Informal comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, on the situation in Ukraine.
V.Churkin: We appreciate the remarks of Mr.Eliasson today when he described his understanding of the situation. We welcomed the fact that Mr.Simonovic is there in Ukraine now and hopefully will be able to meet with people and give his understanding of the situation with human rights in that country.
We continued discussion that we previously had in the Security Council. Some colleagues were talking about democracy in Ukraine and were referring to the new legitimate authorities. I brought in the transcript of a phone conversation between Foreign Minister of Estonia and Baroness Ashton on March 5. I did it for two reasons. One: the Foreign Minister of Estonia confirmed that those were authentic remarks that he made. And two: that transcript that created some stir in Russian and some European media was completely ignored by the mainstream American media. I specifically quoted two elements of the remarks of the Foreign Minister of Estonia to Baroness Ashton.
First, he mentioned the intimidation of the members of Parliament of Ukraine when some members of Parliament were observed by journalists to be beaten up in downtown Kiev. You can imagine what is happening outside of eyes of journalists. It’s hard to imagine how such a Parliament operating under such circumstances can be regarded as a legitimate parliament which can pass legitimate decisions on the future of Ukraine.
And the second quotation which I presented to the members of the Council was the one referring to the conclusion which people in Ukraine came to that it was one source of sniper fire which killed a large number of people during the final stage of the dramatic developments in Kiev and of course it’s also a fact that the new authorities somehow avoid the investigation of these shootings and what happened in Kiev in the last days of the crisis which lead to February 21 agreement. Maybe this is one of the reasons they are trying to walk away from February 21 agreement, it does provide for investigation. As to who was the source of that sniper fire, you may see the footage in the internet - there were clearly opposition snipers from the hotel in downtown in Kiev and they were the ones killing both policemen and those who were protesting in order to exploit further protest and take power by force in Ukraine. And finally going to the core of our discussion I simply referred to the statement which was made by foreign Minister Lavrov in Rome after he had completed another round of discussions with Secretary Kerry and other officials. He said, speaking about possibilities of international role in dealing with the crisis in Ukraine, that we need to understand better what our partners mean, those who suggest various mechanisms. But he also emphasized - and I encourage you to go to the original statement – that it’s very important for us what we are dealing with, we need to talk about implementing February 21 agreement, constitutional reform, presidential elections, forming a national unity government.
And also it’s crucially important to involve the regions in all the processes which may be taking place in Ukraine in order to resolve that crisis. Now I’m ready to take some questions.
Q: Ambassador, this issue of the same snipers shooting in both, do you think within the type of thing that Mr.Simonovic should be investigating and also the US sanctions today. I only speak about the UN. The US announced that they had travel ban list and the new set of sanctions. Do you think it useful for the process, taking place in Ukraine?
V.Churkin: Well, first of all I hope Mr.Simonovic and in fact Mr.Eliasson, too, can encourage this investigation and that would be playing their part in the implementing at least one part of February, 21 agreement. As to the sanctions, it’s a “double edged sword” and of course we cannot possibly regard it as something, which is useful in any circumstances.
Q: Ambassador, thank you. Why Russia is opposing to negotiations government in Ukraine and you are insisting on using force instead…
V.Churkin: No, we are not insisting on any use of force, what we are saying is that we do not recognize the current Ukrainian authorities as legitimate. We do have various working contacts, we do have nonpolitical contacts with them. As you probably know, Prime Minister Medvedev even spoke to Mr.Yatsenyuk several days ago discussing various aspects of the situation, and our government is under instructions from President Putin to continue dealing with various specific economic problems and maybe cooperation, which we have with Ukraine. However, political contacts we are refraining from, especially at the high level of foreign minister and levels like this.
Q: Ambassador, I would like to ask about your position on the referendum that has been called in Crimea on March 16, that’s only 10 days away. There are armed groups on the ground intimidating people including Mr.R.Serry. Could you possibly have a free and fair referendum in just 10 days?
V.Churkin: Well, this is a decision that was taken by the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. They intend to hold a referendum, and as I learned from the media there are two questions which they are going to put to the will of the people: one- joining Russia, another – staying in Ukraine with sort of a broader powers as an Autonomous Republic. So this is where things are. They made this decision and of course our authorities will make a decision on how they are going to deal with that.
Q: Ukrainian ambassador suggested that it was Russians who were involved in this situation with Mr.Serry and another thing is that number of ambassadors that have spoken hear said that they don’t understand how Russia could suggest that these military personnel in Crimea are not russian the ones that…
V.Churkin: I described the very complex setup which we have in the Crimea now in terms of military presence in the Security Council meeting on March 4. You have to understand that there is the Russian Black Sea Fleet and some military with the Black Sea Fleet. Then there are people that are with Ukrainian military presence there and some of them have sworn allegiance to the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and there are also various self-defense groups which sprung up I think even before or immediately after February 21 because of what they perceived as an aggravation of the situation. As to who manhandled Mr.Serry, I don’t know exactly. But I think you should look up the last paragraph of Mr.Eliasson’s conversation with you yesterday as the events were unfolding. He described the group of people who were accosting Mr.R.Serry as a ragtag group. Frankly, to me it doesn’t sound like it was a group of Russian soldiers on the basis of this description.
Thank you very much.