Thousands of Civilians Risk Losing Access to Basic Necessities as Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine, Security Council Told

SC/12704
2 February 2017
7876th Meeting (PM)

Thousands of Civilians Risk Losing Access to Basic Necessities as Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine, Security Council Told

Members Hear from Political, Humanitarian Affairs Chiefs, Head of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Mission

The recent dangerous uptick in fighting seen in eastern Ukraine had left hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk of losing all access to water, heat and electricity, a particularly worrying development given the current plummeting winter temperatures, the Security Council heard this afternoon.

Briefing the 15-member Council, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, warned that more than 10,000 reported explosions in the Donetsk region over the last 24 hours — the highest number of violations yet recorded — had left civilians in the crossfire.  Heavy weapons banned under the Minsk Agreements — including multiple-launch rocket systems — were endangering residential areas, water-purification plants and power lines, he said.

“Combatants must stop the shelling in cities such as Avdiivka, on both sides of the Contact Line,” he emphasized, calling for an immediate halt to all hostilities, full observance of the ceasefire, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access, and the facilitation of full access to the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The United Nations would remain committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict in a manner that would uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, he pledged.

The statement agreed at the 1 February Minsk meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group and representatives from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions outlined the measures that both sides should take, he continued.  The priority now was to support OSCE-led peace efforts in Ukraine and to ensure full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, he said, while stressing that the parties to the conflict bore the main responsibility for working towards that end, he stressed, pointing out that almost 10,000 people, including 2,000 civilians, had been killed since the conflict had broken out almost four years ago.

Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, spoke by video link from Ukraine, painting a grim picture of difficulty in gaining access to the affected areas.  Further damage to water filtration systems could lead to catastrophe, he warned, urging full, safe and unhindered access to such facilities.  Welcoming Wednesday’s statement by the Trilateral Contact Group, he echoed its sentiment regarding the need to restore electricity and water supplies, as well as access to facilitate the repair of critical infrastructure.  Violence on such a scale, involving loss of life, was unacceptable, he stressed.  There was also as critical need to prioritize the protection of civilians, he said, pledging to continue to monitor the worsening humanitarian situation.

Also briefing the Council was Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, who reported that around 1 million people in areas of Donetsk City outside Government control had been without water or heat for 24 hours following the shelling, which had damaged electricity and water systems, generating a “knock-on” effect on the heating supply.  Temperatures were frigid, with civilians facing -20 degrees Celsius without adequate shelter, heat or access to water — all essential for survival.

He reported that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners had joined a Government-led assessment team to the town of Avdiivka, where critical water and electricity systems had been recently damaged.  The latest escalation of violence was exacerbating the ongoing needs of some 3.8 million civilians who continued to bear the brunt of the protracted conflict, he said, pointing out that more than 70 per cent of people in need were women, children and the elderly.

In the ensuing debate, Ukraine’s representative said that his country’s forces continued to respect the ceasefire, but the Russian Federation, on the contrary, had blatantly violated the Minsk Agreements from the start, continuing attacks and occupying Ukrainian towns.  That country’s proxies occupied 1,700 square kilometres of territory beyond the Contact Line agreed at Minsk in 2014, he emphasized.  The Russian army and its proxies had begun military attacks against Avdiivka on 29 January, from areas under the control of “Russian Federation-led terrorists”, he recalled.  They had used Grad multiple-rocket launch systems and tanks, among other weapons forbidden under the Minsk Agreements.  The shelling had intensified on 30-31 January, targeting civilian infrastructure, he said, adding that, until 1 February, numerous Ukrainian attempts to repair it had been blocked.

Describing the destruction of critical infrastructure, and thus the creation of humanitarian disaster, as a terrorist tactic, he said it dispelled Russian propaganda about peaceful miners fighting the authorities.  “Locals would never do this to their neighbours,” he said, emphasizing that such actions could qualify as war crimes.  Ukraine would provide relevant evidence in order to add to its claim against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice, he said.  The Russian Federation and its proxies in Donbas continued to undermine the peace process by pursuing their political objectives through the indiscriminate use of force, while the mechanisms created to avoid destabilization and advance the Minsk Agreements were not as efficient as necessary.  He urged the Russian Federation to abide by the Minsk commitments, especially the security and humanitarian provisions, and called upon the international community to urge that country to “get out of Ukraine”.

The Russian Federation’s representative said Kyiv sought to use the clashes it had itself triggered as a pretext to pull out of the Minsk Agreements.  Describing statements issued by Ukraine as “divorced from reality”, he recalled that on 3 January, the Defence Minister had confirmed his country’s seizure of land in the grey area, announcing that the action was not in violation of the Minsk Agreements since the territory in question belonged to Ukraine.  On 17 January, the Interior Minister had called on border guards to seize State borders with the Russian Federation, while the President had announced that Ukraine would not implement political reforms until it had full control over the border.  Rather than normalizing the situation in Donbas and seeking compromise as part of the Contact Group and Normandy Process, Ukraine was trying for a military settlement, he said.

He went on to note that the escalation in Donbas had coincided with foreign visits, an apparent attempt to suck in newly-elected Heads of State.  Ukraine needed money, which it could swindle out of the European Union, the United States and certain institutions by pretending to be a victim of persecution, he said.  The shelled schools had been targeted by weapons — including multiple-rocket launch systems — that should have been withdrawn from the Contact Line, according to the Minsk Agreements, he said, emphasizing that the international community must be firm in order to restore the situation to the political track.  The Council had sent a message calling for a ceasefire on 31 January, and on 1 February, the Contact Group had called for full compliance, he pointed out.  Those keen on a political settlement would not allow the situation to develop along the lines of a worst-case scenario, he stressed.  Rather, they would focus on implementing the Minsk Agreements, he added, expressing regret that Ukraine’s delegation in New York was continuing its sabre-rattling.

Throughout the debate, Council members expressed concern about the escalating violence, the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and the importance of respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The representative of the United States said her country stood with Ukrainians under Russian occupation, and until the Russian Federation and its separatist allies respected Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the crisis would continue.  “We do want to better our relations with Russia,” but the dire situation in Ukraine called for condemnation, she said.  She also called for an immediate end to the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea, emphasizing that sanctions would remain in place until it returned control to Ukraine.

Council members reiterated that the solution must be a political rather than a military one, with Bolivia’s representative calling upon the parties to adhere to uphold the Minsk Agreements and comply fully with Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).  He also warned against a “step-up in rhetoric”, saying it would be detrimental to a political solution.  Speakers also expressed support for the OSCE’s efforts, with several delegates calling for safe access to the affected regions for its monitoring teams.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, United Kingdom, China, Sweden, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Ethiopia, Uruguay, and Egypt.

The meeting began at 3:04 a.m. and ended at 4:55 p.m.

Opening Remarks

Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine), Council President for February, said that despite calls for a return to the ceasefire, the situation in Avdiivka and other eastern parts of Ukraine remained tense, showing signs of further escalation.  Emphasizing that today’s discussion was intended to facilitate a settlement of the situation, he urged the Council to consider the possibility of issuing a presidential statement that would reflect the meeting’s main elements.

Briefings

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that according to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, almost 10,000 people — including members of Ukraine’s armed forces, armed groups as well as civilians — had been killed and more than 23,000 injured since the start of the conflict almost four years ago, over 2,000 of those killed being civilians.  Since 7 January, there had been a dangerous intensification of the conflict.  On 1 February, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission had reported more than 10,000 explosions in the Donetsk region over 24 hours, the highest number of violations yet recorded by the Mission.  While the most serious recent clashes had hit the Avdiivka–Yasynuvata–Donetsk airport area, heavy fighting had also been reported near Mariupol, Popasna and in the Svitlodarsk/Debaltseve areas, in areas under Government control and in those that were not.

Furthermore, there had been a serious escalation of hostilities along the entire length of the Contact Line, he continued.  The OSCE Mission had registered frequent use of heavy weapons proscribed under the Minsk Agreements, including multiple-launch rocket systems.  At least four deaths had been reported since the escalation on 28 January, as had clashes that endangered civilian crossing points, residential areas, water-purification plants and power lines.  He said that an urgent disengagement of forces at all checkpoints across the Contact Line would greatly improve security in conflict areas, where more than 20,000 people crossed the Line daily.  Hundreds of thousands of civilians on both sides risked losing all access to water, heating and electricity, a particularly worrying development, given the current frigid winter temperatures.  Emphasizing the threat of a serious environmental disaster should chemical waste storage locations be shelled, he said thousands of people in Avdiivka were reportedly at risk of being evacuated.  “Combatants must stop the shelling in cities such as Avdiivka, on both sides of the Contact Line,” he stressed.

The Secretary-General had called for an immediate halt to all hostilities, full observance of the ceasefire, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access, and the facilitation of full access to the OSCE Mission.  The statement agreed at the 1 February Minsk meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group and representatives from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions outlined measures that both sides should take, he noted.  While that was a positive development, it would be tested by implementation of the proposed measures, given the pattern of successive ceasefire agreements being broken by violence.  Despite commendable efforts by the Trilateral Contact Group and the Normandy Four, the recent intensification of the conflict had coincided with the relative stagnation in diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution.

He called on both sides to lift all restrictions on the OSCE Mission’s free movement, and for an immediate end to all use of force against its monitors.  Noting that almost two years had passed since the signing of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, he said the United Nations remained committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict in a manner that upheld Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.  The priority was to support peace efforts in Ukraine, led by OSCE, and ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, he said, while stressing that the parties bore the main responsibility to work towards that end.

ERTUGRUL APAKAN, Chief Monitor, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission, spoke by video link from Ukraine, expressing concern over the escalating violence and intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine.  The fighting was in its fifth day and tension levels had increased, with ceasefire violations becoming more frequent and severe.  On 31 January, thousands of artillery explosions had been recorded, and the next day, explosions in the Donetsk region had reached nearly 10,000.  The use of multiple-launch rocket systems had caused civilian casualties and was of great concern, he reported, noting that power lines, as well as other critical infrastructure, had been damaged.  Repair crews had faced difficulty in gaining access to the affected areas and efforts to access and repair the power lines were ongoing.  Further damage to water filtration systems could lead to catastrophe, he warned, urging full, safe and unhindered access to that infrastructure.

Monitoring teams had been facilitating the ceasefires between Russian and Ukrainian officers, he continued.  The window of opportunity and the ceasefire would have to hold long enough for the respective teams to access the affected areas.  Welcoming Wednesday’s statement by the Trilateral Contact Group, he emphasized the need to restore electricity and water supplies as well as access to facilitate the repair of critical infrastructure.  Calling for an immediate end to the fighting, and for safe and unhindered access to affected areas, he emphasized the critical need to prioritize the protection of civilians, pledging to continue to monitor the worsening humanitarian situation.  Violence on such a scale, involving loss of life, was unacceptable, he stressed, noting that access to water, heat and medical care was limited in too many places, he said.

STEPHEN O’BRIEN, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the current escalation in violence was causing severe damage to critical infrastructure, especially when combined with low winter temperatures.  “Today, temperatures are -10 degrees Celsius, but -20 is not unheard of at this time of year,” he noted, emphasizing that adequate shelter, heating and access to water were essential to survival.  Shelling had damaged electricity and water systems, generating a “knock-on” effect on the heating supply.  The United Nations and its humanitarian partners had joined a Government-led assessment team to the town of Avdiivka, where critical water and electricity systems had been recently damaged, he said.  The mission had not been without risk, he said, noting that two technical teams sent to repair infrastructure with the promise of a ceasefire for a few hours on 1 February in order to carry out their work had been subjected to small-arms fire in areas outside Government control and had been forced to abandon their work as a result.

He reported that around 1 million people in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk City were without water or heating for 24 hours following the shelling.  Some 500,000 inhabitants of Mariupol were now reliant on a back-up reservoir after the water mains upon which the city depended had been damaged by a massive leak.  Once the hostilities ended, it would take several days to ensure that the area was demined and heavy machinery could access to the area to carry out repairs.  Welcoming yesterday’s statement of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, which called for the facilitation of humanitarian efforts aimed at restoration of water, electricity and heating supplies, he also acknowledged efforts by the Government of Ukraine to provide heating and water for those most at risk.  Damage to the Phenol plant near Novgorodske village meant that waste chemicals, including deadly sulfuric acid and formaldehyde, were now at critical levels, he added, warning that there was a real risk of chlorine gas leaking into the water supply.

The latest escalation of violence was exacerbating the ongoing needs of some 3.8 million civilians who continued to bear the brunt of the protracted conflict, he continued, pointing out that more than 70 per cent of people in need were women, children and the elderly.  They were particularly vulnerable and must be reached immediately with life-saving aid.  Few partners were officially allowed to operate in Donetsk and Luhansk, and on 25 November, the last international non-governmental organization had been ejected from non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk, depriving people of immediate life-saving assistance.  Urging all parties to guarantee secure and unimpeded access for the United Nations and its humanitarian partners, he said Government-imposed bureaucratic impediments, particularly in relation to the ban on commercial trade and the importation of food and medications across the Contact Line, remained a serious constraint to alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

Statements

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, saying his country was fully committed to implementing the Minsk agreements.  The President had stressed that there was no military solution in the Donbas and that the Government was focused on peaceful and diplomatic means.  Ukrainian forces continued to respect the ceasefire.  On the contrary, the Russian Federation blatantly had violated the Agreements from the start, continuing attacks and occupying Ukrainian towns.  Its proxies occupied 1,700 square kilometres beyond the Contact Line agreed in Minsk in 2014.

On 29 January, he recalled, the Russian army and its proxies had begun military attacks on Avdiivka from areas under the control of Russian Federation-led terrorists.  Russian forces had used Grad multiple-rocket launch systems and tanks, among other weapons forbidden under the Minsk agreements.  Shelling had intensified on 30-31 January, including civilian infrastructure as targets, he said, adding that, until 1 February, “Russian-led terrorists” had blocked numerous Ukrainian attempts to repair it.  Describing the destruction of critical infrastructure, and thus the creation of humanitarian disaster, as a terrorist tactic, he said it dispelled Russian propaganda about peaceful miners fighting the authorities.  “Locals would never do this to their neighbours,” he said, emphasizing that such actions could qualify as war crimes.  Ukraine would provide relevant evidence in order to add to its claim against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice, he said.

Ukraine had managed to sustain the heating system in Avdiivka at the minimum level, he continued, noting that 11 warming centres had been established, as had scores of field kitchens, kindergartens and hospitals.  Describing recent events as a test of the monitoring and coordination mechanisms in Donbas, he said that despite calls for a ceasefire, “from all corners”, militants continued their shelling, notably against residential buildings, including one in Avdiivka housing some 1,500 people.  Such attacks underscored two important trends, he said:  the Russian Federation and its proxies in Donbas continued to undermine the peace process by pursuing their political objectives through indiscriminate use of force; and the mechanisms created to avoid destabilization and advance the Minsk agreements were not as efficient as necessary.  The Joint Centre for Control and Coordination appeared to be ineffective in a crisis situation, given Russian non-cooperation, he said, urging the Russian Federation to abide by the Minsk commitments, especially the security and humanitarian provisions, and the international community to urge that country to “get out of Ukraine”.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said Kyiv sought to use the clashes that it had itself begun as a pretext to pull out of the Minsk agreements.  Noting the “overwhelming” number of Ukrainian statements that were divorced from reality, he recalled that on 3 January, Ukraine’s Defence Minister had confirmed his country’s seizure of land in the grey area, announcing that the action was not in violation of the Minsk agreements since the territory in question belonged to Ukraine.  On 17 January, the Interior Minister had called on border guards to seize State borders with the Russian Federation, while the President had announced that Ukraine would not implement political reforms until it had full control over the border.  Furthermore, the Deputy Defence Minister had boasted in militarist rhetoric that carried consequences.

Emphasizing that OSCE Mission cameras had documented shelling from Ukrainian positions in the east, he said similar actions had occurred in the south.  The OSCE Mission camera had recorded intensive fighting on 20 January, with 20 shells coming from Ukrainian army positions and targeting militia.  From 26 to 29 January, following shelling from the direction of Ukrainian forces, dozens of places in Donyetsk and other areas had been destroyed.  Also during that period, OSCE observers had noted tanks in other areas, as well as the disappearance of 76 tanks from Ukrainian armouries.

Rather than normalizing the situation in Donbas and seeking out compromise as part of the Contact Group and Normandy Process, he said Ukraine was trying to achieve a military settlement.  Escalation in Donbas had coincided with foreign visits, an apparent attempt to suck in newly elected Heads of State.  Ukraine needed money, which it could swindle out of the European Union, the United States and certain institutions by pretending to be a victim of persecution, he said.  The schools had been shelled by weapons — including multiple-rocket launch systems — that should have been withdrawn from the Contact Line, according to the Minsk agreements.

To restore the situation to the political track, the international community must be firm, he emphasized.  The Council had sent a message on 31 January calling for a ceasefire, and on 1 February, the Contact Group had called for full compliance with it.  The Russian Federation expected the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, and trusted that those keen to settle issues through political means would not allow the situation to develop along a worst-case scenario.  Rather, they would focus on implementing the Minsk agreements, he added, expressing regret that Ukraine’s delegation in New York was continuing its sabre-rattling.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) called on all parties to show restraint, ban the use of heavy weapons and disengage their forces at the Contact Line.  The Russian Federation must use its influence over the separatists, he added.  Commending the work of the OSCE, he said its observers must have access to the affected areas.  All parties must act to improve living conditions on the ground, allow the repair of critical infrastructure and address the critical humanitarian needs of civilians.  The upsurge in violence had proven once again that the solution to the conflict must be a diplomatic and not a military one, he said, expressing support for the Minsk agreements.  Bringing the Russian Federation and Ukraine into discussions was also vital, he said, pointing out that despite ongoing fighting, the number of civilian victims was six times smaller since the signing of the Minsk agreements, he said, adding that European sanctions were linked to comprehensive implementation of that accord.  There was no viable alternative to peace, he said, emphasizing that restoring Ukraine’s control over its borders and its authority in Crimea remained the goal.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the worrying upsurge in fighting was the effect of the Russian Federation’s military personnel standing side by side with separatists whom they had equipped, armed and trained.  Calling for urgent action to end the “uptick” in the fighting, as well as civilian suffering, he said that, for any fragile, short-term truce to become a comprehensive ceasefire, all parties must commit to tackling the underlining causes of the fighting.  The solution must be political, not military, he emphasized.  The Minsk agreement was the only long-term solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, he emphasized.  Noting that the Russian Federation continued to say that the Ukrainian Government was behind all problems in eastern Ukraine, he said that was an inversion of reality.  The Russian Federation must withdraw all its forces from Ukraine, including Crimea, he stressed.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) condemned the Russian Federation’s actions as a “replay” of far too many instances in which her country’s representatives had been compelled to do the same.  “We do want to better our relations with Russia,” she said, but the dire situation in Ukraine called for condemnation, she said, noting that fighting had trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed infrastructure.  Stressing that the United States stood with Ukrainians under Russian occupation, she said that, until the Russian Federation and its separatist allies respected Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the crisis would continue.  She also called for an immediate end to the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea, emphasizing that sanctions would remain in place until that country returned control to Ukraine.  She also called for full and immediate implementation of the Minsk agreements, pressing the Russian Federation and allied separatist forces to respect the relevant commitments and the ceasefire.

LIU JIEYI (China), expressing concern about increased hostilities in eastern Ukraine, noted that the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group had held consultations on implementation of the Minsk agreements.  China called on the parties to abide by the ceasefire and remain committed to a political solution.  All parties should implement resolution 2202 (2015), enforce the cessation of hostilities and implement the Minsk agreements, he said, adding that they should also commit to dialogue for the sake of peace, stability and development in Ukraine, as well as for harmony, both among ethnic groups and with other countries in the region.

PER THÖRESSON (Sweden) said the humanitarian fallout in eastern Ukraine was particularly alarming in terms of access to such basic needs as water, electricity and medicine.  The recent escalation in violence was a clear breach of the Minsk Agreements.  Sweden fully supported the OSCE’s efforts, he said, urging safe access for its monitoring teams to the affected region.  Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be fully respected, he emphasized, declaring: “Let us not lose sight of who is the aggressor and who is the victim.”  The Russian Federation had the power to end the conflict, he said, stressing that sanctions imposed on that country should remain until full implementation of the Minsk Agreements was realized.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) urged the parties to return to the ceasefire without delay and withdraw heavy weaponry, in accordance with the Minsk Agreements.  Thousands of lives were at risk in the current harsh winter months, he said, emphasizing the critical need to ensure full access to water, heat and medicine.  He called upon all parties to grant full, safe and unrestricted access to OSCE monitors.  Blatant violations of the ceasefire were simply unacceptable.  It would be necessary to launch negotiations without delay, he said, expressing support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) expressed concern over the severe impact of the situation in eastern Ukraine on the local civilians, and called for an immediate return to the ceasefire regime.  Taking note of the statement by the Trilateral Contact Group — which called for an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the Contact Line, and unhindered humanitarian access to affected populations — he said full implementation of those measures was critical to alleviating suffering and preventing further escalation.  The situation in Ukraine could only be solved by diplomatic means and with full respect for international law, especially the legal obligation to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he emphasized.  Full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all parties was the only way forward.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed serious concern about the deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine, declaring:  “We are very interested in stability in Ukraine.”  The foremost priority should be to end the conflict through peaceful negotiations, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.  Urging compliance with resolution 2202 (2015), he endorsed the Trilateral Contact Group’s confidence-building measures.  Since any aggravation of the current circumstances could have unpredictable consequences, he called upon the parties to withdraw heavy weaponry from the Contact Line.  Kazakhstan was providing humanitarian aid and all parties must ensure free access to the conflict zone, he emphasized, expressing support for economic confidence-building measures and calling upon the parties to demonstrate wisdom as well as the political will to return to the ceasefire.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said the situation in eastern Ukraine had deteriorated amid resumed fighting, which had led to significant loss of life and exacerbated the humanitarian situation.  In light of that alarming picture, the parties must respect the ceasefire and withdraw heavy artillery, he emphasized.  He also called for intensified diplomatic efforts through the Normandy Format for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) expressed concern about the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine, saying that the humanitarian situation there required an urgent response and urging the parties to return to the ceasefire regime.  Resolution would only be achieved through a peaceful settlement, she emphasized, calling on the parties to adhere to the Minsk Agreements and Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) also expressed concern about the resurgence of fighting, condemning the use of weapons banned under the Minsk Agreements and urging full compliance with Council resolution 2202 (2015).  All parties must uphold their civilian-protection obligations under international law, and the Security Council must make every effort to establish a lasting peace, he stressed.  The parties’ “step-up in rhetoric” would not be conducive to the realization of a peaceful political solution.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) expressed grave concern about ceasefire violations and called for dialogue to ensure implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which he described as “the right path” towards a peaceful solution.  The parties must also protect the human rights of all inhabitants, especially in Donyetsk and Luhansk, and respect international humanitarian law, especially in addressing the needs of internally displaced persons.  Furthermore, the OSCE Special Mission must be granted access to all conflict areas, he said, adding that the Council must resume the spirit in which it had approved resolution 2202 (2015).

MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and prevention of any further provocations.  Humanitarian assistance must be guaranteed, he emphasized, and urged full implementation of resolution 2202 (2015).  Reaffirming his delegation’s confidence in peaceful negotiating formats, he urged the parties to step up for a peaceful settlement, saying that Egypt supported any measure aimed at a peaceful settlement, especially those proposed by the Normandy Format.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor a second time, stressed that 93 per cent of Crimea’s population had decided to become a part of the Russian Federation.  In response to his counterpart from the United Kingdom, he asked whether that country was prepared to return the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar or the part of Cyprus that it had annexed.  Citing resolution 2202 (2015) on the Minsk Agreements, he drew attention to paragraph 9, pointing out that it demanded the reinstatement of Ukraine’s full control over the State border throughout the conflict area, starting on day one after local elections and ending after the application of the comprehensive political settlement to Donetsk and Luhansk.  He also cited paragraph 11, saying it focused on constitutional reform in Ukraine and permanent legislation on the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk, suggesting that was a road map for ending the conflict.  To Ukraine’s representative, he said it was easy to brandish photos as a way to stir up assistance, recalling that civilians on both sides had died.  The priority was adherence to the Minsk Agreements, he said, underlining his hope that today’s meeting would allow those interested in settling the conflict to take the necessary measures.

The representative of Ukraine, taking the floor a second time, said frivolous interpretations of OSCE reports were pointless.  It was Russian officers in command who gave the orders to capture Ukrainian towns.  The reality was simple.  It was Russian weapons and Russian mercenaries killing Ukrainians, he stressed, adding that he had hoped for serious professional dialogue that would save lives, but it looked as though the Russian Federation lived in a parallel reality.

For information media. Not an official record.