Press Conference by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at United Nations Headquarters

5 March 2014

Press Conference by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at United Nations Headquarters

5 March 2014
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson


at United Nations Headquarters


Following is an unofficial transcript of UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s telephone press briefing on Ukraine, from Kyiv, today:

Deputy Secretary-General:  Thank you, Martin.  I am calling you from Kyiv.  It is quarter to seven in the evening.  I have had full three days of talks here in Kyiv; probably my fourth day tomorrow.  I have — as you already know, I am sure — asked Robert Serry to go to Crimea.

We are expecting Assistant Secretary-General Ivan Šimonović to join the work here in Ukraine over the weekend, to look into the human rights situation in both the eastern and western part of Ukraine proper, and of course, Crimea.

We have an incident that is just happening this moment.  I talked with Robert Serry about 20 minutes ago, and that’s why I was delayed taking a call from him.  And he has been exposed to a very regrettable incident.  He has just visited the naval headquarters of Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, and on his way out, he was threatened and brought to his car.  There were unidentified people, some of them armed, telling him to leave and go to the airport.  He refused, but his car couldn’t move, and he decided he would depart.  And he is now walking back to his hotel and has stopped by in a café to find guidance to reach the hotel.  He is accompanied by a colleague from the United Nations and he is in good shape physically, and he is not kidnapped, but he feels seriously threatened, and of course, expects that all authorities who have control of the situation will facilitate his safe trip back to the hotel and continued work.  Otherwise, he would be forced to come back to Kyiv and continue his work from here.

So, I need to report this; it’s evidently out in the media in the last few minutes.  And he will, of course, immediately turn to all authorities with an influence in this matter.  I have already talked to the Ukrainian authorities here, and there are also contacts taken with authorities of the Russian Federation, so that they can exercise influence to rectify the situation.

I will only say on the rest of the programme that it has been a very extensive programme, with meetings with the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and the President of the interim Government in Kyiv.

There has been a situation of tension, of course, particularly around Crimea situation.  The tension along the border seems to be reduced, but of course, there is considerable uncertainty about the situation.  There were incidents yesterday that could have turned very nasty, but fortunately did not go in that very negative direction, as it could have.  But, we need efforts to reduce the tension and to de-escalate the situation in all aspects, both in terms of possible military developments but also generally, as we often say, cool heads must now prevail.

And we have done everything here during my mission to make [the] case for the political, [inaudible], need for dialogue to start between Kyiv and Moscow and to look for a peaceful resolution.  I don’t think I have ever made so many references to the UN Charter as I’ve done in these few weeks, from the Purposes and Principles in Chapter I to Chapter VI on Peaceful Settlement of Disputes.  We have done what we can from our perspective, but of course, these issues generally take on wider significance, and as you know, there are important meetings going on in other parts of the world, not least now in Paris, where ministers are meeting.

So, this is what I can report at this stage, Martin, and if there are any questions, I will try to answer them.  Although it will be difficult for me to go into more details than I already did on the [inaudible].  Thank you.  Over to you.

Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Secretary-General, for the briefing on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association.  Can you tell us a little bit more about what the future of the Robert Serry mission will be?  Are you bringing him home? And on the calls for an OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)/UN observer monitors, have you made any progress?  And a final piece, is the latest news we’re getting, not confirmed, is that there were hundreds of people, all with Russian flags, who stormed a Government building in eastern Ukraine.  Have you heard anything about that and how does that affect your mission?  Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General: We will follow the announcement around Robert Serry, of course, minute by minute.  We hope that he will be returning to his hotel, of course, I will check with him as soon as I can.  We will discuss whether he can proceed with his mission in Crimea.  We wanted him to be there in place to report back to the Secretary-General and me about the situation and we regret deeply if it is not made possible because of action of the type that should be seriously condemned.  We hope that we will be having assurances from all concerned that he can continue to work.  Under the circumstances, we have to watch these developments and decide whether he will return or will continue his work, but he has to have assurances that he can indeed do his job.

For my part, I was planning to go back to report to the Secretary-General today or tomorrow, and I will follow developments here tomorrow morning and see where we are on this situation and make a decision on my return, after I have assessed the situation obtained for Robert.  On the monitors, actually there [is] progress.  I commended the OSCE for its work setting up monitoring functions for human rights, for minorities and also possibly to give the [respect] that they follow the regulations and rules for the OSCE; and we hope very much that the OSCE will be able to have good people on the ground.  For the UN role, we are discussing how we can cooperate.  The most obvious cooperation is, of course, through the human rights dimension, and it fits very well in the visit that will take place by Ivan Šimonović, starting over the weekend.  So, on the human rights and the minorities monitoring, the United Nations certainly can be helpful, although this is basically an OSCE mission.  If we look into the further issue of observance of a nature which comes in the neighbourhood of a peacekeeping operation, you know very well that that will probably require Security Council action, which, under the present circumstances, seems very difficult.  So, yes, I would register positive progress on monitors, and the monitors are indeed welcomed by the Ukrainian authorities that I have spoken to.  But also, I would say, from the Russian side, since there are concerns on the Russian side for the Russian-speaking minorities in the country.  The last question is something that I haven’t got the details of that last question, but there are certainly demonstrations in some of the cities in eastern Ukraine, but I don’t know, I don’t have the details on the situation that Pamela described.

Question:  Could you please tell us what you know about the nature of the threats that were made against Mr. Serry and what is the distance that he is having to walk from the original place back to his hotel?

Deputy Secretary-General:  Well, he was met outside the Naval Headquarters by a number of unidentified men who were saying that he should leave Crimea and go to the airport.  He went back to the car and stayed inside the car and the car couldn’t move.  So, then he got out of the car and walked back to hotel.  On his way to the hotel, he stopped by a café to call me and that is when we talked.  So, the latest report is that I know that he is walking back to the hotel.  He is in a café on his way to the hotel and I don’t know location of the hotel.

Question:  Another question on Mr. Serry’s situation:  were the men who threatened him speaking Russian or were they speaking Ukrainian?  Can you explain to us what were the arrangements for his security?  Why did he not have a security details with him?

Deputy Secretary-General:  I don’t know what language they spoke.  Robert Serry did not ask me this.  Unfortunately, we have had to relocate staff from Crimea during the last few days and we did not have the security detail necessary.  We were relying on the Ukrainian authorities’ security and they were aware of the trip and there is a representative of the Ukrainian authorities in Simferopol.  But, I don’t know to what extent they could supply sufficient security.  You have to understand, that, under these dramatic circumstances, Robert Serry found it very important to go to Crimea in this very tense situation.  And he was also, by the way, accompanied by the OSCE representative, Mr. [Tim] Guldimann, who is the Special Envoy from Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe in … He was also with him, but not at the special meeting at the Naval Headquarters.  But Mr. Guldimann is still there, probably conducting other meetings relating to the monetary issue that Pamela brought up earlier.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Eliasson.  Can you please tell us to what extent the Russian troops are in control of the situation on the ground in Crimea and can you please also describe the situation in Kyiv, whether it is chaotic or there is a rule of order and all of that?  Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General:  The report that I was supposed to have from Robert would be the one that I would need to have for your question.  He was there simply, very much, for getting the facts on the ground known, so I cannot describe that fully.  There are several media reports on the situation and I cannot tell you to what degree the presence of Russians and the fact of it; so therefore, I would therefore be relying very much on Robert’s report.  On the second issue, I would say that Kyiv is a quiet place.  There is here no sense of the crisis of the nature that you are seeing around Crimea.  Here there is strong support of the present Government and there are a few people at the Maidan demonstrating, they are simply grieving their loved ones — after lots of people, about 80 people who were killed; and the political life here is quiet, I would say, and very restrained.  I must say that it is rather impressive to see how restrained and cool the leadership here in Kyiv are, and that is the general impression.  Of course, the same goes for the western part of Ukraine.

Question:  Sir, were the armed men wearing military fatigues and what sort of weapons were they carrying?  Were they small arms or machine guns?

Deputy Secretary-General:  I asked Robert and he said that there were a mix of people:  some were armed, but not with heavy arms, and some were not armed, and some were in fatigue-like dress and others did not.  So, it was a mixed group of 10 to 15 men with varying degrees of arms.

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