Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN General Assembly debate on agenda item “Situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” (23 February 2021)

Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN General Assembly debate on agenda item “Situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” (23 February 2021)

Mr. President,

Your presence here matches the importance of the issue and recognizes the support by the General Assembly of the item we discuss today.

Since 2014, the GA has already adopted nine resolutions reaffirming its commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemning the temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territories by Russia.

The GA has not and will not accept the Russian mantra that “the case of Crimea is closed”.

It will be closed when the Russian troops are out, as they were out on one February day from Afghanistan.

Just recently under your leadership, Mr. President, we marked the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and discussed how to overcome the challenges we face.

One of the conclusions of this discussion, in our view, is that some fundamental problems and differences that have existed since the establishment of the UN remain the same.

Unwillingness of certain member-states to fulfill their obligations under the UN Charter, the lack of an adequate response to the growing level of violations and impunity resulted in a precedent with global implications.

And here I refer to the Russian Federation, the state that continues its armed aggression against Ukraine, Georgia and other nations.

One quote: “At bottom of Kremlin's neurotic view of world affairs is … instinctive Russian sense of insecurity. …

They have always feared foreign penetration... And they have learned to seek security only in patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power, never in compacts and compromises with it”.

You could have thought and rightly so that it is about today’s situation.

Yet, this quote is 75 years old.

It’s a part of the US diplomat George F. Kennan’s famous Long Telegram on a new strategy for diplomatic relations with Moscow.

And although Moscow is not the capital of the state that ceased to exist 30 years ago, it is still the heart of the same ideology.

The ideology that the Russian Federation brought with it when it joined the UN in 1991 and established its Mission in the same premises the Soviet mission used to be in.

During the late 1940s, Kennan’s writings inspired the Truman Doctrine and the US foreign policy to support other nations and promote democracy worldwide.

As a reply to Moscow’s vision of the world affairs Truman’s Doctrine underpinned policy in Europe and around the world.

It mobilized economic power to stabilize unstable nations and regions.

It facilitated post-war recovery and brought modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

Time proves that Russia continues seeking “security only in struggle for total destruction of rival power”.

Two weeks ago, making a statement on the occasion of the Day of Russian Diplomats Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed that the West wants, and I quote, "Russia to be a convenient territory for promoting their own interests in the security, economic, and socio-political spheres. Every day we see how these attempts become more and more fierce.” End of quote.

75 years have passed but the Kremlin’s mindset has not changed.

And why should it change, if the mummified body of the Bolsheviks leader, Lenin, is still on display in front of the Kremlin, Stalin and dozens of communist and KGB leaders are buried by its walls, and the same spirit is behind them?

Plotters, murderers, sadists, and master-minders of wars and genocides, and yet venerated by the neo-Bolshevicks, and neo-Stalinists, opportunists of all shades, who being unable to accept democratic path of development hammer away at the West for the loss of the Russian and Soviet Empires and yammer night and day about evils of capitalism, while addicted to profiteering from the Western market economy and own population.

Mr. President,

The 20th of February is the day when Russia started its temporary occupation of Crimea; in a few weeks it continued its armed aggression with a military invasion in parts of Donbas.

According to the latest UN data, as a result, more than 13,000 people have died, including more than 3,000 civilians, tens of thousands have been injured, and about 1.5 million have become internally displaced persons.

The 20th of February is recognized as the beginning of Russian aggression.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also recognized this date by commissioning a medal "For the Return of Crimea".

Here is the picture of it.

As you can see it clearly indicates the date of the beginning of their military special operation – the 20th of February 2014, long before the so-called referendum on the peninsula.

I think we should request Russian Defence Ministry to decorate Russian diplomats with this medal, so that every time they repeat their mantra of the sham March referendum in Crimea, they would remember the February day of the beginning of the Russian occupation as certified by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

On the 11th of February we had a long discussion on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements at the Security Council briefing.

Council members noted the deterioration of the security situation due to the increased number of Russian armed provocations and regular ceasefire violations.

It was underlined that Russia bears full responsibility for those killed and injured in a conflict it unleashed and continues to support and fuel.

By the way, I would like to thank the Russian mission for doing the technical job and requesting that meeting and thus providing us with the opportunity to shed the light on the current state of affairs.

Mr. Kravchuk, First President of Ukraine, Head of the delegation of Ukraine to the Trilateral Contact Group presented an impressive list of steps Ukraine had taken to find ways to resolve this international conflict peacefully.

Despite all our efforts, the work of the TCG is blocked under various pretexts, and the Russian side refuses to finalize even the decisions agreed at the expert level.

The additional measures to strengthen the Ceasefire regime of July 22, 2020 are under threat due to ongoing provocations from the armed formations of Russia, including with the use of weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements.

Indeed, what can we expect from a state, whose Deputy Chairman of the Lower House of its Parliament Piotr Tolstoy claimed last month at the PACE Session in Strasbourg that, and I quote, “Ukraine and Georgia lost their territories for good”? End of quote.

What can we expect from a state that in January 2021 organized a coven in the city of Donetsk, which they called a forum “Russian Donbas”, to propagate the integration of this occupied Ukrainian territory into Russia?

We are fully convinced that security remains the crucial element of the de-escalation.

Until a 400-km section of the state border in the conflict zone remains open for a free flow of Russian weaponry and personnel, the situation will remain tense and fragile.

Sovereign control of Ukraine over its state border should be renewed and UN Peacekeepers, as one of the options, could play an important role in its monitoring.

Mr. President,

Donbas is becoming the potential source of a technogenic and environmental catastrophe.

In 2018 the occupation authorities stopped pumping water from the Yunkom mine where the Soviet government carried out a nuclear explosion.

As a result, radiation is already contaminating the surface and groundwaters.

We, therefore, call on an active involvement of the UN to conduct assessment of the environmental damages in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

We are also concerned regarding the failure of the occupying Power to fulfil its obligations under the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

This issue is extremely important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Absence of national and international control in the temporarily occupied territories poses an epidemiological threat not only to the locals, but also to the entire region.

It is crucial to constantly remind Moscow of its obligations as a party to the conflict.

Until Russia denies its role in the conflict, the prospects of peaceful resolution will remain elusive.

Repetitive statements by Russian officials about Russia's alleged "mediation" role in the Donbas peace process are outrageous.

Russia has not been and cannot, in principle, be a mediator in the conflict it has started and continues to take part in since the first day of aggression.

As a party to the conflict, non-elected member of the UN Security Council that is not even mentioned in Article 23 of the UN Charter on the composition of the Council, Russia should not be allowed to use veto power.

Mr. President,

The current trends of the situation in Crimea are well known and can be generally characterized as deterioration in all areas.

This Assembly clearly expressed itself on the situation in the Peninsula in its resolutions on militarization and human rights.

Unfortunately, none of them have been implemented by the Kremlin.

Even in times of COVID-19 pandemic and contrary to the resolution of the Security Council 2532 (2020) the Occupying power seeks to destroy the identity of Ukrainians and the indigenous people of the Peninsula — the Crimean Tatars.

Russia has already transferred 500 thousand of its citizens to Crimea to decrease the part of the ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Since the beginning of its occupation 25% of the composition of local population has already changed.

Beyond any doubt, it is intentionally provocative that more Ukrainian citizens were arbitrarily arrested by the Russian occupation authorities on the eve of today’s debate.

On the night of February 17, searches were conducted in the houses of activists of the Crimean Solidarity and the Crimean Childhood thus clearly indicating the politically motivated character of the actions of the occupation authorities.

Russia may continue to pretend it doesn’t violate any international norms and principles.

Yet, reports of the UN Secretary-General, OHCHR, OSCE, their missions, which were invited by Ukraine, as well as the report of the ICC Prosecutor – all say the contrary.

They speak the truth in facts.

If Russia doesn’t agree with all the mentioned resolutions and reports it should simply provide access to Crimea to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission.

The access of international organizations to the temporarily occupied territories is also critical to avoid further humanitarian catastrophe.

Ukraine guarantees such access throughout the Government-controlled territory and continues to demand from the Russian side to do the same on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Two weeks ago, the OHCHR sent yet another request to Russia to ensure access to the temporarily occupied Crimea.

Let’s ask the Russian representative to inform us whether Moscow is going to grant such an access.

We know the answer, we heard it on a number of occasions already.

To consolidate efforts at the international level we have initiated a new format – the Crimean Platform.

It is an effort to facilitate the promotion of a strategic vision to the process of liberation of Crimea as well as to add synergy to all relevant processes on different fora.

The Platform will focus on five priority areas: non-recognition policy; security; effectiveness of sanctions; protection of human rights, overcoming the negative impact of the temporary occupation of Crimea on the economy and the environment.

We invite all member-states to join this initiative.

Soon we will hear from the Russian representative worn-out story pushing false narratives on its aggression against Ukraine.

Yet, it seems Russia is experiencing troubles in silencing its own citizens.

Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that Russian Parliament last year had to amend the Criminal code and other laws and make it punishable by fines and imprisonment any questioning that Crimea belongs to Russia.

And interestingly, the civil servants are fined twice as much as regular Russian citizens.

Keep it in mind when you speak to a Russian official.

As Kennan wrote, “All Soviet propaganda beyond Soviet security sphere is basically negative and destructive. It should therefore be relatively easy to combat it by any intelligent and really constructive program”.

Mr. President,

Ukraine has proposed Russia to solve any existing disputes at the international courts or by an ad hoc arbitration.

In the International Court of Justice, Ukraine instituted a case against the Russian Federation on the interpretation and application of the International Conventions for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In April 2017, the Court issued an Order on provisional measures in this case, which continues to be ignored by Russia despite its binding nature.

The failure to comply with the Order is reflected in the GA resolutions, including during this session.

The fourth year in a raw we have to inform you about Russia’s incompliance.

Among most recent developments I shall mention that on 14 January 2021 Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the admissibility of an interstate claims in Ukraine's case against the Russian Federation.

The case concerns human rights violations in Crimea since the establishment by Russia of effective control over this territory.

Both courts rejected Russia’s jurisdictional objections.

We will continue to take forward legal actions to hold Russia accountable for its violations of international law.

Mr. President,

This brings me back to President Truman, mentioned in the beginning of my statement.

It is hard to disagree with him: “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know”.

Indeed, most of the things in this world, if not all, are adaptations or copycats. After all, the Truman’s quote is in itself a Bible’s paraphrase.

The infamous Brezhnev’s doctrine launched in 1968 effectively classified “the issue of sovereignty as less important than the preservation of international socialism”.

It actually clarified that the intervention was imminent if Moscow perceived any country to be at risk of jeopardizing the integrity of the then Soviet bloc.

It is well known, that Brezhnev’s doctrine was proclaimed to justify Soviet occupation of then Czechoslovakia and later intervention into Afghanistan.

This doctrine didn’t disappear when Brezhnev died, neither when his KGB successor Andropov was buried by the same Kremlin wall next to Brezhnev.

It required the change of the political leadership and Gorbachev’s Perestroika to repudiate it, which allowed de-occupation of Afghanistan and withdrawal of Soviet troops from there.

Today’s Kremlin’s ideology is nothing new. At best it’s an upgrade of the totalitarian ideology of the Soviet Union.

Earlier this month President Putin said: “We will not give up on Donbas, no matter what”, as if underlining that Russia will continue the occupation, regardless of what the international community thinks and says.

What a familiar echo of former Soviet and Russian interventions.

Indeed, nothing is new under the sun.

Will the current Kremlin’s doctrine be repudiated, and what’s required to achieve it, is yet to be seen. In the meantime, we have to continue our daily work bringing closer the day of de-occupation of Ukrainian territories.

Mr. President,

Ukraine demands Russia to stop its aggression, return to the framework of international law and withdraw from the occupied territories of Ukraine.

We call on the international community to increase political and sanctions pressure on Russia to make it de-occupy the currently held Ukrainian territories, release the prisoners of war and political prisoners, and abide by international court rulings.

We are convinced that through joint efforts we will not only restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but also strengthen the authority of international law, and return peace and stability to the European continent.

It is often said that history is written in ink.

Luckily the Russian occupation laws are written in pencil and will be erased.

But let me remind you that history of wars is written in blood.

And all responsible will be brought to justice.

The Russian Federation will be held fully responsible for all crimes committed against Ukraine and other countries it invaded and their citizens.

I thank you