Statement by H.E. Mr. Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, at the UNSC briefing on the situation in Ukraine

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Thank you, Mr. President, for having convened this meeting.

I also appreciate the briefers’ presentations and analysis of the situation as well as expressed support to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

My sincere thanks also go to the delegations of Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States for their initiative to bring to the Council’s attention the issue of preparations to illegal “elections” scheduled for 11 November in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

Apparently, I am also supposed to thank the Russian delegation for the proposal to have this meeting in the Chamber for “the sake of transparency”.

However, as it has become plainly obvious from the Russian statement, the Russian delegation is preoccupied, first and foremost, with using the Council platform to wage its disinformation campaign with regard to Ukraine and to accuse the Ukrainian government of everything and anything that happens in the occupied territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Such a behavior has nothing to do with enhancing transparency. But it definitely has everything to do with desperate attempts to avoid responsibility for Russia’s well-documented wrongful acts against Ukraine: the military aggression, occupation and attempted illegal annexation of Ukraine’s territories.

It is a behavior of a hardened and unrepentant criminal determined to make a mockery of a justice system.

Thus, I would like to express my deepest disappointment over the stance of the Russian side, which appears to be hell-bent on sabotaging all genuine efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and to bring peace to the war-torn regions of Donbas.

Mr. President,

Esteemed Colleagues,

The main trigger for having today’s discussion is the intention of the Russian occupation administration in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine to hold so-called “early elections”, which in reality would amount to putting armed gangs’ leaders in seats in illegitimate representative bodies. This is nothing else but a provocation, an outrage against the Minsk agreements and Ukraine’s sovereignty.

It is very unfortunate that the Kremlin chose the path of further escalation of the situation instead of full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

As Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry stated on 7 September, the results of these fake “elections” will be null and void, will not have any legal effects and will be recognized neither by Ukraine, nor the international community.

Moreover, such actions only undermine the Minsk agreements and inflict serious harm to international efforts to resolve the situation that arose as a result of the Russian military aggression and occupation of parts of Ukraine’s territory.

The Russian Federation knows very well that these so-called “elections” violate the Constitution of Ukraine, the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” and goes against both the letter and the spirit of the Minsk Agreements, which, as the Russian Federation is fond of reminding, were endorsed by this Council’s resolution 2202 back in 2015.

On 4 October this year, the Ukrainian Parliament extended the validity of the aforementioned Law until the end of 2019, yet again confirming Ukraine’s adherence to its commitments under the Minsk Agreements.

Despite having more than enough time to assess the damage to the political process that these “elections” will bring, the Russian Federation deliberately pushes forward with carrying out this provocation.

None of us here has a crystal ball into the future but there are indications that these so-called “elections” may serve as a stepping-stone towards a new cycle of the Russian armed aggression.

In this regard, I thank all members of the Security Council that gave their clear assessment of such actions by the Kremlin.

Let me make it clear: only legitimately and lawfully elected officials can represent the local communities in Donbas, and not the Kremlin's puppets sent from or appointed by Moscow.

Thus, any elections that are to be recognized as such have to be conducted according to the Ukrainian legislation, in line with OSCE standards and under proper international monitoring.

Mr. President,

Since the scope of today’s discussion was broadened by the Russian Federation with its sweeping assessments, unequivocal characterizations and historical overviews (since the latest provocation with organizing the mentioned sham “elections” is but one piece of a much larger picture of Russia’s destructive activities in and around Ukraine), I wish to highlight the following points.

We have all heard on numerous occasions the Russian mantra (which was also repeated today) that the Ukrainian government should engage directly with “representatives of Luhansk and Donetsk”. A very inconvenient truth for the Russian side lies in the fact that there are no legitimate “representatives of Luhansk and Donetsk” freely elected by the people. The persons sitting in the administrative buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk are simply Moscow’s puppets, who are installed or removed from their positions at a whim of their Kremlin masters.

The presence of Russian citizens and security personnel in these administrations, on top of provision of crucial financial and military support, continues to this day and remains a decisive factor in running the day-to-day governance in the occupied areas of Donbas. Russia continues to exercise full political and administrative control over this region.

Moscow has created and supported the illegal armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk. It provides them with full-fledged political, military, and social-economic support as well as ideological guidance. Their very existence is impossible without Russia’s direct financial aid, which amounts to $1.3 billion.

The Russian Armed Forces exercise full command and control over military formations in the occupied areas of Ukraine.

Just a few facts from the latest reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. In August, its UAVs registered convoys of cargo trucks illegally crossing at night the segment of the Ukrainian-Russian state border currently controlled by the Russian side. The convoy then drove to the town of Khrustalnyi, a well-known storage of Russian heavy weapons. Later, in the same Khrustalnyi, the SMM spotted hundreds of “ammunition crates (some of which were assessed as new), as well as 118 crates of MLRS rockets”. As per SMM reports, its monitors also identified “four distinct electronic warfare systems (a Leer-3 RB-341V, a 1L269 Krasukha-2, a RB-109A Bylina and an anti-UAV system, Repellent-1) near non-government-controlled Chornukhyne.

Do I have to say that these systems are employed exclusively by the by the Russian Army?

In September, the SMM reported a convoy of 10 KamAZ canvas-covered cargo trucks near the border with the Russian Federation where there are no border crossing facilities.

In October, on three occasions (9, 10 and 11-12 October) an SMM UAV spotted vehicles, including an anti-aircraft gun and an armoured personnel carrier, entering and exiting Ukraine in the middle of the night via an unpaved road near Manych, in a non-government-controlled area of Donetsk region near the border with the Russian Federation where there are no border crossing facilities.

And now a final stroke. On 27 October, an SMM UAV spotted in non-government controlled territories a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa), then a convoy of seven trucks on a dirt road near the border with the Russian Federation where there are no border crossing facilities, then the UAV had experienced signal interference, assessed as jamming, after which all communication with it was lost. The UAV did not return to its ground control station and is considered lost.

Thus, only in the past three months, the SMM has observed convoys, including trucks, on seven occasions on the same abovementioned unpaved road in the area near the border.

Any doubts, anyone, as to who is in charge there?

Anyone to believe the Russian narrative that there are independent authorities in Luhansk and Donetsk and Moscow is merely playing a role of a mediator? Really?

Dear colleagues,

If someone thinks that the only flash point in Ukraine-Russian relations is in Donbas, they would be gravely mistaken.

Let’s have a look at the Sea of Azov, which was turned into another theater of belligerent Russian actions against Ukraine.

In the last six months, the Russian Federation stopped in an abusive manner over 200 vessels bound for Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. As confirmed by the OSCE SMM, these interruptions to commercial shipping caused economic and trade disruptions resulting in commercial losses for the ports employing thousands of people. Such actions of Russia are inconsistent with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and breach the navigational rights of Ukraine and of the flag States of the stopped vessels. Vessels bound for Russian ports in the Sea of Azov have not been subjected to similarly disruptive stoppages.

Then there is the Kerch Strait Bridge, built unlawfully and unilaterally in violation of Ukraine’s rights - it has become a major hindrance to international navigation. The bridge is only 35 meters high, and only vessels with an air draft of less than 33 meters and a length of less than 160 meters may safely pass under it. As a result, Panamax vessels and many Handymax vessels are now prevented from transiting the Kerch Strait. This has had a major impact on traffic to Ukraine’s ports.

Russia also uses the Sea of Azov as an additional channel to supply its forces in Donbas with weapons from the occupied territory of Crimea. According to our information, Russia has not given up on the idea of having a land corridor to Crimea. Furthermore, the threat of a maritime assault from the Azov direction in case of a large-scale military confrontation remains a source of security destabilization in the Donetsk region.

In the occupied Crimea active militarization proceeds at full speed. Russia has more than doubled the strength of its military on the peninsula and continues the preparation of Crimean military infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons including refurbishment of Soviet-era nuclear warheads storage facilities.

The situation with human rights in the peninsula also remains highly alarming. The OHCHR findings confirm “the continuing failure of the Russian Federation authorities, as the occupying power, to adequately guarantee and protect a wide range of human rights in Crimea”.

Russia keeps ignoring the order of the International Court of Justice issued one year ago that required, among other things, to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the ability of the Crimean Tatar community to preserve its representative institutions, including the Mejlis as well as to ensure the availability of education in the Ukrainian language.

Despite the clear meaning of this Order, an entire year has passed and Russia continues to maintain its ban of the Mejlis and the number of students studying in the Ukrainian language dropped from over 13 thousand in the 2013-2014 academic year to just 172 in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Take a moment and think of these numbers: over 13 thousand and 172. What a difference!

Add to that the fact that over the period of 2014-2017, 108 thousand people moved from the Russian Federation to Crimea and Sevastopol. What is it if not a deliberate policy to change the demographic composition of the region?

Over 70 Ukrainian citizens have been detained in Russia and the occupied Crimea by Russian authorities under trumped-up politically motivated charges.

Oleg Sentsov, facing the threat of torture by forceful feeding, had to terminate his hunger strike after a four-month struggle. His health condition has deteriorated dramatically and remains critical. The recent decision of the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize to Oleg Sentsov is a powerful signal to all those illegally detained that they are not forgotten.

Health condition of Volodymyr Balukh, Asan Chapuch, Emir-Usein Kuku, Stanislav Klykh, Ihor Hryb, Yevhen Panov and many others, who do not receive appropriate medical assistance, remains of great concern.

This whole bleak picture would be incomplete without mentioning a massive campaign of propaganda and incitement of hatred against Ukraine and Ukrainians launched in by the Russian government.

Russian state-owned media and public figures are spending hours in a prime time on the television to promote insinuations about the Ukrainian people. This has already played a significant role in the occupation of Crimea and fueling the conflict in Donbas.

Dear colleagues,

What is to be made out of all this?

It is both quite simple and extremely difficult at the same time.

The keys to the resolution of the conflict are in Moscow.

On our part, we are ready for constructive engagement to end the conflict. Alas, such readiness is not present yet in Russia.

As regrettable as it may be, until there is a tangible change in the Russian policy towards building genuine neighborly relations with countries around its borders based on respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity instead of creating areas of instability and waging wars, the Council will continue gathering around this table to discuss never ending follies of the Russian expansionist and aggressive policies.

One thing is for sure, appeasing the Kremlin and playing along will not contribute to building a more stable and safer world.