons holding areas” where all sides stored such arms.  It noted irregularities in that weapons previously recorded were now more often missing, and heavy weapons were now in areas where they were prohibited by the Minsk accord.  The Mission also had been prevented from accessing the holding areas and denied entry to specific locations along the Russian-Ukrainian border.  Unmanned aerial vehicles had been jammed, and Mission monitors had faced threats and had even been fired upon.

Despite those obstacles, the Mission had gathered extensive first-hand evidence of violations through its 375 monitors in Donbas and its unmanned aerial vehicles in the sky, he said.  Tensions had increased and ceasefire violations were becoming more frequent and severe, with the re-introduction of “GRAD” rockets and other multiple-launch rocket systems were cause for added concern.

More broadly, he said, the Minsk agreements prescribed a ceasefire, as well as a political process towards the normalization of the situation.  “They remain the only available framework for peace,” he stressed, and their implementation fell under the auspices of the Trilateral Contact Group, with whom the Mission cooperated.  The Working Group on Security of the Trilateral Contact Group was tasked with increasing security in the conflict zone through a plan to withdraw tanks and certain weapons, as well as to de-escalate the situation near Shyrokyne.

The Joint Centre for Control and Coordination, also part of the peace process, comprised military representatives from Ukraine and the Russian Federation, he said.  Yet, it “still does not operate jointly”, with the sides maintaining separate ceasefire violation logs, which suggested a persistent structural split in its work.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said there were at least 1.3 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, with civilians killed and wounded as both sides placed military positions near civilian infrastructure.  The Mission had noted the temporary closure of Ukraine’s biggest coke and chemical plant in Avdiivka due to shelling, as well as a “significant” amount of landmines and unexploded ordnance that threatened civilians.  Compounding the situation was a permit system along the contact line.  The delivery of aid and conduct of commerce had been affected.  With access across the contact line almost at a standstill, contact had been “hugely disrupted”, resulting in divided communities and families.  The Mission facilitated humanitarian assistance, where possible.

“Developments around Marinka are worrying,” he said, “suggesting that the military track has not been abandoned in favour of the political one”.  Such events underlined the need to break the violence, and he urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.  The Mission stood ready to assist in the implementation of the Minsk agreements and restoration of peace.

Statements

RAIMONDA MURMAKAITĖ (Lithuania) said that when Russia-backed forces occupied Debaltsevo in February in violation of existing ceasefire agreements, many worried that the violation would not be the last.  For some time, the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been reporting violations of the Minsk agreements and an increased movement of heavy weaponry in the territories held by the illegal militants.  The military attack against the Ukrainian positions in Mariynka and Krasnogorivka, and the use of multiple rocket-launcher systems against Pkisky, Nevelske and Vodiane yesterday, on 3 June, was the most serious blow to the increasingly fragile status quo.

She said that OSCE monitors had made several attempts to contact “Donetsk People’s Republic” leaders in order to facilitate a cessation to the fighting around Mariynka, but none of their calls were taken.  Such behaviour spoke of a clear intent to go on the offensive in breach of all existing accords.  Furthermore, the self-proclaimed leaders of the illegal armed groups did not hide their intention to seek more territory.  The Council had put its weight behind the Minsk agreements through resolution 2202 (2015), unequivocally demanding their implementation.  However, 13 points of those agreements had been ignored or wilfully breached by the Russian proxy militants, who also continued to intimidate and threaten OSCE observers.  She called on the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts, including by setting up a United Nations support office on the ground.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said if the Minsk agreements had been implemented, Ukraine would have held constitutional reforms and the world would have seen democratic development of the country.  However, a different logic had been enforced by those wanting to assert their political preferences.  “This is the root of the tragic situation,” he said.  Expressing concern at the resurgence of military activities in Donbass, he said the package of measures for implementing the Minsk accord offered a road map for settling the crisis, and the Council had supported it through resolution 2202 (2015).  Therefore, the Council must deal with causes of conflict.  Since 12 February, a dialogue should have started on the modalities for conducting local elections and on the special status of Donbass.

Instead, he said, the Ukrainian parliament had introduced amendments that had not been agreed with Donetsk and Luhansk.  Kyiv had said elections could only take place when the south-east was under its control.  Yet, it had refused to hold a dialogue with representatives of Donbass.  That was the reason for the difficulty in unlocking negotiations. It also had not adopted a law that banned punishment for acts that had taken place in Donetsk or Luhansk.

Under the Minsk accord, constitutional reforms were required by year-end, he said, adding that the parameters for that reform had been set, with decentralization efforts to consider the particular nature of those regions.  Other agreements had been reached on cross-border cooperation.  On 3 March, Kyiv had set up a constitutional commission, with foreign experts, but there were no representatives from Donetsk or Luhansk.  Suffering in Donbass was due to Kyiv’s refusal to allow humanitarian workers or fulfilment of other agreements.  People had been cut off from food and medicine.  In contrast, his Government had sent 28 convoys with 36,000 tons of essential food and medicine.

Providing details of civilian casualties in Donetsk, he asked why Ukraine only spoke of military losses, while in those areas, civilians were dying.  He called on the Monitoring Mission not only to focus on ceasefire violations, but to inquire about the targets of the shelling.  “We need a clear picture of what is happening in Donbass.”  He expressed surprise at the indifference of Western partners, citing supply of military material, instructions for Ukrainian military and the presence of foreign fighting units — all of which had taken place after the positive work of the Working Group.  Progress had been seen in the areas of demilitarization, the list of artillery to be withdrawn and the start of direct consultations on the holding of local elections.  “If we allow Kyiv to not implement political measures in Donbass, the situation could fall out of control with unpredictable consequences,” he said, urging Council members with influence on Ukraine to help ensure that did not happen.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), citing resumed fighting in Marinka launched by separatists, condemned any ceasefire violations and called on all sides to implement the Minsk accords.  The fighting had resulted from limited forces, notably those engaged by separatists.  They included half of a battalion, including armoured vehicles.  Concentration of heavy weapons must end, as should the presence among separatists of foreign fighters.  Moscow must do more to control separatists’ actions.  The Minsk process had allowed for positive momentum, albeit unevenly applied, with more than 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers released.  The political aspect also had seen encouraging developments, with the establishment of the Working Group. Progress had been made on organizing elections in the separatist zone.  The Trilateral Contact Group had met, but he regretted the “about face” by the Russian party in that context, which was bound by resolution 2202 (2015) to fulfil its obligation.  The Russian Government could not be a well-meaning mediator.  “Everyone knows the role they have been playing in this crisis from the start,” he said.  Priority must be full implementation of the Minsk Package.  He urged the Russian Federation to stop trying to extricate itself from the negotiation process.

SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said that, on 3 June, combined Russian-separatist forces launched attacks in Marinka in the Donetsk region.  The Russian Federation and its separatist allies had offered conflicting explanations for those attacks, sometimes blaming Ukraine for breaching the Minsk accords.  Those arguments had been undermined by the separatists, who, having forgotten to run their tweets by Moscow, had posted some saying:  “Marinka is ours!”

She said combined Russian-separatist forces had attacked Dbaltseva, recalling that one separatist commander had told Reuters on 15 February:  “Of course we can open fire on that area, the area is internal.”  At no point did Minsk recognize Marinka as separatist-controlled territory.  Yet, for the Russian Federation, the contact line could shift to include territories it wanted.  The Monitoring Mission had noted that heavy weapons moved west, preceding, as well as during, the fighting.

She said the Russian Federation continued — despite the capture of two Russian special operations soldiers — to deny any military involvement in Ukraine.  Implementation of the Minsk agreements was the only way out of the conflict.  For its part, Ukraine had made good-faith efforts to deliver on its commitments, holding direct dialogue with separatists, which was a “bitter pill” it had swallowed for the sake of peace.  It was working to address corruption and had pursued reforms, such as decentralization.  It also cooperated with international monitors.  The United States would continue to support Ukraine in its efforts towards reform.  The Russian Federation had flouted its Minsk commitments.

EIHAB SAMI SALEM (Jordan) said the improved situation in eastern Ukraine had had some positive political effects, albeit slow and limited.  The Council and international community must provide all support to the parties to help them overcome obstacles to implementation of the peace agreements, he said, expressing concern at increased ceasefire violations.  Military confrontations would only complicate matters, nullifying the peace agreements, which, in turn, would impact all outstanding issues and worsen both the economic and humanitarian situation.  He pressed parties to focus on direct dialogue, within the context of the Normandy format.  He also urged implementation of the agreements, especially concerning the illicit transfer of heavy weaponry.  He welcomed the Tripartite Contact Group’s recent meeting as a “positive step forward”, and he reiterated the crucial role of OSCE in monitoring borders and the ceasefire, calling on all parties to allow it access to all affected regions.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said fulfilment of the Minsk package was imperfect at best, and disregarded at worst.  The OSCE faced major obstacles in monitoring and verifying compliance, owing to its inability to access conflict areas.  He called on the Russian Federation to use its influence over the separatists to ensure that what was agreed in Minsk was implemented and that the OSCE monitors were able to perform their job in areas under separatist control.  Concerned about ongoing ceasefire violations and corresponding casualties and loss of life, he condemned the violence seen this week in Marinka and reiterated the OSCE call for restraint.  “Heavy weapons must be withdrawn from the contact line and a true ceasefire must be respected,” he said.  A lasting solution was needed; genuine engagement in the political process laid out in the Minsk agreements, in particular, the efforts of the Trilateral Contact Group and its working groups, were critical to restoring peace and ending the suffering.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said he was deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, although the ceasefire was holding in general.  However, the latest large-scale military operations in Marinka were a real setback towards a sustainable peace in Ukraine.  He reiterated his support for that country’s inalienable rights, noting that threat or use of force was not a means by which to resolve the conflict.  He called for the immediate cessation of hostility, withdrawal of heavy weapons and a full return to compliance with the Minsk accords.  He urged the Council to facilitate the OSCE Monitoring Mission.  “Too much blood had been shed,” he said, adding that the Ukrainian people had the right to live in peace, freedom and security.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), expressing its concern over the recent armed conflict in the west of Donetsk, called for a peaceful and political resolution, as well as the protection of civilians.  Any incident in violation of the Minsk Agreements should be investigated based on reliable evidence.  The parties to the conflict must continue to express good will.  The OSCE merited the support of the Council.  All parties must fulfil the agreements to address the underlying causes of the conflict.  A moderate approach was needed to avoid unilateral actions and coercive sanctions, which violated international law and undermined the climate of trust.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that it was unfortunate that the Council had to require today’s meeting to discuss the situation.  The Minsk agreement must be given full and unconditional support.  Figures spoke for themselves.  Ukraine now ranked in the top 10 countries in terms of internally displaced persons.  He called for an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of weapons and a return to the agreement, urging both the rebel groups and the Government of Ukraine to comply with obligations.  Security Council has served something for progress.  It was also disturbing to see human rights violations, for which no impunity should be allowed.  He supported an extension of the OSCE mandate.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said it was disturbing that the Council had to return to discuss the issue.  Wednesday’s alarming escalation of hostilities was started by the Russian-backed separatists.  But, the Russian media claimed that it was started by Ukraine.  The world was watching, he warned, noting that Russian tanks and rockets were seen on Ukraine soil.  He called on the Russian Federation to withdraw forces and stop supporting the separatists, as well as the release of Nadiya Savchenko.  The separatists were Russia’s “creation and tool”, he said, urging the Russian Federation to use its influence towards a peaceful solution.  He stressed the importance of the Trilateral Contact Group and Working Groups, urging all parties to engage in talks.  But, the Russian Federation had not attended a meeting of the Working Group on economic issues and had walked away from a Contact Group meeting.  The crisis started with illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, he said in closing.

LIU JIEYI (China) said consensus had been reached in Minsk and the Council’s adoption of resolution 2202 (2015) outlined its endorsement of the Package of Measures for implementing the Minsk accords.  Progress had been made on the ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and the establishment of working groups.  He called on parties to keep calm, consolidate the ceasefire and press ahead with the settlement of Ukrainian crisis.  The Council should play a constructive role in that regard.  For its part, China supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, believing that dialogue was the only way to make progress.  He called for efforts find a comprehensive, balanced and lasting political solution to achieve peace.  China would continue to play a constructive role in fostering such a settlement.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) supported the United Nations and OSCE efforts to bring about an end to the situation in Ukraine.  Full compliance with the ceasefire, verified by the Monitoring Mission, was the only way to achieve peace.  He urged respect for the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  He regretted that the situation had worsened, urging parties to respect human rights, including for minorities, and for perpetrators of violations to be brought to justice.  More than 5 million people required aid and the number seeking shelter was on the rise, requiring “swift and unhindered” access to the affected populations.  The Council should reiterate the importance of creating conducive conditions for implementing the Minsk agreements.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) expressed his deep concern at renewed “encounters” in Marinka, saying heavy artillery had caused victims on both sides.  Such violence violated the Minsk agreements, which should have opened the path for a settlement of the conflict through dialogue.  Since 12 February, conflicts had been reported daily, showing that the ceasefire had limited the fighting to Donetsk and Luhansk.  An escalation could thrust Ukraine into a large-scale civil war.  The solution was political, requiring a genuine commitment to a negotiation process.  He urged calm and restraint in efforts to implement the Minsk accords.  All parties must start direct and inclusive dialogue, he said, encouraging countries and others with influence to do everything to help them seek a political solution.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) said reports of a large-scale offensive by separatists in Marinka underscored the fragility of the situation in eastern Ukraine.  If such violations persisted, both sides must take concrete steps to de-escalate matters, based on the Minsk agreements, which were designed to stabilize the situation.  A military solution was untenable and she urged both sides to work towards a negotiated political solution.  The conflict should be resolved in a manner that considered the separatists’ concerns, while respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said his Government was “greatly alarmed” by escalated fighting in eastern Ukraine, which was the worst since the signing of the Minsk agreements.  He urged the parties’ compliance, adding the need for them to cooperate fully with the OSCE Mission.  He welcomed that the ceasefire had “generally” been respected.  Both sides had withdrawn heavy weapons in the months following the signing of the accords, and overall improvement in March and April had allowed for the return of the international team working to recover material from downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.  He regretted that it had taken almost one year for that team to be allowed to enter the crash site, due to ongoing fighting.  Despite claims that heavy weapons had been withdrawn, he was concerned at the presence of weapons in forbidden areas.  Amid clashes in Marinka, the Minsk agreements were “in real danger of unravelling”.  Parties were obliged under international law to protect civilians.  They must take a step back from spiralling violence to recommit to implementation of the Minsk accords.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) provided details of “grave violations” by the Russian Federation and Russian-backed terrorists of the ceasefire supported by Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).  Those breaches included a 3 June incident, in which the militants, with direct backing of the Russian regular armed forces, carried out a massive targeted assault on Ukrainian forces around Marinka and an attack near Schastya.  About 1,000 people, including Russian regular military cadre, and 30 tanks were engaged into the assault near Marinka.  Ukraine forces were shelled 82 times, including 11 times with multiple launch rocket system GRAD.  Artillery fire was coordinated professionally.  Russian-backed terrorists continued attacks overnight in Mariupol, Luhansk, Artemivsk and Donetsk directions, as well.  Russia and its proxies in Donbas had repeatedly violated the Minsk agreements.

Ukraine had consistently fulfilled the Minsk agreements in full and in good faith, and tried to use all possible diplomatic leverage to deter escalation.  Taking into account the serious violations of the Council resolution by Russia, he requested that the body promptly react, including to provocations.  An assault on Mariupol would be a red line, and should Russia cross it, that would trigger an immediate and resolute response.  He urged Russia to withdraw its armed forces, stop reinforcing the terrorist organizations, cease its destabilizing and provocative actions and release all hostages.  It must also end its occupation of Crimea, which remained an integral part of Ukraine.

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, said that the representative of the United States missed mentioning many provocations by Kyiv and its violations of the Minsk agreements.  That country’s diplomacy was inconsistent, he said, citing a call for non-use of force by Secretary of State John Kerry following his meeting with the Russian President.  Contrary to what was said, the crisis in Ukraine began with the overthrowing of a democratically elected President.  He heard many unjustified rhetorical statements in today’s debate, but the meeting was nonetheless significant because Council members confirmed the importance of the Minsk agreements, of Council resolution 2205 (2015) and of direct dialogue, which his country was striving to achieve.

Ms. POWER (United States), citing the question posed by the representative of Ukraine about the legal authority of Russian presence in Ukraine, asked:  “Where is it stipulated in the UN Charter?”

Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he did not see a need to respond further to the representative of the United States.

*     The 7456th Meeting was closed.

For information media. Not an official record.