Statement by Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine

Statement by Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine

As prepared. Check against delivery

Mr. President,

I would like to start by expressing my delegation’s appreciation for having this opportunity to participate in the Security Council discussion of the issue of utmost concern to us. I also thank all our briefers for their inputs.

Second, we would like to express our gratitude to all Security Council members who spoke in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and convey our regret that such an important meeting had to be convened on such a short notice without any advance indications from the initiators of the discussion -- only because the Russian delegation opted to keep other Council members in the dark about its plans for the month of February.

As we recall from our membership in the Council slightly over a year ago, it was always a matter of courtesy for Council members to flag out issues that they may bring to the attention of the Council members in any upcoming month or week. Out of professional respect to fellow colleagues, Council members are expected to keep each other informed of possible changes in the program of work to allow for ample time to prepare for a discussion. Especially so if the date was more or less certain. We can only wonder why this established practice has not been followed this time.

Since we cannot exclude that the Russian delegation will make it a customary practice to call for thematic meetings related to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict based on the dates of certain significant events, let me put together for the Council members an indicative list of dates, which is by no means exhaustive, to keep in mind while conducting preparations for the upcoming months.

So here we go:

- February the 20th. This is the day when back in 2014 Russia started its invasion in Crimea. We’ll have a General Assembly debate on this date, but maybe someone will come up with an idea of having a discussion in the Security Council as well. It is better to be prepared, just in case;

- March the 16th. The date of holding the infamous so-called referendum in Crimea. The GA on March 27, 2014 adopted resolution 68/262 asserting that this so-called referendum has no validity and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea. By the way, the Russian side is consistently pushing the narrative of a peaceful nature of events in Crimea. Just one episode from 2014 for your reflection: on March 18, Ukrainian warrant officer Serhiy Kokurin, a native of Crimea, was shot by two bullets in the heart during the Russian special forces assault at the Ukrainian cartographic station near Simferopol. He was the first Ukrainian soldier killed by Russia in this war;

- June the 14th. Over the Luhansk airport the Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian transport aircraft killing 40 Ukrainian paratroopers and 9 crew members;

- July the 17th. The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Another terrorist attack by Russia. All 298 people onboard were killed;

- August the 23rd-24th. Four battalion-tactical groups of the Russian armed forces invade the territory of Ukraine;

- September the 5th. Signing of the Minsk Protocol, which together with the Minsk Memorandum constitutes the core of the Minsk agreements, implemented by the Package of Measures. For the record, on the Russian side the document was signed by Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov;

- October the 22nd. At a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Russia blocked the adoption of the decision to extend the mandate of the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk to the entire uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border. By the way, paragraph 4 of the aforementioned Minsk Protocol reads as follows, and I quote: Ensure permanent monitoring on the Ukrainian-Russian State border and verification by OSCE, along with the establishment of a security area in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation;

- November the 2nd. Illegal elections were held in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It was yet another violation of the Minsk Protocol, paragraph 9: Ensure the holding of early local elections in accordance with the Law of Ukraine on the interim status of local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (Law on Special Status). Worse, the recent holding, in late 2018, by the Russian occupation administration of another illegal so-called “elections” in the occupied areas added insult to injury: it was a clear and deliberate provocation to undermine the Minsk agreements;

- November the 25th. Another significant development, this time in 2018, when the Russian navy attacked Ukraine’s two armored boats Nikopol and Berdyansk and a tugboat Yani Kapu;

- January the 13th. In early 2015, the Russian forces shelled a checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha. 12 civilians were killed and 18 more were wounded. Later the same month, on January the 24th, the Russian forces randomly shelled the outskirts of Mariupol, killing 31 civilians.

Mr. President,

Now to the subject of today’s meeting.

Right away, I have to ask my colleagues around the table for indulgence since even an abridged account of the state of implementation of the Minsk Agreements is quite extensive and, in all likelihood, my statement will last more than five minutes.

I count on your understanding.

Today we heard an already well-known interpretation of the Minsk Agreements implementation by the Russian representative. Or, to be more precise, misinterpretation. But reality is quite different. All everyday developments prove that it is only Russia and its ongoing military activity in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as well as in Crimea that constitute for now an unsurmountable obstacle for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The Russian side proposes a very selective approach to implementation of the Minsk Agreements, emphasizing the political elements in its own interpretation. However, it totally ignores its obligations in the security and humanitarian spheres.

Let’s start with some numbers.

As of the beginning of this February, the Russian armed formations in Donbas have in their possession 496 main battle tanks (this is comparable to the arsenals of such countries as Germany, France, Indonesia), 938 armored combat vehicles (similar to Peru and Kuwait), 128 multiple launch rocket system (somewhat less than Indonesia), 776 artillery systems, including self-propelled ones (again, comparable to the numbers in such former Council members as Kazakhstan or Ethiopia).

The armed force of 35 000 in the occupied Donbas is supported by over 2 100 Russian regular military, mostly in the key command and control positions.

The total number of the Russian offensive strike group personnel along the Russian-Ukrainian border (including the groups adjacent to the occupied territories of Donbass and Crimea) is 87 750 military.

Quite some numbers, aren’t they?

Now the question: what do these numbers speak of in terms of Russia’s real intentions? Do they show that the party in question wants to deescalate the situation?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Since the Russian representative decided to quote the provisions of the Minsk Agreements, I would also like to remind him that it was Russia that violated its commitments almost instantly following the signing of the Minsk documents.

In particular, the Russian forces attacked and seized the city of Debaltseve on 16 to 18 February 2015, immediately after the Minsk Package of Measures, establishing the comprehensive ceasefire as of 15 February, had been signed by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

The logic of the Minsk Agreements envisages immediate implementation of initial security provisions – ceasefire and heavy weapons withdrawal.

From 2015 on, Russia 18 times (I repeat, 18 times) has effectively sabotaged implementation of ceasefire agreements. During this period, there were over 54 THOUSAND cases of ceasefire violations. In almost 6 THOUSAND cases, the Russian forces used weapon systems prohibited by the Minsk Agreements.

[Just the latest data for your consideration: during the last ceasefire, Ukrainian forces’ positions have been shelled and shot at 314 times, of which 63 times – with the use of artillery systems prohibited by the Minsk Agreements].

On the heavy weapons withdrawal.

Ukraine has withdrawn all the prescribed weapons as per paragraph 2 of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We regularly provide the OSCE SMM with detailed inventory lists of such weapons (the most recent list was sent to the Mission on 9 February).

[When and if OSCE monitors report violations on the Ukrainian side, it usually has to do with some technical issues (weapon systems occasionally may be stationed not beyond the exact line of withdrawal due to technical location errors or may be spotted during transportation by rail or auto transport for maintenance and repair outside the zone of Joint Forces Operation)].

There are numerous and regular cases of blatant violations of stationing heavy weapons by the other side in the immediate vicinity of the actual contact line, not the withdrawal line. There has been no progress in negotiations about creating a heavy weapons free area near Mariupol. Do I need to say that it is the Russian representatives that block any discussion of the issue?

What about “withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine” (paragraph 10 of the Package of Measures)?

The picture is crystal clear. Reports of the OSCE SMM offer an additional insight into the presence of the Russian weaponry systems (and, by extension, of the Russian military), including radio reconnaissance systems, four different distinct electronic warfare systems, latest radars, jamming stations in the occupied territories of Ukraine.

Now, let’s have a look how the sides implement the provision relating to the monitoring and verification by the OSCE mission (paragraph 3 of the Package of Measures). Ukraine provides a maximum support possible to the work of the OSCE SMM, which is deployed in Ukraine at the invitation of our government.

Again, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

During the latest ceasefire period the OSCE SMM reported just one case, when the mission convoy was stopped by th e Ukrainian forces. What do we have on the other side? 37 cases of limiting the freedom of movement of the OSCE monitors!

In 2016-2017, all OSCE SMM long range unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over the occupied territories. In 2018, the Mission restarted their use for monitoring purposes. The latest long range UAV downing was on 27 October 2018. As a result, all UAVs are under constant threat.

In 2018 alone, the SMM encountered over 900 restrictions of access in the Russia-occupied parts of Donbas, especially near the state border and in southern parts of the Donetsk region adjacent to the Sea of Azov.

[Against these concealing practices, it is not surprising that Russia has yet to provide the international community with credible explanations on how modern and sophisticated Russian weaponry emerged in Donbas].

Again, some facts: in 2018 there were 153 cases of illegal crossing of Ukraine-Russian state border by automobile and rail transport carrying military goods, fuel, arms and weapons, armaments and munitions. In 2019 – 19 cases already.

[We’ve also heard about some, reportedly, offensive operations by the Ukrainian military.

Let me clarify this.

There is a line of contact that has been fixed by the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014. And when Ukrainian forces make some advances, they do so in the so-called grey zone without crossing that line.

Now let’s have a look at the other side of the ledger: from the moment of signature of the Minsk Memorandum the other side occupied additionally about 1700 sq. km in violation of the mentioned line].

Mr. President,

That is why we still believe that a peacekeeping operation under the UN auspices can bring peace to Ukraine. We are ready for constructive discussion of this initiative. For Ukraine, it is a matter of principle that any decision on establishing a peacekeeping operation in Donbas extends its mandate over the entire occupied territory, provide for withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries and their weaponry from the territory of Ukraine, as well as dissolution of all illegal bodies and structures. It is no less important that any peacekeeping operation is based on key UN peacekeeping principles, first and foremost, impartiality, even-handedness, neutrality.

We call on Russia to give up its attempts to misuse the UN peacekeeping toolbox in order to legitimize the gains of aggression in Donbas. The only way for Russia to prove its declared willingness to de-escalation is to cut the talk and walk the walk – and to join Ukraine and partners in a constructive work on PKO.

It must be a full-fledged mission, deployed to all Russia-occupied areas of Donbas, including along the uncontrolled segment of the Ukrainian-Russian state border.

Mr. President,

Having discussed in detail the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the respective Security Council resolution, I would also like to bring to the attention of the esteemed Council members another document of this body, statement by the President of the Security Council S/26118 from 20 July 1993, which was adopted following the Council’s consideration of the agenda item “Complaint by Ukraine regarding the Decree of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation concerning Sevastopol”.

This document contains the following words: “The Security Council reaffirms in this connection its commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. The Security Council recalls that in the Treaty between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, signed in Kiev on 19 November 1990, the High Contracting Parties committed themselves to respect each other’s territorial integrity within their currently existing frontiers”.

At the mentioned Council meeting the Russian representative said (quote): “As we remain dedicated to the principle of the inviolability of the borders within the Commonwealth of Independent States, inter alia between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Russia intends strictly to abide by the fundamental norms of civilized behavior for States in the international arena, based on the firm ground of international law, respect for the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe”.

As we see, the Russian firm intention of 1993 to conduct itself as a civilized state has not, unfortunately, evolved into a principled and consistent policy, as its invasions in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 clearly reveal.

And this is the state that is fond of accusing others of “недоговороспособности” which means being incapable of fulfilling their contractual obligations! It can be quite fascinating to observe the Russian side declaring one thing, doing completely the opposite and simultaneously attempting, figuratively speaking, to turn the tables around and convince everyone that black is white and white is black.

At this point I would like to cite Mathew, verse 16, chapter 7: “By their fruits you will recognize them”. The Russian fruits are rather obvious.

To conclude, Mr.President, as we are continuing our rhetorical exercise here for three hours already, let me remind that tomorrow the Minsk Group will hold its 103rd meeting. For many months the participants of the Minsk process desperately try to convince Russia to agree to the prisoners’ exchange based on any formula agreeable to them, including “all to all”. Ukraine has also sent 13 official written proposals with different formulas on exchanging Ukrainian prisoners in Russia and the occupied territories for Russian citizens who have been sentenced in Ukraine for crimes against territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. No response. We care about our people. And Russia sends a clear signal to all their soldiers – we will not do anything to get you back home.

The issue at stake in Minsk for tomorrow is the fate of three Ukrainians captured and held in Donetsk for nearly four years now – Богдан Пантюшенко, Олександр Коріньков and also Сергій Глондарь, whose 3 years old daughter has never seen him.

Let us make our meeting meaningful and jointly call on Russia to release them.

I thank you