A large-scale military operation continues in South-Eastern Ukraine with heavy and indiscriminate shelling of residential areas. Artillery and aviation are being used. Every day civilians get killed, among them - women and children. Many cities and villages are besieged by Ukrainian troops and the so-called National Guard – thousands of people are locked there, vital infrastructure is damaged and destroyed.
Ukrainian military and paramilitary forces impede peaceful population leaving besieged cities or sending their children to safe places. Buses with children are turned back.
In this context we noted the Joint Statement of the Ukrainian Red Cross, the Russian Red Cross Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They expressed extreme concern about the humanitarian situation resulting from the current crisis in South-Eastern Ukraine and called upon everyone to allow all Red Cross workers and volunteers to perform their humanitarian duties.
We circulated the text of the resolution to our colleagues in the Council a few hours before the meeting so they were able to give us their initial reaction and we did get some positive support from some members of the Council. But unfortunately some others, “the usual suspects”, were inclined in their comments to condone the military operation in south-east of Ukraine. They were speaking of the need to get more information about what was going on, receiving reports, including Mr.Šimonović’s report, which is coming on the June 17, showing no urgency about the situation. We believe it is a mistake. We believe that for the situation in Ukraine not to deteriorate further, something needs to be done now in order to stop the violence. If you look at how Ukrainian crisis has developed, you will see that every time there was procrastination, every time there was a delay in stopping and preventing violence, in showing political initiative, and the situation was deteriorating. We don’t want this to happen now. We believe that the parties need to stop fighting and need to get back to the Geneva Statement of April 17 and to OSCE “Road Map”.
Q: Mr.Ambassador, who will provide the security, who will protect the corridors?
V.Churkin: We believe that under the current situation, given the layout on the ground, if they were serious about stopping violence, they could do that by committing themselves to cease fire, and simply by allowing each other to do the things which are required by international humanitarian law.
Q: But at State Department’s briefing the proposal was called “hypocritical”, they said that Russia is not stopping the rebels from holding OSCE monitors, they mentioned about 4 things…What do you think about that response? Did that actually come out before you circulated the draft?
V.Churkin: Some statements I don’t even want to respond to because they are so odious.
Q. One of the criticisms of the draft resolution is that it does not contain reference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And second comment from some members of the Security Council that it would be ironic if Russia would sponsor a resolution calling for humanitarian corridors in Ukraine while Russia has opposed similar humanitarian corridors in Syria.
V.Churkin: We do not oppose any corridors anywhere. In fact speaking about Syria we’ve been advocating local peace arrangements which are exactly about this – about stopping fighting in a given area and allowing people to travel for humanitarian purposes, allowing humanitarian assistance to come in.
As to the first question – about sovereignty and territorial integrity – some things we could try to include. But if we get into this political discussion we’ll lose sight of the humanitarian purpose of this resolution and lose sight of the need to stop violence now. Obviously there are some fundamental political differences between us. But we believe they should not be allowed to get in the way of doing the right thing in terms of stopping the violence and returning to internationally recognized documents that already exist.
Q: Mr.Lavrov signaled this morning that Russia would be opposed to anything on Chapter VII.
V.Churkin: We are traditionally opposed to anything on Chapter VII (on Syria).
Q: Do you think that humanitarian resolution is more important, more urgent than political solution?
V.Churkin: You mean in Ukraine? We believe that if this fighting continues, there is going to be more hostility, there are going to be more casualties. It is going to make the political dialogue in Ukraine more difficult. We do have a political framework there - the Geneva statement and the “Road map” of the OSCE - but in order for that to work - violence needs to be stopped. That’s the purpose, we believe, of this resolution.
Q: How concerned is Russia about the development of full scale or full-blown civil war in Ukraine?
V.Churkin: It’s a very scary word, and coming from Russia I don’t even want to use it. When people fight, this is extremely serious and it’s something which needs to stop. And when I hear some of my colleagues say - I am almost quoting: «from where we sit, we believe this, we believe that…». Unfortunately they view it very often as a political exercise from where they sit. It’s very close to Russia, so we don’t want to see any deterioration and we want violence to stop as quickly as possible.
Q: Ambassador, can you give sense of a scale of humanitarian crisis in Ukraine? How many people are in need of aid, how many people are willing to get out? At the UN there is no humanitarian operation, so where do you get that information?
V.Churkin: Watch our television. There are dozens of journalists, who are there. These days you have the Internet and you get a lot of information from those sources. And the Red Cross, they are there, so they know what kind of situation it is. In terms of how many people - Donetsk and Lugansk - these two regions have a population of 7 million people. So if the fighting continues to spread, then potentially you’ll have many thousands of people in need of some humanitarian attention and we want to stop the cycle of violence as quickly as possible.
Q: Ambassador, what was the immediate reaction of the other Council members to the draft resolution? When do you plan to put it on the vote?
V.Churkin: Immediate reaction was as I mentioned. I hope, when they receive the instructions from their capitals, they are going to be more pragmatic and focused on the results. There were some positive reactions from some members of the Council. However others were asking so many questions that if we try to answer them, than we will be talking about things for weeks. We have not yet decided what our next move is going to be in terms of working on this resolution.
Q: Do you believe that UN should send the mission to Ukraine, to this part of Ukraine?
V.Churkin: No, this is not what we are discussing. We need to go back to a political solution. I think in fact the Secretary-General made a good statement today, when he basically said (addressing to the president-elect in Ukraine) that he needs to reestablish sovereignty but it must be done through peaceful means. This is what the Security Council, this is what the United Nations are about. How come we talk all the time, as you know, theoretically about preventive diplomacy, about the need to stop conflicts. And then some colleagues sit in the Council and shake their heads and say «well, maybe they are doing the right thing, the military thing, they have the right to do that», looking for various frames for this kind of an attitude. We believe it’s wrong, it’s our duty to try to stop conflict and violence as quickly as possible.
Q: Any response to Russia’s request for an investigation of killings in Odessa either by the OPCW or Secretariat?
V.Churkin: There has been a response. I don’t want to go into details, but we have been told they are working on it. Not in a formal and full-fledged form of investigation, which we would prefer to see, but they assured us that they are not losing sight of this. We will see what kind of result the United Nations is going to produce. We will see what they will come up with eventually.
Q: Will the OPCW be involved in this investigation?
V.Churkin: We hope so. We have some contacts with them as well. Thank you very much.