Statement and right of reply by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Vershinin at UNSC briefing "Letter of the PR of the Russian Federation S/2014/264 (Ukraine)"
We thank USG DiCarlo, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group Mikko Kinnunen, and Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Yaşar Çevik for their insights. We are also grateful to Ms.Tetiana Montian for sharing valuable firsthand information as to how UNSC decisions for resolution of the internal Ukrainian conflict are implemented in practice.
It is not occasional that the Council is having this discussion today – on this day 7 years ago the Security Council in its resolution 2202 unanimously endorsed the Package of Measures for Implementation of the Minsk Agreements as the only international legal basis for settling the civil conflict in the east of Ukraine. That is why we believe the main goal of this meeting is for the Security Council to affirm that there is no alternative to this milestone document for Ukraine.
Now seven years have passed, and unfortunately we see more and more reasons to believe that our Ukrainian neighbors still are not going to implement the Minsk Package. They say it openly. Let me cite some most recent examples.
Yesterday Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Irina Vereshchuk said: “There will be no new laws (regarding the special status for Donbas), no direct coordination”. That was after President Zelensky had talked to Chancellor Scholz. By the way, she also said that Kiev was not experiencing any pressure from the West regarding implementation of “Minsk”.
On 4 February in an interview to Ukrainian TV Channel “1+1”, Foreign Minister D.Kuleba said the Minsk Agreements could not be implemented “on Russian conditions”, to which he somehow ascribed direct dialogue between Ukraine and Donbas. Though this requirement is clearly stipulated in the Minsk Package. Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine A.Yermak conveyed the same idea at the recent meeting of political advisers of the Normandy Format that took place in Paris.
Earlier, on 2 February, Mr.Kuleba said: “None of Ukraine’s regions will be able to veto state-wide decisions. This is cast in stone! So there will be no special status, as Russia would imagine it, and no veto right”.
The day before, on 1 February, President Zelensky also reminded the whole world of Ukraine’s intractability. While hinting that there was an “alternative” solution to the conflict in Donbas, he said: “Kiev has varying views on the order of implementing certain provisions of the Minsk Agreements”.
On 31 January, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council O.Danilov said in an interview to Associated Press: “The fulfillment of the Minsk agreement means the country’s destruction. When they were signed under the Russian gun barrel — and the German and the French watched — it was already clear for all rational people that it’s impossible to implement those documents.”
Ukrainian politicians consistently attempt to make the West think that Minsk Agreements run counter to Ukraine’s interests. But if building peace on Ukrainian soil is part of those national interests, there should be no such sayings.
Another common excuse is as follows: Russia allegedly fails to implement its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. I think we may hear something of this kind later today. At the same time, it is obvious that there are no grounds to put a question this way, because the Minsk Agreements contain no mentioning of Russia. I will only cite one opinion in this regard – the opinion by former judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine V.Shishkin, who recently offered to start criminal cases against Mr.Kuchma and Mr.Poroshenko who took part in the signing of the Minsk Agreements. The latter is accused of the fact that “Minsk envisages 20 obligations for Ukraine, 6 for OSCE, 2 for Donbass, and none for Russia”.
Distinguished colleagues, let me again briefly remind you of the content of the document, which stands on the agenda of this meeting. I will cite it provision by provision, the order of which is strictly stipulated and cannot be altered.
- withdrawal of weapons;
- OSCE monitoring;
- launch of dialogue between Kiev and Donbas
- detainee exchange
- humanitarian access
- lifting of economic blockade
- reinstatement of Kiev’s control of the border, if para.11 is implemented
- withdrawal of foreign formations and mercenaries
- new Constitution that envisages special status for Donbas
- endorsement of the order of convening elections
- intensification of the work of the Contact Group in Minsk
Seven years have passed, but none of the provisions of the Package were fully implemented by Ukraine, starting from the very first provision, which is ceasefire. The root cause of the problem is Kiev’s systematic unwillingness to have direct dialogue with authorized representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Contact Group. This happens despite the fact that paras. 4, 9, 11, and 12 of the document directly stipulate such dialogue. This is not our abstract “requirement”, this is an obligation of Ukraine envisaged in the document. And this is the provision that our neighbors seek to challenge increasingly often, thus risking to ruin the entire Minsk process with most devastating for Ukraine consequences.
Ukraine stubbornly refuses to implement provisions of the Minsk Package about direct dialogue with Donbas regarding provisional order of local self-government, recovery of socio-economic ties, and holding a constitutional reform to anchor the special status of the region. At present, a draft law on decentralization has been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The draft has not been coordinated with Donbas, and it does not envisage a special status for this area.
The Ukrainian side set a course for rejecting all direct communication with Donbas in the framework of the coordination mechanism. Models that they offer leave no space for effective reaction to ceasefire violations.
Attempts to shift responsibility to Russia and present it as a side to conflict are void and totally baseless.
I must say that we are very disappointed by the “ostrich-like” position of our Western colleagues who try to ignore those obvious things. It is also surprising that they try to downplay the Minsk Package while making more accent on the Normandy Format. I remind that according to Annex 2 of UNSC resolution 2202, the Normandy Format is “an oversight mechanism” for implementing the Minsk Agreements rather than a platform for articulating new decisions.
For seven years on end and at all platforms, Russia has been calling on Kiev’s Western sponsors to exert some pressure on their protégés and make them comply with Minsk. But they did the exact opposite. Growing feeling of impunity and permissiveness bolstered “hot heads” in Kiev to invent more excuses and embark on further military ventures against their own population.
Now we have what we have -- thousands victims of the internal armed conflict. Multi-million population of Donbas are aliens in their own country. They are in the target of assault and sniper rifles, howitzers and combat drones. As for Ukrainian representatives, they keep inventing pretexts for not implementing their obligations and give orders to bombard peaceful population.
Do you know what “Alley of Angels” is? It is a memorial in Donetsk commemorating children who died at the hands of Ukrainian military. Children like those who died on the beach in Zugres – a town in Donbas. On 13 August 2014 it was targeted by Ukrainian Air Force. More than 20 people were killed, dozens wounded.
Twenty-four-year-old Anastasia Ruban was on the beach with her two-year-old son Maksim when the Ukrainian forces opened fire with a heavy multiple rocket launcher. One of the shells landed right next to them. “There was smoke and blood everywhere. The bloody bodies of children were lying on the ground,” the girl recalls.
The Investigative Committee of Russia and RT media holding put together this and other stories that illustrate the crimes of Ukrainian military who use prohibited means and methods of warfare. The Permanent Mission of Russia circulated those materials among UNSC members yesterday. I suggest that you look into these materials, but please be ready that you will see some terrible things.
Here is another indicator of Kiev’s “commitment” to the Minsk Package – kidnapping of observer from Lugansk at the Joint Center for Control and Coordination A.Kosyak that happened in October last year. Mr. Kinnunen, we would appreciate if you could tell us about this episode. We know that this treacherous act constituted a direct violation of para.5 of the Minsk Package that prohibits “the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine”.
In conclusion, let me express hope that representatives of Western states will resist the temptation of turning this meeting into a platform for baseless and aggressive rhetoric to feed the TV cameras, and that they will abstain from making unsubstantiated allegations that Russia is allegedly going to attack Ukraine. I think we have had enough speculations on that matter, i.a. at the US-initiated meeting of the Security Council on 31 January 2022. We have explained everything there was to explain. The alleged invasion date that you announced has already passed, so perhaps you’d better stop putting yourselves in an awkward situation.
Right of reply:
I closely followed our today’s discussion and statements of my colleagues. Let me make a point about several issues that were raised today. First of all -- superfluous speculations around the address of members of Russian State Duma to President Putin with a request to recognize Donbas.
Most importantly, they only requested to consider this issue. However the very formulation of the issue reflects the sentiment that can be felt both in the Russian society and in Donbas, the population of which has spent last seven years under constant bombardments of the Ukrainian army. We spoke about it today.
We should not forget that hundreds of thousand inhabitants of this Ukrainian region have Russian citizenship. They probably had no other choice once Ukraine stopped fulfilling its obligations in the area of social security with regard to Donetsk and Lugansk.
But let me stress again that it is only an initiative, an address of Russian MPs. That is why it is important to focus on implementing the Minsk Agreements, which many of us confirmed today, rather than on related speculations. The more reason why we should avoid bringing it to the Security Council, otherwise one day we will find ourselves reacting to all decisions of all parliaments of the globe. Let me again draw attention to what President Putin said when he pointed out that we must do all we can to make sure that the problem of Donbas is resolved through implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
Distinguished Mr. James Cleverly talked about the background of today’s problems. To my mind, the image was inaccurate, one-sided, and even somewhat superficial. Let me remind what historical period preceded many of the problems. It was the illegal deadly coup d’état in Kiev in 2014, when nationalists and radicals came to power and rejected dialogue with the Russian-speaking population, threatening them instead. I remind of a crackdown on the Russian language that started in Ukraine and remains in high gear today. I also remind that Ukraine develops new versions of interpreting history, which even envisage glorification of Nazi criminals. It all happened and led, among other things, to Crimea seceding from Ukraine and reunifying with Russia after a referendum. So the image of this developing conflict must be clear and accurate, it must reflect the real reasons and real developments of the situation.
As for the aggression that Russia is allegedly plotting against Ukraine, some would complaisantly share with us some military scenarios. For example, American Secretary of State did so today. He listed some provocations as alleged pretexts for attacking Ukraine. Such baseless insinuations but cause our deepest regret. Besides, as I said, they are dangerous because they add tension to the already tense atmosphere. But those are words.
Today’s discussion also addressed statements that had been made. We had made plenty of statements at various levels that underscore what we propose and what we are ready to do. Sadly, not everyone perceives and catches on those statements that are pronounced at a very authoritative level in Moscow. So much for statements, let us now turn to facts. What are the true facts? On true fact is that Russian forces have been and remain on the Russian territory. The day before yesterday, some units started to move back after the exercises to places of their permanent deployment on the Russian territory. Russian officials repeatedly said, and I join them in saying that our country is conducting military exercises on its territory in a manner we find appropriate.
Let me cite other facts as well. Ukraine violates the 2011 Vienna Document on confidence and security-building measures. There is a contingent of 120,000 troops deployed on the border with Donbas on the Ukrainian side. According to open-sourced data, last year the United States supplied Ukraine with 650 million dollar worth of extra armaments. Those are not toys. Those are weapons that can shoot. Then, only in January this year they supplied further 200 million dollar worth of weapons. This does not include what comes from Great Britain, Canada, Baltic States. All those states supply Kiev with lethal arms: combat drones, antiaircraft missile launchers “Stinger”, anti-tank missiles “Javelin”, light weapons and ammunition. Poland delivers ammunition for 122 mm and 152 mm guns, that are banned by the Minsk Package. What do we have then? All this aggressive rhetoric and unstopping warnings about the Russian military threat, what are they needed for? Are they needed to explain those deliveries, to serve as a pretext?
It is obvious to us that the final goal of this campaign is to downplay the talks on longstanding legally binding security guarantees for our country. We demanded such guarantees from NATO and the US – in a frank and transparent manner. We are ready for serious dialogue, but not for its imitation. You know that today the US Ambassador in Moscow received our written reaction to the US response on security guarantees. We do hope that Washington will study this detailed written document very carefully.
In response to the representative of Ukraine:
Today we heard such words as war and aggression. What’s interesting, no one in Russia, in Moscow said such words. I said nothing of the sort either. I regret that strong and serious statements that President Putin made in the recent days regarding the situation around Ukraine and in the east of that country were left unheeded. I would ask our partners to listen to what was said at the press-conference in Moscow with participation of President of France and Chancellor of Germany, where our guests and President of the Russian Federation were speaking.
This meeting is dedicated to the Minsk Package. I am glad that most of today’s statements highlighted that the Minsk Agreements are the only internationally recognized legal basis for settling the Ukrainian conflict.
By the way, I very much appreciate the work of our interpreters who manage to relay what we are saying in other languages in a correct way. For example, President Zelensky called the Minsk Agreements “mediocre”. I wonder how this is translated, at least in English and French, because I will not be able to grasp it in the other languages. Apparently, the sense of the notion was conveyed.
Now to what Ambassador Kyslytsa said regarding the legitimacy of Russia’s membership in the United Nations and the Security Council. Unfortunately, it is not the first time when representatives of various states, Ukraine included, seek to boost their self-esteem by speculating about the legitimacy of Russia’s seat in UNSC. We understand why they do this. They appeal to inexperienced public, to those who are far from the international law. Because if we take professionals, we will see that they know, people know how things are.
Did Russia submit another application to become member of the UN? We may also ask whether Ukraine did this, or are you still acting on behalf of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic? Russia is the continuator state of the Soviet Union. Basically, it is only about a state changing name. As for Ukraine, it was USSR’s successor state, meaning that it is a new state formation.
As for poetry, it’s good when political messages take a form of poems. I love poems about beauty by N.Zabolotskiy, a Soviet Russian poet. Do you recall this piece?
If it is so, what’s beauty? Let’s decide.
And why for it do we construct a palace?
A chalice, holding emptiness inside,
Or burning flame that glimmers in the chalice?
I realize that it is an impossible task for the interpreters, but I still hope that they convey the sense of this. I would compare beauty to wisdom. We need to have wisdom. We need to make wise decisions. When it comes to settlement in eastern Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk Package, wisdom is what I stand for.