New York

11 December 2015

Deputy Secretary-General's briefing to the Security Council on Ukraine [as delivered]

Madam President, Members of the Security Council,

The situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense and volatile.

Since the ceasefire began on 1 September, fighting throughout the conflict zone has generally subsided.  However, in recent weeks, sporadic fighting has resumed, with varying degrees of intensity, around parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Parties have started to implement the agreement to withdraw so-called “lighter” weapons from the contact line. 

Yet the process remains incomplete. The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has observed the use of weapons, including mortars, throughout the conflict zone. 

I commend the SMM, under the leadership of Ambassador Apakan, as it carries out its mandate under challenging circumstances.

It is critical that the SMM be granted full and unfettered access to all areas covered by its mandate.  I am deeply concerned by continued incidents of harassment and intimidation toward the Mission.  Such harassment must come to an end.

I recognize the sustained efforts of the Trilateral Contact Group and its four Working Groups, the Normandy Format leaders, and other partners.

On the diplomatic front, modest, yet tangible, progress was made following the 2 October meeting of the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

The rebels in eastern Ukraine have announced a postponement of the self-declared local elections.  The parties also committed to find a compromise on the modalities for local elections in rebel-held territory, respecting Ukrainian law and in line with international best practices.

As we know from Minsk meetings of the four Working Groups, failure to find a compromise on the remaining critical issues has prevented the parties from reaching a viable solution. This includes issues related to the local elections in rebel-held areas.

Madam President, Members of the Security Council,

We welcome the discussions during the 6 November meeting of the Normandy Foreign Ministers in Berlin and thereafter. We also welcome improvements in the security sector.  But much more work lies ahead.

The majority of provisions of the Minsk agreements remain unimplemented. 

There are divergent interpretations on the sequence of implementation. The same is also true of some provisions of the Minsk Package of Measures. This includes conditions for holding local elections in rebel-controlled areas. It also includes control over the border areas and the departure of foreign armed groups. Amnesty and “special status” constitutional changes are also on this list. These problems threaten the whole political process.

The conflict zone remains highly militarized. There is a danger of serious escalation. The SMM continues to note the presence of weapons, including heavy weapons, along the contact line.

There is also an urgent need to address the matter of Explosive Remnants of War and Improvised Explosive Devices. These are now the leading cause of death and injuries in eastern Ukraine.

This problem requires sustained attention, through stepped up awareness-raising, education and humanitarian mine action programmes.  Such action would alleviate risks, reduce suffering and build confidence.

Madam President, Members of the Security Council,

OCHA Operations Director Mr. John Ging, who joins us from Kiev, will provide more detail on the humanitarian situation. 

I strongly appeal to all sides to provide unrestricted and unconditional access for critical humanitarian assistance, and to guarantee freedom of movement for civilians throughout the country.

I appeal to all those with influence over the actors to ensure the removal of all bureaucratic and political impediments to humanitarian assistance.

I remind all parties of their obligations to guarantee the free and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance throughout Ukraine.

I am also concerned about how the people of Crimea have been affected by the cutting off of electricity from mainland Ukraine.

On 21 and 22 November, electricity pylons in the Kherson region of Ukraine, supplying energy to Crimea, were destroyed, leaving much of the peninsula without power. I trust that electric power will be fully restored and that the incident leading to the disruption is being investigated.

Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last month we passed the two year mark since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis. 

I recall my own good offices visit in March 2014 to Kiev and my subsequent briefing to this Council.  I appealed at that time for dialogue, diplomacy and for “cool heads to prevail.”

Today, with no comprehensive political solution in sight,  I reiterate this appeal.

During those difficult first days and weeks two years ago, we spearheaded the establishment of UN presence, through the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and later a large country team. This mission continues to perform critical monitoring, reporting and prevention work. 

We will hear more on this from Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Simonovic.

Madam President,Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, the Minsk agreements remain the best available viable and accepted path to resolving this conflict. These agreements must be implemented in full. 

All parties must, without delay, work toward a durable political solution.  Greater political will and flexibility must be demonstrated by all concerned.

Millions of women, children, elderly and persons with disabilities, are directly affected on both sides of the contact line.  Further delays will mean further suffering for far too many people, now hoping for a peaceful holiday season. 

The United Nations, through the good offices of the Secretary-General, remains fully committed to support and promote peace and stability in a manner which upholds Ukraine’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.

The vital work of the human rights, humanitarian and development actors among the UN’s Country Team in Ukraine will remain critical.

Let us together intensify our work so that we do not meet here for yet another briefing on the third anniversary next year. 

Let us ensure that we meet the aspirations of Ukraine’s citizens for stability, peace, reform and prosperity.

Thank you, Madam President.