A lasting and peaceful solution to the six-year conflict in the Ukraine can only be achieved through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, delegates told the General Assembly today, as they discussed ongoing aggression and human rights violations by the occupying Power in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
“The occupied areas have become a territory of fear and terror,” said Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Vadym Prystaiko, as he updated delegates on the bleak situation in his country. Since 2014, the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation has left 14,000 people dead and over 27,000 wounded, while 2 million residents of Crimea and Donbas have fled their homes and 3.4 million remaining are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Despite 20 recommitments for a comprehensive ceasefire, the Russian Federation has continued its attacks, he said, noting that in January 2020 alone, such attacks killed 11 Ukrainian servicemen and wounded 33 others.
Large-scale violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the occupying Power continue in Crimea, he said, spotlighting discrimination against Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and various ethnic and religious minorities, including Muslims and members of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. International solidarity and the promotion of human rights are the only way to stop such discrimination and aggression.
He stressed the vital importance of the General Assembly as a venue to discuss these violations of international law, given the ability of the Russian Federation to undermine the Security Council’s capacities in that area. “A strong voice of the United Nations General Assembly remains a crucial element of international pressure to make Russia abide by international law and stop its aggression against Ukraine,” he said, highlighting seven resolutions by that organ condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression.
The Russian Federation’s delegate responded by saying that there are “no temporarily occupied territories” in Ukraine. Rather, Crimea is part of the Russian Federation, a fact that was decided in the 2014 referendum. Despite attempts to hide this fact, the reality was now becoming apparent. A civilian conflict is raging in Donbas because of the refusal of Ukraine to acknowledge the 2014 coup. The real causes of the conflict must be admitted, he said, before it is possible to act on the outcome of the Normandy Four meeting in December.
Many delegates, however, reiterated their condemnation of the Russian Federation’s annexation and ongoing militarization of Crimea and the Black and Azov seas, with many decrying Moscow’s human rights violations and aggression, as well as its disregard for the conditions set out in the Minsk agreements.
France’s delegation said that the Russian Federation’s violation of fundamental rights and basic freedoms in Ukraine target those who “dare to raise their voice against the annexation of Crimea”. Punishments meted out include extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, he said.
The representative of Liechtenstein stressed that the Minsk agreements must be fully implemented, including those delineated at the Normandy Four meeting in December 2019. He urged Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, given that the Court would then have jurisdiction regarding the crime of aggression, and also demanded free and unhindered access for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to enter eastern Ukraine and observe conditions there.
In a similar vein, the Netherlands delegate called upon the Russian Federation to allow human rights monitors to enter Crimea, noting that a recent Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report revealed that the human rights situation there was deeply concerning. “The world must know what is happening,” he said. He also raised the subject of flight MH17, which killed 298 people when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014. With the criminal trial of the four suspects in that case slated to begin in March, he called on the Russian Federation to cooperate fully with the proceedings.
Turkey’s delegate, noting that his country currently hosts more than 3 million Crimean Tatars, highlighted their plight. Six years after the annexation, which led to the exodus of more than 25,000 Crimean Tatars, the activities of the Mejlis are still banned, while some of their leaders are still barred from entering Crimea. The Crimean Tatars that remain are targeted by the occupying Power, he said, pledging Turkey’s full support for their rights and calling for the release of political prisoners.
The representatives of Canada and Australia noted that their countries had recently sanctioned individuals in relation to their roles in facilitating illegitimate elections in September 2019 in Crimea and Sevastopol.
Several speakers highlighted positive steps towards a political solution, with Switzerland’s representative calling the decisions at the Normandy Four Summit in December a step forward that should be put into practice immediately. She also welcomed the recent prisoner exchange between Kyiv and the non-Government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.
Some delegates supported creation of a Ukraine peacekeeping mission, with the representative of Costa Rica emphasizing that it could be a means to improve the civilian population’s living conditions and enforce ceasefire agreements, while the delegate for Belarus said that his country stands ready to contribute to its operations.
Also speaking were representatives of Hungary, Estonia (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Syria, United States, Czech Republic, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Japan, Republic of Moldova, Poland and Belgium, as well as the European Union.
VADYM PRYSTAIKO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said that the 18 February Security Council meeting on the situation in eastern Ukraine took place just hours after the Ukrainian positions were brutally attacked by Russian Federation occupation forces, leaving one soldier dead and six wounded. Expressing regret that the aggressor State continues to undermine the Council’s capacities, he said that this makes a more compelling case for the General Assembly to address the issue of Ukraine’s temporarily occupied territories. “A strong voice of the United Nations General Assembly remains a crucial element of international pressure to make Russia abide by international law and stop its aggression against Ukraine,” he said, noting that since 2014, the Assembly has adopted seven resolutions condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression.
About 44,000 square kilometres of Ukraine are now under foreign occupation, while more than 14,000 people have been killed and over 27,000 wounded, he said. About 2 million residents of Crimea and Donbas have been forced to flee their homes and become internally displaced persons or refugees. The dire humanitarian situation in the conflict-affected areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions continues to deteriorate, with more than 3.4 million people expected to require humanitarian assistance in 2020. “The occupied areas have become a territory of fear and terror,” he said, noting that the occupying authorities are resorting to systematic and large-scale violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The economy in the occupied Donbas has been destroyed and the environment is under direct risk, as some coal mines in Donbas have been abandoned and flooded. Such irresponsible behaviour could lead to the contamination of underground water reservoirs, causing water-related disease and possible agriculture loss across the region. Still, Russian Federation occupation authorities are not allowing experts to assess potential environmental threats or identify ways to address them.
Highlighting major developments since the Assembly’s last meeting on the situation, he said that in April 2019, the Ukrainian people elected a new President in democratic and open elections. The restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine by peaceful means has become President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s top priority. There have been 20 recommitments for a comprehensive ceasefire. Ukraine abides by it, while Russian Federation forces and their proxies continue shelling and attacks. In January 2020 alone, attacks by Russian Federation armed formations left 11 Ukrainian servicemen dead and 33 wounded. Ukraine extended for one year the law on special order of local self-governance in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and it agreed on several political measures. However, the Russian Federation continues its illegal “passportization” and other measures aimed at politically and economically annexing occupied Donbas. Ukraine has launched humanitarian initiatives to ensure the local population has access in occupied Donbas to social funds and services, while the Russian Federation consolidates its policies of terror and fear. Ukraine remains eager to reinvigorate international frameworks such as the Normandy Four and the Trilateral Contact Group, to find a sustainable solution, together with the Russian Federation and mediating partners.
The situation in Crimea is very alarming, he said, noting that the General Assembly, in resolutions 73/194 and 74/17, expressed its grave concern about the Russian Federation’s political militarization of Crimea and urged the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces and end its temporary occupation of Ukrainian territory without delay. The Russian Federation continues to ignore these demands. Violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the occupying Power continue unabated in Crimea. Numerous General Assembly resolutions condemn abuses and discrimination against the residents of Crimea, including Crimean Tatars, as well as Ukrainians and other ethnic and religious groups. The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has been denied access to Crimea. The occupation of Crimea has led to yet another form of discrimination and violation of human rights, which can be seen in the plight of the Muslims, Crimean Tatars and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the occupied territories. Even through the Kremlin remains blind and deaf to the appeals and decisions of the international community, he expressed his conviction that international unity and solidarity, and the promotion of human rights, are the only way to stop Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.
PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said that his country, which borders Ukraine, stands for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Recalling that “the neighbourhood determines the value of your own land”, he said that Hungary wants Ukraine to be a strong, safe and prosperous democratic country. Hungary has financed the reconstruction and operation of Ukrainian hospitals, schools and churches, as well as vaccinations for children. But money is not everything, he said, pointing to the medical care provided in Hungarian hospitals to Ukrainian soldiers wounded in the east of the country, among other things. When Ukraine was facing a potential gas shortage, Hungary redirected up to 13 billion cubic metres of natural gas that originated in the Russian Federation, he said, adding: “You can imagine what the Russians thought of that.” He went on to say that while Hungary has proven its solidarity, it cannot accept Ukraine’s violation of the rights of 150,000 Hungarians within its borders. Hungary understands that the Ukrainian authorities would like to strengthen the role of the State language but doing so must not lead to the substitution of the mother tongue of a national minority. Ukraine can continue to count on Hungary, but Hungary expects the new Hungarian leadership to address that situation, he said.
LEMBIT UIBO (Estonia), speaking on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic Eight Group, condemning the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, said that the Group is committed to the implementation of the European Union’s non-recognition policy and urged the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as called for in Assembly resolution 68/262. Respect for territorial integrity and the prohibition of the use of force are fundamental principles of international law that the Russian Federation is clearly violating, he said, calling on that country to implement successive Assembly resolutions and relevant United Nations decisions. Describing the situation in eastern Ukraine as a threat to international peace and security, he urged the Russian Federation to fully respect its commitments and exert considerable influence over the armed formations in the region to ensure the ceasefire is implemented. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements remains the basis for solving the conflict, he said, expressing hope that the next Normandy summit in Paris will bring more positive news.
He went on to express deep concern about the grave humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, where an estimated 14,000 people — including more than 3,300 civilians — have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded. About 2 million people live in landmine-contaminated areas and 3.4 million still require humanitarian assistance and protection. The international community must keep Ukraine high on its agenda and intensify its financial support for the humanitarian response, he said, calling for safe, rapid and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid. Returning to Crimea, he said that since its illegal occupation, the Russian Federation has more than doubled its military forces and increased weaponry in the peninsula, fuelling instability in the wider Black Sea region as well as the Azov Sea. He also called on the Russian Federation to stop human rights violations in Crimea, which mostly target Crimean Tartars and Ukrainian activists, immediately release all political prisoners, and grant unimpeded access to regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms and organizations. “Maintaining pressure on Russia by the international community is essential until Ukraine’s sovereignty is fully restored and secured under international law,” he said.
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union, condemned all of the Russian Federation’s breaches of international law and welcomed Ukraine’s efforts to seek justice using international legal instruments and courts, including the European Court of Human Rights, arbitration courts and the International Court of Justice. The Russian Federation’s ongoing militarization of the Crimean Peninsula continues to negatively impact the security situation in the Black Sea region and beyond. Under the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation the human rights situation in the region has severely deteriorated. Residents of the peninsula face systematic restrictions of human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion and the right to peaceful assembly. The human rights of the Crimean Tatars have been particularly targeted.
In accordance with Assembly resolution 74/168 adopted in December 2019, it is crucial that regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms, as well as non-Governmental human rights organizations, have unimpeded access to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, he said. Journalists, human rights defenders and defence lawyers should be able to work independently and without undue interference and intimidation. The European Union remains firm in its call on all sides to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk agreements and honour their commitments in full, in order to achieve a sustainable political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The European Union fully supports the efforts of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET-FERNANDEZ (Costa Rica) said that his country — unconditionally and unshakably — supports the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity and the unity and integrity of States. That is no different in the case of Ukraine, he said, emphasizing that Costa Rica does not recognize the temporary occupation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. He called on the parties to respect and comply with the Minsk agreements, adding that there is no reason for United Nations resolution on the issue to be dead letters. On eastern Ukraine, he said the recent Normandy format meeting was a hopeful sign. Agreement on such confidence-building measures as a prisoner exchange demonstrated political will, but priority must go towards a ceasefire. Establishing a peacekeeping mission could be useful for guaranteeing compliance with a ceasefire and improving conditions for the civilian population. He added that Security Council actions must lead to tangible results that protect civilians and end flagrant violations of international law. The entire international community must meanwhile encourage dialogue and negotiations, as a political solution is the only way out. He went on to thank Ukraine for evacuating Costa Rican nationals from Wuhan, China, amidst the novel coronavirus outbreak.
GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that the conflict in and around Ukraine remains a crisis requiring the United Nations urgent attention. Welcoming sustained efforts by the OSCE in the spirit of Chapter VIII of the Charter, he nevertheless voiced regret that the Security Council has been unable to support efforts to bring peace to Ukraine politically. Reaffirming his delegation’s position in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence within its internationally recognized borders, he expressed concern about a recent escalation in the conflict zone, where nearly 4 million people live. He called on the parties to immediately and fully implement the Minsk agreements — including those undertaken at the summit of the Normandy Four in December 2019 — and outlined numerous measures they could take to alleviate civilian suffering. In addition, he demanded free and unhindered access for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission observers to all areas in eastern Ukraine and reiterated his call on that country to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including provisions granting the latter jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) reiterated his delegation’s condemnation of the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, which it does not recognize. Voicing concern about recent reports that Moscow deports persons arrested in Crimea to its own territory — a clear violation of international law — he joined others in requesting that international human rights monitoring mechanisms gain safe and unfettered access to Crimea. Meanwhile, Switzerland supports efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and welcomes the decisions taken at the Normandy Four Summit in December 2019, which should be implemented fully and without delay. Among other things, he welcomed the recent prisoner exchange between Kyiv and the non-Government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine as well as positive ongoing discussions in the Trilateral Contact Group format, but warned that ceasefire violations continue and the situation of civilians on both sides of the contact line remains desperate.
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada) said that a durable ceasefire is an essential first step towards peace in eastern Ukraine. Canada urges the Russian Federation to fulfil its commitments under the Minsk agreements and use its influence to ensure that militants fulfil their obligations as well. Acknowledging that some progress has been made over the past year on the political front, he said any solution must recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over all its territory. Canada will never cease to condemn the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea, he added, noting that in January, Ottawa imposed sanctions on those involved in illegitimate elections on the peninsula. Expressing deep concern as well about human rights violations, he said that the situation in Ukraine is not a regional issue, but a global one, and that Canada will not accept the Russian Federation’s blatant violations of the rules-based international order and the values that underpin the United Nations.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), associating himself with the European Union, said that six years since its illegal annexation and despite the guarantees it provided, including respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the Russian Federation has egregiously violated the United Nations purposes and principles. The Russian Federation’s ratcheting up of militarization has spawned heighted tensions, he said, noting that the Russian Federation’s deployment of weaponry and troops continues to destabilize the region, and its illegal annexation has led to the violation of basic freedoms, such as extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. He called on the Russian Federation to end such acts, which are aimed at those who “dare to raise their voice against the annexation of Crimea.” The Russian Federation should uphold its international commitments and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), noting the Russian Federation illegally annexed Crimea six years ago, said that this breach of international law by a permanent member of the Security Council is unacceptable. Today, the situation in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula remains one of the most pressing security challenge in Europe. He expressed concern about the Russian Federation’s militarization of Crimea and the serious deterioration of the human rights situation there. Systematic restrictions of freedom of expression, religion or belief and the right to peaceful assembly must stop immediately. He expressed particular concern about attacks against the Tatar minority, underscoring that some five years after the Minsk agreements were signed, the ceasefire continues to be broken. The Normandy summit in Paris in December demonstrates that progress is possible, he said, welcoming the new dynamics in that process under President Zelenskyy.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, welcomed the recent increase in talks on conflict resolution, noting that such talks should be based on full respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. As OSCE Chair in 2019, Slovakia focused on the conflict prevention, mediation and mitigation, with special attention to humanitarian projects aimed at improving the lives of people in conflict areas, including Ukraine, he said. Some recent developments are encouraging, such as the repair of the strategic bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska and the meetings of the leaders of the Normandy Four, as well as the two exchanges of prisoners in September and December 2019. He expressed concern about the unprecedented ceasefire violation on 18 February near Zolote in Donbas, which resulted in the death of one person. He called on all parties to strictly implement the ceasefire under the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized that the human suffering resulting from the conflict in Ukraine must end. As the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s report clearly shows, the human rights situation on the illegally occupied Crimean Peninsula and in the non-Government-controlled area of eastern Ukraine remains deeply concerning. Against that backdrop, he called urgently upon the Russian Federation to respect human rights and allow full access of human rights monitors. Meanwhile, it is important that OHCHR continue to monitor the situation in those areas not currently controlled by the Government of Ukraine. “The world must know what is happening,” he said. Stressing that the conflict can only be resolved politically, he called on all sides to uphold their responsibilities under the Minsk agreements and expressed concern about a recent escalation in violence by Russian Federation-backed armed formations. The illegal annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s ongoing destabilizing role in Donbas run counter to Article II of the United Nations Charter, he said, stressing that Assembly resolutions on the matter must be implemented. Turning to the 2014 downing of flight MH17 — which killed 298 innocent people, including 196 from the Netherlands — he called on the Russian Federation to fully cooperate with the criminal trial against four suspects, which is slated to begin on 9 March.
ONDINA BLOKAR DROBIČ (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, expressed full support for the efforts of the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group and OSCE. She also welcomed the renewed engagement under the Normandy format and recent positive developments such as the exchange of prisoners and disengagement activities. However, the repeated ceasefire violations, the accumulation of heavy weapons and the dire humanitarian situation in the conflict zone continue to be worrisome. Over the last six years, the conflict in eastern Ukraine has exacted a heavy toll on the Ukrainian people. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, and millions displaced. The civilian population must be protected and their burden eased, particularly through improving their living conditions, safeguarding civilian infrastructure and achieving a sustainable ceasefire. Millions of people need humanitarian aid, she said, calling for unimpeded, safe and unconditional humanitarian access.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), expressing concern at the recent escalation of tension in Ukraine’s south-east, said no effort must be spared to stabilize the situation. The sole effective way to end the crisis is through peaceful dialogue, including among Ukrainian stakeholders, and compliance with the Minsk agreements. Belarus is doing its utmost to help, he said, pointing to regular meetings in Minsk of the Trilateral Contact Group and delivering assistance to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. He added that Belarus stands ready to make practical contributions to the operations of a possible United Nations peacekeeping mission in the region, if there is willingness and consent among all parties for such a presence. Belarus hopes that the results of the Normandy format discussions in December will gather momentum, he said, adding that his country welcomes any measures to strengthen security and confidence-building measures, including prisoner exchanges. He went on to recall a proposal by the President of Belarus for a new and wide-ranging international dialogue on security, which could be an opportunity for geopolitical peace and calm.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the imposition on the General Assembly of this discussion has nothing to do with reality or even virtual reality. In Ukraine, there are no temporarily occupied territories. Crimea is a constituent territory of the Russian Federation, which came into being in 2014 following a referendum. Regarding Donbas, there is a civilian conflict between Kyiv and the citizens of Ukraine because of the refusal to acknowledge the 2014 coup. The Ukrainian authorities say there is no civilian conflict, there is only Russian aggression against Ukraine. This enables them to show themselves not as aggressors but as victims.
Six years ago the world bore witness to a tragedy in the centre of Kyiv, the culmination of which was a brutal coup, he said, adding that a large-scale systemic crisis is now besetting the country. There have been attempts to conceal the truth, but the inconvenient truth for Kyiv is now coming to life. Ukrainian voters gave an assessment of what transpired by showing mistrust for the previous leadership. The new leadership is pursuing the doomed policy of its predecessors. The linchpin for settling any conflict is a dialogue. However, the possibility of implementing the outcomes of the December meeting in Paris is difficult unless there is an acknowledgement of the real causes of the conflict. Instead of restoring the trust of its citizens, Ukraine is doing the opposite, blatantly discriminating against people and prohibiting the use of their mother tongue. Kyiv’s fear of complying with its Minsk obligations and holding an election is because people are likely to vote for candidates who protected them from the Ukrainian army and its shells.
AMMAR AL ARSAN (Syria) said that the irresponsible inclusion of the situation in Ukraine on the Assembly’s agenda reflects the desire of some Governments to escalate regional tensions, settle scores both old and new with the Russian Federation and restore a cold war atmosphere. By taking up the topic, the Assembly is encroaching on the mandate of the Security Council, which has endorsed the Minsk agreements. Ukraine should open its arms and launch a sincere and direct dialogue with the Russian Federation on implementation of the Minsk Agreements, without giving others an opportunity to deepen a rift that does not serve the best interests of Ukrainians or regional security. He added that Syria will vote against any draft resolution on this item and urged other Member States to do so as well.
KELLY CRAFT (United States) underscored President Donald J. Trump’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is taking steps to strengthen its democracy and deepen its Euro-Atlantic integration while also defending itself against the Russian Federation’s aggression and hybrid warfare. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy needs Member States’ support to achieve those goals, but while he is committed to finding a political solution in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Federation is ignoring calls for a comprehensive ceasefire and stalling agreement on further disengagement along the line of conflict. Its flagrant violations of international norms represent the greatest threat to European security since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. She called on the Russian Federation to allow OSCE and United Nations monitors access to all of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea, to document the reality of life in those areas. She added that recent Assembly resolutions on Ukraine, including one drafted by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on human rights, confirm broad international condemnation of the Russian Federation’s aggression. She called on Moscow to follow through with its Minsk commitments by withdrawing its military forces and equipment, stopping its support for proxies and respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in eastern Ukraine. She went on to quote Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo as saying that the United States sees Ukraine’s struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity as a valiant one and that the United States will never waver in its support.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), reiterating his delegation’s position in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its policy of non-recognition of the Russian Federation’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, said that the well-being of the Crimean Tatars is a key issue for Turkey. As a country that hosts more than 3 million citizens of Crimean Tatar descent, Turkey follows the human rights situation on the Crimean Peninsula closely. Six years after the annexation, the activities of the Tatar people’s Mejlis are still banned and some leaders — including Mustafa Abdülcemil Kirimoğlu and Refat Çubarov — still cannot enter Crimea. More than 25,000 Crimean Tatars left following the annexation, while those who remained suffer from intimidation by the de facto authorities. Pledging Turkey’s full support for the rights of the Crimean Tatars and calling for the release of political prisoners, he said the situation also remains tense in Donbas. The work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission is critical and requires the support of all parties. Commending the Government of Ukraine for its reform efforts under difficult conditions, he also underlined the importance of arriving at a peaceful resolution.
MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czech Republic), associating herself with the European Union, joined others in condemning the Russian Federation’s ongoing occupation of Crimea and the militarization of the peninsula as a breach of international law. “Moreover, Russia’s actions in Ukraine represent a direct threat to global order and the principles […] enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations,” she said, adding that, for that reason, Moscow now bears special responsibility for the resolution of the conflict and the restoration of peace and security in Europe. The Czech Republic does not recognize the annexation of Crimea and supports the European Union’s restrictive measures imposed against the Russian Federation, as well as those related to the latter’s aggression in eastern Ukraine. Such measures will remain in place until Ukraine’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders is fully restored. Describing the systematic human rights abuses against Crimean Tatars by the de facto authorities as deeply troubling, she called for the release of political prisoners as well as access to the area for human rights observers, stressing that the conflict can only be resolved through peaceful means.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said that his delegation will continue to pursue its policy of non-recognition of the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea, which constitutes a breach of numerous international agreements. Describing the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a serious threat to international peace and security, he sounded the alarm over the news of a violation of the ceasefire near Zolote in the Luhansk region this week, stressing that it proves that the conflict is anything but frozen. Welcoming the recent release of some conflict-related prisoners, he urged a full release on the basis of the “all for all” agreement, emphasizing that the Minsk accords are the only solution to the ongoing crisis. In that context, he welcomed all diplomatic efforts to bring about peace and reiterated his delegation’s calls on the Russian Federation to use its considerable influence over the forces it backs in eastern Ukraine to push them to comply with the ceasefire.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said that that Russian aggression against Ukraine has left over 13,000 people dead and more than 29,000 injured. The Russian Federation continues to supply its occupation forces with heavy weaponry, regular troops and mercenaries, and the areas it has seized have turned into a land of fear and terror. With the occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s sovereign territories, the Russian Federation has violated the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other multilateral and bilateral agreements. It’s occupation and annexation also poses a serious challenge to the rules-based international order, with an attempt to redraw the borders in Europe. He expressed alarm about systematic violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms in the temporarily occupied territories, including restrictions on freedom of movement, freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions. OHCHR has once again been denied access to the temporarily occupied territories, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has been denied access to Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. This should not be tolerated by the international community.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy), associating herself with the European Union, said that her country remains strongly committed to a sustainable political solution based on the Minsk agreements. Welcoming the holding of the Normandy format summit in Paris in December and the positive steps subsequently taken, she stressed the importance of effectively implementing what was agreed. There is no alternative to the Minsk agreements, she said, calling on all sides to fully implement them and condemn all initiatives that run counter to their letter and spirit. The role of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission remains essential and it must be granted safe, secure, unhindered and unconditional access throughout Ukraine, in accordance with its mandate. Italy is actively engaged in humanitarian efforts with a special focus on health and mine action. It is imperative to stop the violence, fulfill immediately all mine action commitments and ensure full, unimpeded access to all humanitarian actors.
TEGAN BRINK (Australia) said that it is critical that the General Assembly keep the situation in Ukraine on its agenda. Her country is deeply concerned about the 18 February attacks against Ukrainian positions in Donbas and stands with international partners in calling on the Russian Federation to use its influence to urge restraint. Australia is firmly committed to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and reinforces this commitment with robust sanctions. On 1 February, Australia sanctioned individuals complicit in facilitating the so-called elections in Crimea and Sevastopol in September 2019. She also expressed concern about the Russian Federation’s efforts to militarize Crimea and undermine regional stability. Her country deplores the discriminatory administration of justice, as well as attacks on the freedom of expression, association and religion or belief in Crimea by Russian Federation-backed authorities.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that his country voted in favour of the General Assembly resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine in March 2014 and its position on the sovereignty of Ukraine remains unchanged. In situations of international disputes, armed conflict or political crises involving inter-State solutions, no solution can be reached that is inconsistent with international law, particularly where fundamental norms are concerned, such as those relating to respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States. Strict compliance with those norms and the fulfilment in good faith of the States’ obligations are very important for the maintenance of international peace and security.
KRASSIMIRA TZONEVA BESHKOVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, said that as a Black Sea littoral State, her country shares concerns about the growing militarization of the Crimean Peninsula. Bulgaria considers the opening of the railway section of the Kerch bridge as yet another deplorable step towards a forced integration of Crimea with the Russian Federation. It expects the Russian Federation to ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Sea of Azov, in accordance with international law. She noted that Bulgaria is among the biggest contributors to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in terms of monitoring officers, as well as its contribution to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other humanitarian actors on the ground in Ukraine. She concluded by urging all sides to the conflict to fully implement relevant Assembly resolutions on Ukraine as well as the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in the country.
MUNGO WOODIFIELD (United Kingdom) said that his country does not and will not recognize the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea and that attempts to redraw European borders cannot be ignored. Human rights violations in Crimea must end and all Ukrainian political prisoners must be released. Expressing deep concern about the peninsula’s ongoing militarization, he called on Moscow to withdraw its military forces and to cease restricting access to the Sea of Azov. It is inexcusable that the Russian Federation still restricts Ukrainian vessels using the Kerch Strait. He added that the Russian-led conflict in the east remains volatile, including a sharp increase in ceasefire violations. The Ukrainian people deserve peace and the international community must hold the Russian Federation to account to that end. He went on to call for safe, unconditional and unimpeded access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in areas not under Ukraine’s control. Emphasizing that the conflict is not frozen, he called on the Russian Federation to abide by its Minsk commitments, including a comprehensive ceasefire and more prisoner exchanges.
KANETO KENTARO (Japan), noting that his delegation supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, welcomed the initiation of talks between that country’s President and that of the Russian Federation. He also welcomed the convening of the Normandy format summit meeting in December 2019, while expressing concern about continuing ceasefire agreement violations and urging all the parties to engage in confidence-building measures.
VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova) said that as a neighbouring country, it is deeply concerned by the security implications of the situation in Ukraine and thus supports its inclusion on the Assembly’s agenda. By considering — in a constructive and non-politicized manner — matters arising from challenges to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, the Assembly can encourage and promote approaches and solutions based on international law and the United Nations Charter. Deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission on the ground, in accordance with Ukraine’s request and acting in unison with the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, could contribute to peace efforts. He emphasized that unlike the Transnistrian conflict and others in the OSCE area, the conflict in eastern Ukraine is not frozen and it cannot be resolved without political will among the parties. The Republic of Moldova welcomes the President of Ukraine’s commitment to identify a diplomatic solution and expects all parties to act likewise, he said.
PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, echoed expressions of support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and condemnation of violations thereof by the Russian Federation. Warning that such aggression has serious security consequences for the entire region, he said that — despite many denials — the confirmed presence in Donbas of weapons exclusively available to the Russian Armed Forces proves Moscow’s direct involvement in the armed conflict. Meanwhile, the latter’s unilateral measures, including the granting of Russian citizenship to Ukrainians in the areas under its control, undermine the Minsk agreements. Sadly, two months after the Normandy Four Summit, only one of its elements has been implemented and the ceasefire in Donbas is not being observed. The illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea and the destabilization of parts of eastern Ukraine have violated the basic premises of the rules-based international order. “No country has the right to benefit from its own illegal actions,” he said, adding that non-recognition is not a matter of political approach but is instead a legal requirement. He also voiced deep concern about the dire human rights situation in Crimea and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union and reaffirming Belgium’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, said that implementation of the Minsk agreements is the only path leading to a sustainable political solution in Donbas. Belgium expects all parties to abstain from unilateral actions that could exacerbate tensions, he said, voicing concern about the militarization of Crimea and calling on the Russian Federation to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov, in line with international maritime law. Pointing to the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation, he encouraged the parties to respect the mandate of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and to ensure its safe and unhindered access throughout Ukraine, including Crimea and along the border with the Russian Federation. He went on to call for stepped-up efforts to clear landmines in eastern Ukraine, particularly near schools, and for the Russian Federation to release all Ukrainian political prisoners.