Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council Briefing on Ukraine
Above all, let me thank today’s briefers: Mr. M.Jenča, Mm. U.Müller, Mr. E.Apakan and Mr. M.Sajdik.
We have initiated this meeting in order to discuss the course of implementation of “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements” – the most important document for the settlement of Ukraine’s internal crisis. It was signed 4 years ago, on 12 February 2015 by the representatives of OSCE, Ukraine, Russia, DPR and LPR.
We have all the reason to raise this topic at the UN, because this document is an inalienable part (annex) of the Security Council Resolution 2202 dated 17 February 2015, which endorses this document in the very first operative paragraph. Besides, the President of the Security Council reiterated support for the implementation of the Package of Measures in the statement dated 6 June 2018.
Some of our partners in the Security Council for some reason have the illusion (not only, but particularly on this matter), that we are ill at ease when discussing the Ukrainian issue. To say the least, it is not true. To say more – it is on the contrary. On the contrary, like no one else we are interested to make the world know how Western countries first staged a coup d’état in this country and then gave Kiev an indulgence for any action taken under the pretext of mythical Russian threat and “aggression”.
On 21 February it will have been five years since the then President of the country V.Yanukovych signed an agreement with the opposition on the peaceful settlement of the crisis in the presence of high representatives of the EU, Germany, Poland and France who acted as guarantors. Shortly thereafter, he was deceived and finally he had to leave Ukraine. Who knows, probably, if he had acted in the same manner as the current Ukrainian authorities or, say, the leaders of democratic countries who do not hesitate to use force against protestors, Ukraine would not have plunged into a deep economic crisis, rightlessness and lawlessness, and would not have become a commodity appendix to EU and its labor force supplier.
Besides, he had reason to act like this, because protestors (today it is an established fact) were armed and intended to seize power at the cost of any, even blood-drenched provocations. And so they did in the end.
I speak about it in much detail with a purpose. I want to make clear, that Western countries on the whole and the three pseudo-guarantors I mentioned in particular are directly responsible for what has happened and is still happening. Same for the United States – this is the real “puppet-master” behind the entire “Maidan theatre” who now encourages and covers up any provocation of Kiev, including the recent one in the Black Sea, willingly delivers arms to the country and pushes it towards reckless steps.
Unfortunately, it is obvious to us that the West is not interested in Ukraine itself, in its fate and well-being of its citizens. For them this country is a mere pawn in the geopolitical confrontation with Russia.
Seemingly, four years ago the international community and sides to the Ukrainian conflict agreed on the settlement formula. In May 2018 during the meeting of the Security Council convened by our Polish colleagues, we in maximum detail elaborated on the Minsk Package of Measures. That is why I am not going to do this today. We would like you to have this document in front of you, therefore, we decided to print and hand out to you resolution 2202.Every single time I urge you: read this document very carefully. Do not recite the phrase you memorized: “Russia has to implement the Minsk agreements”. The agreements do not say a word about Russia. We have repeatedly said that this is absurd. Kiev sabotages “Minsk” and tries to make Moscow accountable.
I will only highlight once again what is the most important. It is the sequence of steps listed in the resolution. It is not a coincidence, that they have been put in this order, from 1 to 13, because the sequence of their implementation is what matters the most.
I repeat, para. 9 on transferring the control over the Russian border in Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the Ukrainian side can only be implemented after all the other paragraphs have been implemented, among them disengagement of forces and hardware, adoption of the law on special status for Donbass, establishment of self-government authorities on the basis of this law, amnesty, exchange of detainees and a number of other steps.
However, today, to our regret, there is all the reason to say that Kiev comprehensively and consciously ignores and sabotages the Minsk agreements and our western partners cover up for all of its unlawful acts. This situation is at best illustrated by the fact that on 5 February the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine started criminal proceedings against one of the leaders of the opposition V.Medvedchuk who had decided to run for the elections to be held on 31 March 2019.
The reason for this prosecution was his call for the direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass and special status for Donbass within Ukraine – steps enshrined in the Minsk Package of Measures. In other words, the implementation of the Minsk Agreements in today’s Ukraine equals to a treason and entails criminal prosecution.
The need for direct dialogue between DPR, LPR and the authorities that is embodied in the Minsk Agreements is something Kiev is allergic to. Once again, our Western colleagues pretend they do not notice this; thus they show how skillfully they can use “double standards”.
Why do I say “double standards”? Because in all the other conflicts on the Security Council agenda we all try to bring the opposing sides to the negotiation table in order to stop military action and start political process.
Let us recall Syria. What is “the proverbial story” of our efforts? Yes, to establish Constitutional Committee where the government and the opposition would take part and reach agreements based on “Syrian-led and Syrian-owned” political process.
Recall Yemen. You all applauded when the government of Yemen and “Ansar Allah” came to the Stockholm agreement. More than that, now you (and us as well) keep fingers crossed for these fragile agreements to be implemented.
We all welcomed the Khartoum agreements on CAR that sought for reconciliation of once irreconcilables. The purpose of any peaceful process – and you can hardly argue with that – is to find a political, not military decision to the conflict by means of direct negotiations of conflicting sides.
Then why should Ukraine be different? Why do you not make Kiev agree to sit down at the negotiation table with the direct participants of this confrontation? Why do you go on treating us to your worn out hackneyed statements that Russia “should this”, “should that” and “should that”?
Do not bother answering. I answer to this myself. Besides, you would not have done it anyway.
This happens, because you are satisfied with the sly paradigm pursued by the Kiev authorities: “this is not a civil conflict, this is war with Russia”. It is well-known that war is something many things can be written off for. That is what President P.Poroshenko does. It turns out that all the misfortunes and calamities that have befallen Ukraine not only in recent years, but in the three recent centuries are the consequences of “Russia’s occupation of Ukraine”. In order to suit this fake paradigm Ukraine spares no effort to create a new falsified history, made up from skeletons taken out of closets.
In this paradigm, the Kiev authorities do not have to agree on anything, because not their citizens, but an “aggressor-country” is a party to conflict. Therefore, you can tear Minsk Agreements apart and throw the pieces into a rubbish bin. That is what the Ukrainian authorities did. They believe they do not have to talk to their own citizens, residents of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk for some reason do not see any “aggressor”, they do not protest against their de facto authorities and they do not beg Kiev to “save” them.
Whereas Kiev finds it acceptable to shed hypocritical crocodile tears for their citizens and indiscriminately call them “terrorists”. And, well, you do not talk to terrorists. You eliminate them. This is the entire primitive construct of the Kiev authorities. Primitive, yet effective. It is effective, because you cover them up. And this is shameful!
The situation in the South-East of Ukraine remains explosive. Kiev does not observe the ceasefire agreement and has moved far into the “grey zone” (Y.Biryukov, counsellor to President P.Poroshenko has recently proven this). The developments have come to a point where the positions of the sides have come too close to each other at some locations. Recent reports by SMM OSCE confirm that new Ukrainian tanks and artillery arrive at Donbass.
Kiev also persistently avoids implementing its political obligations, tries to marginalize the mechanisms of Minsk Contact Group and give a second go-round to the once agreed issues. Our Western partners encourage this by saying, e.g. like Kurt Volker, that the proclaimed republics of Donbass “have no place in Minsk Agreements” and that “they should be disbanded”. While President P.Poroshenko says that “there is no Minsk format”. What reaction do you expect from Donbass in response to such rhetoric?
Because of Western States being totally permissive of any action Kiev takes, the country has developed a strong environment of lawlessness and flourishing extremism, such environment incites hatred to Russia and suppresses any dissent. Kiev’s unreadiness to follow the OSCE standards strictly has become more obvious in the course of recent years.
You do your best not to notice this. Partly because it is truly difficult to walk through the maze of Ukrainian surrealist domestic political life when you deal with it first-hand, without translation. So you continue to use worn out clichés about “democratic choice” and right to a “bright future” in the “family of democratic countries”, on rare occasion mildly scolding Ukraine for the lack of progress in promoting reforms and countering corruption.
In reality, and this is the most important, you consciously ignore flagrant violations of democratic and civilized rules and outrageous lawlessness, lie, and uprising neonazism.
Only recently the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) received official rejection from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine to issue accreditation to Russian observers at the presidential elections to be held in March. Ukrainian Minister of the Interior A.Avakov promised to double check not only Russian, but all international observers at the extremist website “Myrotvorets”, prohibited in a number of countries.
For those who are not aware, this website violates the existing rules on protection of personal data and posts personal data of people who, Kiev nationalists claim as unwanted. Some of them have already been killed. As a matter of fact, this is about putting "pirate black marks” on people (or entering names on a “hit list”). If someone thinks that there are only Russians on this list, I will say that today at this site there is data on politicians from Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.
Such steps of Kiev represent another grave violation of international commitments; besides, it seriously damages ODIHR which pretends to be the “golden standard” of observing elections. Here it is worth saying that the decision of Maidan authorities not to open polling stations in Russia deprived millions of Ukrainians who found themselves in Russia of an opportunity to vote which calls into question the transparency and objectiveness of the upcoming vote.
Obviously, the population of Donbass will not have a single chance to vote, while there are 4 million of them (it accounts for nearly 10% of the total 42,3 mln of Ukrainian population). What do you think, for whom would these residents of Ukraine vote? Or rather, for whom would they not? The current Kiev authorities who so hypocritically shed tears for people in Donbass do not actually want them. Amidst impure political games, Kiev has already cut them off and left behind. Let me recall, that Kiev introduced economic, transportation, energy and social blockade against Donbass – apparently in an attempt to “take care” of the population.
We would like to listen to the Western mentors of Kiev, who are present in this room today; we would like to learn their principal assessment of Ukraine’s democratic development. It goes without saying that this assessment should reflect the situation with religious freedom in Ukraine, where Orthodox churches are impudently appropriated under direct assistance of legislative and executive authorities. In the heat of election campaigns Ukrainian authorities totally forgot that in civilized countries state is separated from church and that in Ukraine the Constitution guarantees this. However current authorities shamelessly play this religious card, dividing the faithful and flagrantly violating religious freedom.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the key impediment to the settlement of the crisis and normalization of life of ordinary people is the lack of clear reaction of Western countries to Kiev’s unwillingness to implement the Package of Measures which is already 4 years old. As a matter of fact, and we have said so, it comes to sabotaging UN SC resolution 2202.
As a result Kiev provokes new ventures that threaten to escalate the situation and destroy the peaceful process. We do hope that the participants of today’s meeting will call for Ukrainian authorities to comply strictly with their international commitments. Kiev should finally understand that the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures is the only chance for peace and settlement in Ukraine. And one more thing. We want to warn everyone – Kiev as well as its sponsors – against hopes for plan “B”, particularly if somebody is under the illusion that there is a military solution to Ukrainian internal conflict.
In response to the statement by the Representative of Ukraine:
I would like to comment on some statements that we have listened to. I will not engage in direct polemics with my Ukrainian colleague. I will just point out that in his statement he painstakingly substituted one of the parties to the conflict, which is Donbass separatists, for Russian troops. This is a cunning but effective trick, because in such a case you can blame Russia for non-compliance with the Minsk Agreements, if we are talking about the presence of Russian troops there. Point taken. We will get back to it. Having said this, the Ukrainian representative failed to mention that Kiev keeps ignoring one provision of the Minsk Agreements after the other.
Unfortunately, we have heard nothing new today. All the same worn out mantras that we have been listening to for several years already. This is unfortunate. In spite of this, you are still willing to cover up for everything your protégés do. Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia – that is almost all we heard today. Even Ukraine was mentioned in passing – in the context of Minsk Agreements. However, none of you spoke about the population of Donbass, 4 mln people who also have a voice and who live in this region. Or do not consider them people? Is this why you do not want to ask them what they think of the developments in the South-East of Ukraine?
Today we have heard more talks about Azov and the Crimea – we will get back to it as well – that are not subject to the Minsk Agreements. The representative of France has said that we have an “aggressor” and a “victim” sitting at this table today, this is how I understood this. Right after that, they expressed their support for the OSCE though its mandate does not envision that OSCE involves in the “disengagement” of Russia and Ukraine in this conflict. By the way, the Minsk Agreements do not envision this either.
We have recently started a new chapter of our meetings. I mean the dialogue between myself and the German Representative Christoph Heusgen, who in today’s statement was mostly talking to me. I would be delighted to support this endeavor and comment on some of his words.
To begin with, thanks to the frankness of my friend Christoph, we have learned that he is one of the authors of the Minsk Agreements. At least, now we know who is accountable. My friend Christoph said, apparently making a Freudian slip, that there had been “Russian occupation of Minsk” in 2015. Well, Russia once occupied Berlin, this much I can recall. This was somewhat earlier. Before this Russia had liberated Minsk. However in 2015 we were not in Minsk, neither did we intend to – Minsk is the place where our friends, brothers and allies live. We have no plans to “occupy” anything or to invade anywhere. This is not our method at all. Interference is your method, and we clearly see it today in one country of Latin America.
My friend Christoph, deliberately or not (I would choose the first option) was diligently mentioning Russia all the time – for a reason or without any. Even when he was talking about repairing the bridge, it sounded like Ukraine had to agree with Russia on that. My friend Christoph has said that our proposal on the Security Council resolution is a joke. I would like to remind, that this “joke” was discussed between President Putin and Federal Chancellor Merkel and following the request of the latter we extended the proposed mandate of the UN mission that is mentioned in this resolution. According to this update, the UN mission should protect the OSCE mission not only at the contact line but during its movements in the region as well.
Today a lot has been said about the occupation of Donbass by Russia. The Ukrainian Representative has poured lots of figures upon us. I would like to avail of the presence of Mr. E.Apakan and Mr. M.Sajdik – well, not presence but accessibility – and ask them how much of Russian troops they have seen in Donbass. And also: are they acquainted with the statistics that the Ukrainian representative shared with us? Can they confirm it?
Another topic we have talked much about is disengagement – disengagement of hardware. In due time there was an agreement reached under the OSCE mediation that the disengagement is effected after a seven-day- streak of silence at the contact line. There were dozens of such streaks, confirmed by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. “So what – the sides were told – time to disengage”. However our Ukrainian colleagues replied: “No, we have other statistics, it registered violations”. Same story every time, it has continued up to now. We would have gladly questioned other issues, including the role of Ukraine in the Minsk Contact Group and its Subgroups. We would have gladly told you how Ukraine sabotaged the work on the political, economic, humanitarian and other tracks, but in this case, our meeting would not have ended until late in the night, I am afraid.
One more topic raised today is the Budapest Memorandum. This Memorandum had to do with the commitments related to Ukraine abandoning nuclear weapons that remained at its territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It contains the obligations of all the parties to the Memorandum not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine and comply with all the principles of the OSCE with no exception. We are fully committed to these obligations. However, the Budapest memorandum does not contain an obligation or a consent to support anti-constitutional coups and violent seizure of power; the OSCE principles condemn such actions. By the way, we recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine that has been implicitly questioned today. Yes, in 2014 the Crimea “escaped” Ukraine, but this is Ukraine’s fault, no one else can be blamed for that. Had the Crimea not done so, now the situation there would have been much worse than in Donbass. It is ridiculous to listen to stories about what is going on in the Crimea and utterances about the tragic plight of the Crimean population from the people who have never been there – this is what my British colleague spoke about. I believe you have no idea how wrong you are. Please, come and visit it, we invite you. You will be welcome there. He also said that we did not let monitoring missions to the Crimean territory. This is not true either. We have repeatedly invited any of UN missions to the Crimea and said on multiple occasions that we were ready to receive such mission given the required legal conditions are observed.
Where did many of you see the commitment of Ukraine to the Minsk Agreements? Under what microscope, under which lens? This is a mystery for us. This is what must be a joke. You do not want to listen to and hear what you are being told. What obligations under the Minsk Agreements and which of the provisions should be implemented by Russia? I urge you once again: read the Minsk Agreements one more time. If you exit the paradigm, in which you believe that there are Russian troops in Donbass instead of the Donbass population, if you do this, then it will become absolutely evident to you that it is the parties to the Minsk agreements who fail to comply with them.
We stand ready to celebrate any anniversary to come. We also have what to say on this matter. I hope we will have an opportunity to talk about it. As I stated at the outset of this meeting, we are glad to seize any opportunity to talk about the situation in Ukraine. I believe life will provide us with such occasions.
I thank you.