Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council Meeting on Ukraine
I see that you are turning your wonderful sandglass. I am afraid this is going to help you neither turn the time back nor change the past. By the way, I cannot remember you bringing the sandglass to the debate on sexual violence in conflict. Or is it only conflict-related sexual violence that you can discuss endlessly, while taking no account of time?
Of course, I am thankful to the briefers for their statements, however I am slightly at a loss: What did the briefings have to do with the issue that brought us here today upon the request of the Ukrainian side? What does this issue have to do with the Minsk Agreements? Though from the words of Ms. Müller and Mr. Sajdik we can conclude that there is some connection, because they told us about a pitiful situation in which many Ukrainians and people from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are out of Kiev’s control find themselves.
I will not try to pretend we were not surprised by Ukraine’s initiative to convene this Meeting that was right away supported by the German Presidency. This initiative results in us having to speak about issues, rather unflattering for Ukraine, because after certain actions almost 4 mln Ukrainians appeared to be outlaws, whose existence is persistently ignored by the major part of the global community. This is something one should shamefully keep quiet about rather than seek to parade it in front of the whole world. But since you insist on addressing it, you are very welcome. Let us talk, even though what we have to discuss today does not pose any threat to global peace and security.
Upon listening to the statements by our Western colleagues, one might receive a false impression that Russia forces Ukrainians to change their citizenship, and in so doing (how else could it be?) “violates” the Minsk Agreements. Let me ask you once again: what exact provision of the Minsk Agreements did we violate? Have you read the Minsk Agreements at all? We have had to listen to all kinds of absurd accusations today! Let me give you not the “ideologized” and “correct” version that you promote, but the real version.
The President of Russia signed a Decree which would simplify the process of getting Russian citizenship for people from the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. In order to undergo this they will not have to renounce – I emphasize this – their Ukrainian citizenship.
The work on this Decree was transparent and it started by far not yesterday. Therefore there is no reason to say that its endorsement by the President of Russia allegedly was dedicated to some specific event or was meant to send signals to anybody.
According to the data of Russia’s Ministry of the Internal Affairs, in the period from April 1, 2014, to April 2, 2019, 925 548 people from Eastern Ukraine came to Russia and stayed there. All in all in Russia there are 2.3 mln Ukrainians. Over 334 thousand of Ukrainians applied for Russian citizenship in this time period. These figures show that Russian citizenship is in high demand among people from Eastern Ukraine, whom Kiev has placed in unbearable conditions.
In other words, this legislative initiative of Russia meets aspirations of many thousands people. We do not force them to become Russian citizens. It is them who seek to achieve this. We only provide an opportunity and make this process easier.
Why did we do this? The conflict in Donbass has been going on for five years. It has been five years since people in Donbass were deprived of an opportunity to use human rights and freedoms in Ukraine. They did not have a right to vote at the presidential elections to have taken place recently. The economic and social blockade of Donbass that has in fact existed since 2015 was reinforced and legalized in 2017. For five years on end the official Kiev has been sabotaging implementation of the Minsk Agreements by supplanting and distorting their content. It has been for five years that Kiev calls the population of Donetsk and Luhansk terrorists and separatists. You are talking about the Minsk Agreements which the majority of you have never read.
I will read out two provisions for you.
Item 7. "Ensure safe access, delivery, storage, and distribution of humanitarian assistance to those in need, on the basis of an international mechanism".
Item 8. "Definition of modalities of full resumption of socio-economic ties, including social transfers, such as pension, payments and other payments (incomes and revenues, timely payments of all utility bills, reinstating taxation within the legal framework of Ukraine). To this end, Ukraine shall reinstate control of the segment of its banking system in the conflict affected areas and possibly an international mechanism to facilitate such transfers shall be established".
None of this has happened.
We see that many of you have no interest in people in Donbass. It is much more beneficial for you to veil their daily grievances and hardships by tales about mythical Russian aggression and blame it for everything. You do not notice that the people of Donetsk and Luhansk have survived despite all that you were doing. They were deprived of sources of income, an opportunity to receive pensions and allowances to which they are entitled. Those people are not strangers to us. We could not leave them in the lurch and we did not, despite threats and sanctions coming from the West. Had it not been for Russia, those people would not have survived. Nevertheless, they never ceased to hope that the Kiev authorities would finally implement the Minsk Agreements and that long-awaited peace would finally come to their land.
However, over the five years nothing has changed. We can no longer pretend it is not so. Five years is quite enough to define one’s perception of such an important and sensitive humanitarian issue. Dwellers of Donetsk and Luhansk have deserved an opportunity to enjoy a reliable protection and social safeguards provided by State. Just like everyone in this room, they want to exercise their legitimate rights and the rights of their children to education, social benefits, medical care, and other rights embodied in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights dated 1966. Ukraine as a State provides none of this. That is why we had to offer our assistance to them. Once again, no one deprives anyone of anything, quite on the contrary: we conscientiously take on a greater economic and social burden. Probably the elderly that Mr. Sajdik talked about will no longer have to cross the contact line in order to reach the areas under control of the official authorities and receive their meagre pensions while putting their lives at risk. What do we get in return? Not a single compliment from our Western colleagues, but hypocritical worn-out accusations of aggression and mischievous plans of Russia against Ukraine.
The Decree in question was based on Article 14 of the Federal Law “On Nationality of the Russian Federation” that enshrines a possibility to grant citizenship in a simplified procedure. This does not contradict the Russian legislation. According to part 1 of Article 29 of the Federal Law, the President of Russia is entitled to define categories of foreign citizens and stateless persons who should have the right to apply for a Russian citizenship using a simplified procedure.
Besides, our actions meet the general trend to simplify migration procedures, rules of issuing residence permits and granting citizenship.
For example, in 2017 States of the European Union granted protection to over 300 thousand people who applied for asylum – reports the Eurostat. Let me remind that granting citizenship is a sovereign right of a country. According to the European Convention on Nationality dated 1996, every State should have the right to define in its legislation who should be considered its citizens. The preamble to this international agreement says that "in matters concerning nationality, account should be taken both of the legitimate interests of States and those of individuals".
Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.
We know what Mr. Yelchenko is likely to say in his statement: “interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs, blatant breach of international law and the Russian Constitution, creeping annexation of Donbass, that creates an opportunity to dispute its status”.
Mr. Yelchenko, I will answer right away. This is not true. We do not interfere in the domestic affairs and we do not engage in “creeping annexation”. We only give an opportunity to the people to finally solve crucial problems, because the Kiev authorities do not seem to be solving them, which costitutes a violation of the Minsk Agreements.
People will decide for themselves, whether to avail of this or not. After all, hundreds of thousands Ukrainians had submitted applications for a Russian citizenship even before the Decree was signed. We never repelled them. Now we just simplify the entire process for the most vulnerable groups. The number of such applications will become a litmus test for the government in Kiev and a referendum defining how people in Donbass relate to the government. This seems to be what the current authorities in Kiev fear. Let me highlight once again that Russia does not impose its nationality on the people of Donbass. We only make it possible for them to voluntarily and autonomously address the competent bodies in Russia, while retaining Ukrainian citizenship.
We genuinely and seriously hope that the new power in Ukraine will both change the rhetoric of the outgoing power regarding Donbass and its people, that is illustrated by worn-out cliches of today’s statement by the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, and take steps to implement the Minsk Agreements and account for the interests of their nationals who live in the South-East. If it happens so, we will rejoice.
In response to the representative of Ukraine:
First of all, let me ask where you got the secret diplomacy textbook? You were almost reading out from it. I recognize it when I recall my years at University MGIMO – this is precisely how it was. I will later tell you what else you can find there.
I would like to share what I felt after the statements of our Western colleagues and Mr. Yelchenko. Besides, he asked me a question and I should answer.
In general terms, we have heard nothing new today: all the same worn out and groundless accusations, and even some conscious distortion of facts. I was particularly amused to learn that it was Russia that blocked the “Easter ceasefire” in Donbass. Mr. Sajdik knows better of it, because he participated in the meeting of the Contact Group.
I will not ask him today how many Russian military servicemen he has seen in Donbass since we met the previous time. This is not the question I am going to ask. Here is what I am asking: Why did it happen that the Easter ceasefire between the sides was not achieved?
When watching our today’s discussion one might think that nothing has changed. However, a lot has changed over the recent month – I want to remind of that. The people of Ukraine rejected point blanc everything that President Poroshenko had been doing in the course of five years – in Ukraine and in relations with Russia. Attempts to reverse this trend by deceitful anti-Russian rhetoric that is so dear to Poroshenko failed. This proves that the people of Ukraine have clearly stated their position: they want changes, they want normal relations with Russia, they want a decent life, a peaceful future for their children. They are tired of attempts to blame Russia for all Ukraine’s woes – the thing President Poroshenko was preoccupied with during his rule.
The people of Ukraine need real deeds, real steps towards peace that would mean real dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk. This is what any conflict settlement is about – it is about a direct dialogue of opposing sides, which is something the Ukrainian authorities steadily rejected all this time. The keys to the settlement of Ukraine’s problems are kept in Kiev, and in the Western capitals that let Kiev sabotage the Minsk Agreements, but not in Moscow.
As for the rhetoric flowers for elected President Zelensky, Mr. President, I believe it is yet too early to send flowers. The signals that emanate from the election-winner are rather contradictory so far.
We are genuinely interested in him taking real steps towards settlement, however we will understand his intentions no sooner than he starts doing something. That is why we will watch him fulfil his promise to change the situation in Donbass. We will see if he is going to stick to the Minsk Agreements or try to invent new formats to achieve progress – time will show.
As for the question set by Mr. Yelchenko, he must be aware that in Russia thousands of people have dual citizenship. By the way, he is surely aware that some of Ukraine’s neighbors readily issue passports for Ukrainian nationals of non-Ukrainian descent. There are hundreds of thousands of such passports. In Russia there are many thousands, if not millions people who have dual citizenship. This is a known fact in our country and elsewhere in the world. If some other country – no matter if it is our neighbor or not – offers our people to exercise this right, we will not prevent them from doing so. I stress once again: no one is going to force those people – as Mr. Yelchenko said – to receive Russian passports. This will be their free choice. No one is going to put a leash on them and drag them to Russian internal affairs bodies to get a passport.
Once again, they have the right to keep their Ukrainian citizenship. This is only a humanitarian step. Please, understand this. Russia wants peace, stability and well-being for our brother nation. This is the objective of our President’s decree. It aims to ensure opportunities for social protection for the people who have been put in terrible conditions, make it possible for them and their children to be educated at Russian facilities at par with Russian people. The Decree does not touch upon the Minsk Agreements and by no means prevents Ukraine, Donetsk or Luhansk from implementing them. This is possible given the political will.