Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, at the UNSC Arria-formula meeting on the Russian occupation of Crimea

Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, at the UNSC Arria-formula meeting on the Russian occupation of Crimea

As prepared. Check against delivery

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the delegations of France, Germany, Belgium, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States for organizing this event.

I have no intention to go through well established facts, especially those that have been certified at various fora, including here. In a succinct manner: the General Assembly spoke, the verdict is delivered, the Crimean peninsula is under occupation.

Since a Russian delegate is present in the room, I take it that we may hear a prepared statement, which, in all likelihood, is drafted in the best traditions of congresses of the Communist Party of the USSR and will attempt to paint a rosy picture of a flourishing and prospering Crimea under the occupation.

Hence, I will not dignify the well-known Russian narrative by engaging into a discussion with him but would like to remind the Russian delegation that according to the Geneva Conventions it is a duty and an obligation of an occupying power to take care of an occupied territory. And the international community has all the rights to know how the Russian Federation as the occupying power complies with its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

I appreciate the presence here today of Mr. Akhtem Chiygoz, who is probably the best person to provide us with the first-hand information about what is currently happening in the occupied Crimea from the perspective of human rights.

Before we hear his account, I’ll raise some issues of a wider systemic nature. It is my firm conviction that without addressing these issues, the specific case of the occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea will not be resolved no matter how much and how often we discuss it.

The most fundamental point for the purposes of today’s discussion is that the international community has so far failed to address effectively the nexus between human rights and security.

In the past there have been instances when the Security Council was able to acknowledge that link.

There was a glimmer of hope, when in 1992 at the Security Council Summit President of Russia Boris Yeltsyn recognized that human rights “are not an internal matter of States” and called upon the Security Council “to underscore the civilized world’s collective responsibility for the protection of human rights and freedoms”.

What happened afterwards, was the ruinous barbarity of the first Chechen war in Russia, which was regretfully treated by the Security Council as “an internal matter”.

The above-mentioned commitment of President Yeltsin was short-lived.

More than that, the departure from this commitment was facilitated by European governments, who, in the middle of the Kremlin’s atrocities in Chechnya, opened the door for the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe – the European temple of human rights.

The decision to precipitate inviting Russia to the Council of Europe was purely political.

It was taken against backdrop of up to eighty thousand Chechens killed.

Thus, we all issued Russia a carte blanche for future gross violations of human rights.

And now one asks why over ten thousand killed in Ukraine is still not convincing enough for the Council of Europe to make a decisive choice between the Council’s values and Russia’s “valuable” financial contribution to its budget?

I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to France for according serious attention to the human rights issues. We see it as quite fitting that after the joint presidency with Germany of the Security Council, France will assume in May chairmanship of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the body, which is symbolically located in France. It is a great opportunity for the Committee of Ministers Chairmanship to bridge to the extent possible the human rights dimension of the security and the international security agenda of this Council.

The history teaches us that if the international community ignores the human rights issues, it does it at its own peril. The wars in the Balkans and the genocide in Rwanda testify clearly to this. And the subject remains as relevant today, as the case of Venezuela raises particular concerns in this regard.

It is quite encouraging to see that different international bodies start not only paying attention to the issue of human rights, but prepare to take specific steps as the European Parliament just yesterday adopted a resolution calling for a new EU sanctions regime to be established in response to gross human rights violations.

The European Council also adopted today sanctions in response to the Russian illegal actions in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.

Yet we will be lectured about the importance of properly dealing with the human rights agenda by one of the most cynical perpetrators of their violations both in its own country and abroad.

I believe that it will not be possible to break the vicious circle of impunity for human rights abuses unless the gap is bridged between the work on the maintenance of peace and security in New York and promotion and protection of human rights in Geneva.

I came recently from the high-level segment of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and I have to tell you that the only war in Europe was hardly mentioned by delegations. I am thankful to our partners, like Poland, to a wise Minister Czaputowic for making an unequivocal statement in the Human Rights Council on the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

It is rather a peculiar situation: there is limited if any space for human rights discussions in the Security Council here in New York while in Geneva raising the issue of gross human rights violations by an aggressor state in Ukraine is branded as politicization of the Human Rights Council work.

Under these circumstances the role of the Security Council is particularly crucial.

Unless the Security Council becomes a genuine, uncompromising body for maintenance of international peace and security, no one can guarantee that an aggression, such as against Ukraine, would not happen again against some other UN member-state.

I would like to quote my President here - “Maybe it is time to put Russia in its place – start with depriving it of its veto right, at least when it comes to issues related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine?”. In our view, the implementation of article 27 of the Charter – which underlines that a Security Council member which is a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting – is as relevant as ever.

We view the Franco-Mexican initiative regarding the suspension of the veto in case of mass atrocities as a step in the right direction in the overall context of the Security Council reform efforts.

Were it not for the aggressor state possessing the veto right, we would have had already a full-fledged peacekeeping force with a Security Council mandate over the entire occupied territory, including the Ukrainian-Russian border, as was proposed by the Ukrainian President.

The less resistance Russia faces, the further it moves away from the rules-based international system. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on 13 March 2014 in German Bundestag “conflicts of interest at the heart of the Europe of the 21st century can only be successfully resolved if we do not resort to the solutions of the 19th and 20th centuries. They can be resolved only if we apply the principles and instruments of our age, the 21st century”.

Since Russia’s gross violations of international law in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria have never been resolutely dealt with like they should have been, the international community faces an even more belligerent Russia.

This morning I talked to our Minister of Health Ulyana Suprun and we agreed that the reaction of the international community to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine can be compared to the inappropriate use of drugs to treat a really sick patient: if this patient does not complete a full course of the proper antibiotics, some microbes may survive and develop resistance to the drug. And that is exactly what is happening right now.

The same here – a violation of international law by Russia, which is not properly addressed by the international community, leads to a more defiant and bellicose Russia, which cares less and less about the norms and principles of international law.

To those countries that think that a constructive dialogue with Russia is currently possible I would like to recall the events in the Black Sea on 25 November 2018 when Russian border ships committed an act of aggression against three Ukrainian ships, fired upon and seized three Ukrainian vessels (with 24 sailors aboard).

We tried to launch a dialogue on the issue.

President Poroshenko made all possible arrangements to contact the Russian President to ensure our sailors’ and ships’ release, but the Russian side has not responded positively.

No wonder, since Putin announced last November that he sees no point in talking to the current Ukrainian leadership. Thus, making the captured Ukrainian sailors hostages of political schemes of the Kremlin.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All our actions to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity are driven by the norms of the UN Charter. That is why we submitted relevant cases to the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice and Arbitration proceedings under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But yet again, Russia ignores binding orders by the International Court of Justice.

Instead it constantly advocates conducting just political consultations. It is a fitting example of both the Russian politics and the diplomacy – preference for backroom deals in place of transparent agreements or court settlements. Nevertheless, we’ll continue using all the available legal means in pursuit of de-occupation of Crimea and parts of Donbas.

Mr. President,

The situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea continues to deteriorate. The peninsula is under threat of becoming an isolated and militarized territory, where human rights and freedoms are neglected and people live in fear of repression and prosecution.

The Russian Federation brags about economic and social progress in Crimea yet so far it has denied access for the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission to the peninsula. The simple question is: if the situation is so good, why one would deny the verification by the UN?

There is also an ongoing militarization of Crimea. In its resolution 73/194 the General Assembly urged the Russian Federation to stop such activities and withdraw its military forces from the peninsula.

What did Russia do in response?

Exactly the opposite.

As President Poroshenko said in the GA hall less than a month ago: “one cannot exclude eventual deployment of nuclear weapons in the peninsula. The infrastructure is already there, and Russia has used the past five years to restore and modernize it… It turns Crimea into a launch pad for its missiles. Does anybody still have illusions about why Russia had done everything to ruin the INF Treaty?”

Mr. President,

In conclusion of my rather prolonged intervention I hope that everyone present here leaves this room with a renewed sense and appreciation of the fact that without addressing the fundamentals we can go on forever discussing consequences of some illegal and unlawful actions but not being able to do anything about it. This is the area where actual implementation and not just preaching of virtues of preventive diplomacy can significantly strengthen the Security Council performance in maintenance of international peace and security.

Secondly, I call on all Council members to abide by the principle that there can be no justification for the veto use when matters of gross violations of human rights are under consideration.

Thirdly, we all have to make an effort to combat the appeal of post-truth discussions, no matter how attached we are to our emotional beliefs, personal preferences and subjective perceptions, and instead focus on facts and norms.

Fourthly, which may be the most important aspect, there is a need for a profound and genuine change in attitudes, approaches, practices of how the UN family conducts its business. I’ve been dealing with the UN issues for over 20 years already (just accidentally I recently found among my things a UN pass when I was a member of our delegation at the elections to the UN Security Council in 1999). As you can see, the only significant difference between that pass and the current is the change of color from red to blue (apart from me getting older). It is emblematic of how the UN has not really evolved and reformed despite some cosmetic changes in the appearance.

It is up to us to bring about that change.

Finally, recalling my reference to the capturing of Ukrainian ships and sailors I would like to introduce Ms. Olha Oprysko, daughter of one of the captured servicemen. Today we have a unique opportunity to hear firsthand from her about efforts of Ukrainian women to achieve safe return of the Ukrainian prisoners of war. She is here in New York to participate in relevant events in conjunction with the work of the Commission on the Status of Women. I invite her to take the floor.

I thank you.