Comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations on the situation in Ukraine
Comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations on the situation in Ukraine.
V.Churkin: Violence in Ukraine continues unabated. The military campaign by the Ukrainian armed forces in the eastern parts of the country continues to take lives of civilians, of members of self-defense forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. They continue to shell vital infrastructure including power stations and water pumps. Civilians keep dying by dozens. For some reason they continue to shell Russian Orthodox Churches. Today we had another case of shelling a Church, even though there were no military facility or military people anywhere inside. Journalists are increasingly targeted by the Ukrainian armed forces: arrested, harassed, beaten up, tortured. Today we had another case of journalists being targeted by the military. Two Russian TV journalists were killed – Igor Korneliuk and Anton Voloshin As you know, a few weeks ago an Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli was killed along with his colleague and interpreter, Andrey Mironov. First of all, I would like to offer our condolences to the members of the media, to the UN media core and of course to all Russian journalists. Today we have been able to produce a press statement of the members of the Security Council on the harassment and killing of journalists in Eastern Ukraine and I’m going to read to you this statement:
“The members of the Security Council express their deepest condolences to the families of all journalists who have been killed while covering the crisis in Ukraine, including the two Russian journalists killed on June 17, and the Italian photojournalist who was killed on May 24, along with his Russian interpreter. The members of the Security Council encourage a thorough investigation of all incidents of violence involving journalists.
The members of the Security Council expressed concern about reported cases of detention and harassment of journalists covering the crisis in Ukraine.
The members of the Security Council support the freedom of expression as a human right, including of the media. The members of the Security Council commend journalists around the world for the important role they play, and for their commitment to the free exchange of ideas.”
I’m ready to take your questions.
Q: I wanted to know if there was any pushback on this press statement. I know that on the proposal about the Embassy after yesterday’s stakeout Lithuania said they wanted a separate statement about the plane. Is that an accurate description?
V.Churkin: That is an accurate description of the situation. In fact, I can tell very frankly that they have been criticized by other members of the Security Council because when we had an attack on an Embassy people never before were trying to look for some other issue to be connected with that. Embassies should not be attacked. Full stop. If there was a need to look into something on the military transport aircraft which was shot down, this is a completely separate issue. We could have started working on this, condemning all violence in Eastern Ukraine. It was completely inappropriate to try to make that linkage, and again, very frankly, many colleagues come up to me and they think that it was the wrong thing to do.
Our draft on journalists was very carefully drafted in a way to be acceptable to all members of the SC. We wanted it to be a stronger statement, but even this one shows that we do care about journalists, mishandled journalists in Eastern Ukraine, targeted journalists. Journalists with a lot of experience in other conflict areas say that it is for the first time that they feel that they are being targeted by the Government forces. They were pointing out that even during Saddam Hussein times when Bagdad was being invaded by the US troops the journalists could operate and no physical problems arouse for them from the Government. This is not the case apparently now in Ukraine. Arrests, beatings, intimidation and then, fortunately, in those cases with Russian reporters, they were released by the Ukrainian authorities. This is, of course, an outrage and we, in the Russian delegation, are disappointed by the language we had to put up with in order to have the Security Council members express their support for journalists. Some members of the Council like to talk in generalities but unfortunately when it comes to the specific situations they are very much motivated by their political interests and this is unfortunate.
Q: Ambassador, you had a meeting today with other members of the Council on your draft Ukrainian resolution. Can you tell what reaction you have?
V.Churkin: We have a meeting on the level of deputy Permanent Representatives. We will continue our work. It may be that tomorrow we’ll have a meeting of Permanent Representatives. This is a very important draft and we want it to be accomplished as soon as possible.
Q: Just in a few hours the next human rights report for Ukraine will be published. What do you hope to see?
V.Churkin: We hope to see an objective picture of the situation in Ukraine. We are very interested to see what they are going to say on the massacre in Odessa on May 2. We were assured that the UN is going to follow the situation and investigation and more than follow - do what they can given their capacity on the ground, their contacts in Ukraine. We hope they will do some added value in investigation. We’ll see what it will contain.
Q: There were threats against the Russian Consulate in Odessa. And also there were discussions about Martial law in Donetsk and Luhansk. What do you think of it?
V. Churkin: The Martial law sounds like something that is going to produce more violence. This is not the way to go. This is a very bad start for president Poroshenko. That is not what was expected from him. He had a great opportunity to start from scratch. He could offer a gesture, negotiations with people in Eastern Ukraine. Instead he opted for this military campaign, trying to crush any kind of dissent. This is the worst possible scenario. Some colleagues suggested that he is not in control of the situation, not in control of his own forces. Incidentally, there are repeated reports on the presence of foreign mercenaries, speaking English etc. It is a very complex situation, it’s hard to understand who’s in control. If it’s president Poroshenko then he’s doing the wrong thing.
Q: Why did you raise the issue today once there was a whole variety of terrible acts against journalists (for some time before)?
V.Churkin: Today, as I explained, two Russian journalists were killed. I called my Italian colleague, remembering that an Italian photojournalist was killed. I asked: Do you want us to include a reference to it in our statement? And we produced a statement. This is what we are supposed to do. The death of Italian journalist was very broadly covered in Russian media.
I’m expecting a traditional question about the humanitarian resolution on Syria. I think we are there. We produced a text, we produced a formula today, which I hope is going to be accepted by our Western colleagues. It is a far reaching formula which will allow to open those four crossing points in which the humanitarian agencies were interested. So I would very much like to see that resolution to be adopted within days.
Q: Is there any date do you think it will be adopted?
V.Churkin: I am not the sponsor of this resolution, even though we worked very hard to produce this formula which is now fleshed out in the product which I believe is the final product and which they need to accept. I suppose we can put it “in blue” tomorrow and then we will vote the day after tomorrow.
Q: Do you elaborate any further on this formula?
V.Churkin: I’d rather wait till the final confirmation, I mean this way or the other I am going to describe it to you. Even if they do not accept it I am going to describe it to you. But I think after all the work we have done on this formula I would be very much surprised if they don’t take it up, because it’s an elegant solution to this problem.
Q: Has the Syrian Government agreed to this formula? To open four passing points?
V.Churkin: Yes, they have accepted that under this formula. It’s a pretty innovative approach to doing things. We hope it’s going to work and we hope it’s going to help the humanitarian agencies to work on the ground in Syria including in areas which are not controlled by the Government.
Thank you very much.