Comments to the media by H.E. Mr. Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations on Ukraine and other issues
V.Churkin: As you know we at the Security Council have been following the situation in Ukraine very closely and, of course, this is one of the priorities of the Russian Presidency in the Security Council. Over the past two weeks Russia introduced two draft resolutions on the situation in Ukraine focusing on both humanitarian and political aspects of the situation. We are continuing to work actively on trying to produce a resolution that could be supported by the Security Council . In this context we had expert consultations on our second draft and decided to come up with an updated draft, quite extensively revised, in some way combining some components of two drafts and also taking into account the comments which were made by colleagues. Some of them in the course of our discussions said that they needed to have more information about the situation, particularly in the crisis area in Eastern Ukraine. In order to provide that information we invited Ms.Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Coordination, to brief the Council which she did by teleconference from Geneva. We had a discussion of the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine, but also addressing some political aspects of the situation. To begin with I’ll say a few words about the humanitarian aspect of the situation in my national capacity of course.
The situation in Eastern Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Towns and villages are being shelled every day by heavy artillery, including rocket systems "Grad", tanks and air force.
Over the last few days a hospital and a maternity ward were hit by artillery in the city of Slavyansk. A nurse was killed. Fortunately the mothers and newborns had already been evacuated.
In Semionovka, three private houses were destroyed by incendiary munitions, a mine hit the Central hospital, in Khimik, apartment buildings were hit. Yesterday, the city of Amvrosievka in the Donetsk region was attacked by the "Grad" rocket system, which resulted in the destruction of 23 houses, a hospital, and a kindergarten. In Gorlovka, the airforce attacked the local self-defense headquarters with cluster munitions. Buses with children evacuated from the war zone are being targeted.
It is of particular concern that Ukrainian forces use unguided munitions and inhumane weapons. There is video footage that shows that incendiary phosphorus-containing ordnance was used by the Ukrainian air force against the town of Semionovka in Donetsk region, which may be qualified as a war crime.
Indiscriminate attacks on civilian facilities take a heavy toll on the population. Over the last few days, hundreds of people, including children, were killed in and around the cities of Lugansk and Slavyansk.
For ten days there is no water supply in the cities of Kramatorsk, Slavyansk and Druzhkovka, and in the villages of the Volnovakha area. Civilian water supply facilities and energy infrastructure are deliberately targeted. According to ICRC, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk urgently need medical assistance.
In a number of cities of Eastern Ukraine, the Kiev authorities have deliberately stopped the payment of social allowances, thus targeting the most vulnerable populations – old-age retirees, persons with disabilities.
Thousands of civilians flee Ukraine to escape indiscriminate use of force by the Ukrainian armed units.
195 temporary shelters have been set up in the territory of the Russian Federation that currently house 7860 Ukrainian citizens. Yesterday alone, 13.5 thousand people crossed the border to the Rostov region of Russia. The total number of refugees who have stayed in Russia at their relatives' homes or in temporary shelters over the last ten days reached 60 thousand people, and more than 100 thousand people crossed the border into Russia. 15 thousand fled Slavyansk alone.
Systematic kidnapping and torture of journalists continues. And not only Russian journalists. The standard practice is to make them kneel, threatening with guns, putting bags on their head, and beating them up. The captors from the "Right Sector" threatened to kill the journalists of TV channel "Zvezda" and demanded a ransom of 200 thousand dollars from their relatives.
Now about the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev that took place the day before yesterday. Explosives and smoke grenades were thrown at the building, which endangered Russian diplomats. One group demonstrated the preparation for the assault on the building. The Ukrainian law enforcers did nothing about this outrageous situation. The police have simply left the scene, while the Minister of Interior calmly watched from a safe distance. This is a gross violation of the international obligations of Ukraine.
We are disappointed that the Security Council colleagues have failed to support the statement condemning the attack on the Russian Embassy, notwithstanding the fact that Russia has always expressed its support to colleagues from other countries in similar situations.
Over the past few days, much attention was drawn to the loss of the IL-76 Ukrainian Air Force transport aircraft and the servicemen it carried. The feelings of the bereaved families are understandable. But one must not forget that those men were sent to the epicenter of armed confrontation started by the Kiev authorities themselves. It should be noted that Kiev declared that on that day over 50 members of self-defense forces were killed while no condolences to their families were voiced in Kiev, though all of them are Ukrainian citizens.
We believe that in these circumstances the first thing to do is to put an end to the violence.
I must just add two things. First of all many members of the Security Council expressed regret that the SC did not condemn the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev. Secondly, and quite importantly, is that many members of the Council and also V.Amos believed that some political action from the SC was necessary under these circumstances. Not just to further energize the humanitarian operation but also to help move the political process forward. In the spirit of all this, we produced an updated draft and we explained the changes to our colleagues and we will be continuing the work at a rapid pace.
Q: Ambassador, do you have enough support to your draft resolution? And one question on Iraq. The Council is united on Iraq. How it could be translated into action?
V.Churkin: We continue working on the resolution, we will see what consultations tomorrow would show. Obviously, one of the reasons for the changes we have made is to try to get as much support for the text as possible. On Iraq. If there are some initiatives to raise Iraq in the Council, of course we are going to do that.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, two follow-up questions to what you said. Could you give us an idea of a major changes that you have made in the new draft and in terms of what the Council is going to be able to do or wasn’t able to do on the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev. Could you tell us who is blocking it? You said that there was a lot of Council support, who is blocking this?
V.Churkin: The Statement was blocked by the Lithuanian delegation. As to the draft resolution it’s a larger text, longer than the previous ones. We have incorporated a number of wishes by the Council members for reference to international law, a number of changes with regard to the direction of the efforts of OSCE, the interrelationship between what UN Secretary-General could do and OSCE is doing, references to some fundamental principles of international law like sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We believe that we did our best in order to make it a balanced text which can attract support from various members of the Security Council.
Q: On the embassy attack, the UN Secretariat hasn’t put out a statement. I wondered whether you think that is strange to be that they haven’t? Today at the noon briefing they were asked did they have any statement on the Vienna Convention and there has been no statement. I wanted to ask about that. And also, president Poroshenko said he may propose a cease fire but only after the border is secured. What Russia thinks of that?
V.Churkin: One the first one, I’m actually a little bit surprised that the Secretary‑General did not make that statement I hope it was simply because the Secretary-General was travelling. But I will double check, because it is our understanding that whenever we have such a situation the Secretary-General should come on the side of international law and that has been a practice in the past. On Poroshenko, unfortunately a number of statements that first president-elect Poroshenko than president Poroshenko was making were not implemented in practice. There are a number of versions of his initiatives but unfortunately so far the violence continues. We heard a statement yesterday that the Ukrainian forces started counteroffensive I don’t know if there was any offensive on the part of the people that are fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. It is a confusing picture of signals. One thing is clear - the military activity continues. Death and destruction also continue.
Q: Is Russia considering to send help to these regions?
V.Churkin: We are helping them. Minister Lavrov addressed this issue when speaking to the Secretary General of the OSCE. People are coming across the border, taking humanitarian assistance and bringing it home. We tried to work it out with Ukrainian authorities; we sent them an official note in late May. They replied negatively in an official note. We found ways and means to deliver the humanitarian assistance to the people in need.
Q: Yesterday France condemned the attack against Russian Embassy. Why the Security Council didn’t do it? Did something changed for you when A.Deshchytsia insulted President Putin?
V.Churkin: The Security Council has a rule that the statements must be adopted by consensus. And the Lithuanian delegation said “no”. Today the French ambassador said that it was a mistake and the attack should be condemned as it is in their yesterday’s statement. Clearly the Lithuanian delegation didn’t behave in the best tradition of the Security Council. As to Mr. Deshchytsia – he does not exist for us anymore. Anyway, his only function was to translate American instructions into Ukrainian. So it’s not much of a loss…
Q:What did Valery Amos told you about humanitarian situation?
V.Churkin: On the basis of the information that she had V.Amos gave a rather comprehensive assessment of the situation. We’ve been successful in energizing the participation of various international organizations. The Red Cross is visibly on the ground. We are clearly ready to cooperate with various humanitarian agencies to the extent we can. Much will depend on the Ukrainian Government, on its cooperation. This is certainly not enough in order to visibly and tangibly improve the situation but at least the humanitarian agencies and various actors got to realize the gravity of the situation and the need for them to get in.
Q: You’ve just mentioned that Russia found ways to bring the humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Do you think that message should be taken by the UN for Syria?
V.Churkin: They could. But the people who could conceivably have done it keep asking questions.
Q: The situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly. Is this still on the agenda?
V.Churkin: It is still on the agenda. We now have a completely new dimension of the threat in the Middle East. We have mothly discussion of the situation in the Middle East. The next meeting is planned for the 24th of June. We’ll have a briefing from Mr.Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. But we would like to add a briefing of the Secretariat in a closed session. We are used to considering things country by country: Syria, Iraq, Yemen. But some members of theSecurity Council have different attitudes to different terrorists depending on where they are fighting. It seems to be ok in Iraq and is not ok in Syria. But now we see the situation when the same terrorist group ISIL is challenging both Damascus and Bagdad, conducting this unparalleled campaign in Iraq. Clearly there is a flow of terrorists coming into the Middle East. I think we need to get very seriously into this problem and see what we can do as the Security Council, as the international community in order to deal with this threat, because the terrorists apparently they do not have the same kind of logic, they do not recognize borders and they fight governments no matter what the attitude of various countries to them could be.
Q: Mr.Simonovic’s report on human rights in Ukraine, is it going to be presented in the Council …?
V.Churkin: We have not decided yet. We will see the report and then will see what needs to be done with it, because actually it was not supposed to be a report to the Security Council, it just came out and then some countries suggested that we should discuss it. We have of course a very clear vested interest in that report, because among other things we were promised that that report would include a clear account of the efforts which have been undertaken by the United Nations to investigate the May 2 massacre in Odessa. We will see what it delivers.
Q: Ambassador, how do you explain all the resistance to your measure here? Today you attempted to get a statement condemning the attack against the embassy in Kiev, why such resistance to what you are trying to achieve? And where do you want to take it from here?
V.Churkin: We are surprised ourselves, because we think what we are trying to do is so positive. But some countries tend to condone everything which is being done by the Kiev authorities and this is very unfortunate – that creates all sorts of problems politically and otherwise.
Q: On Syria, are you getting any closer to a deal on aid access resolution?
V.Churkin: Those are private discussions. I think we are continuing good private discussions in various formats and we are moving on. I personally hope very much that deal can be accomplished. We have come with some interesting suggestions about how it can be done. If people are interested in opening new crossings across the border of Syria and some neighboring countries - it can be done. It remains to be seen whether this interest is genuine or it’s something which is aimed at creating a chain of events which we are not going to accept. But pragmatically speaking I think we are making good progress.
Q: Is Saudi Arabia still subscribing to this small influential groups that are operating about Syria?
V.Churkin: I have to be careful about that because our initial impression was that they were prepared to come to the table. But then I don’t quite understand what happened, because later we heard from The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that they were postponing this plan to meet to late August. This kind of a leisurely pace of meetings to me is quite surprising. I don’t know what the reason for that might be.
Thank you very much.