29 April //
I thank you for the opportunity to address the United Nations Security Council and I thank USG Feltman for his briefing.
1) It has been a month since Russia illegally occupied and annexed Crimea, using its military forces and brutally violating international law.
2) Unfortunately, Russia has not stopped and, apparently, its leaders are now targeting other parts of Ukraine, brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine in the Eastern regions.
The agreements reached at the Geneva meeting of foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russian Federation, the United States and the EU on April 17 provided faint beam of hope for diplomatic solution.
Implementing the Geneva statement for the de-escalation of the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the Government of Ukraine has immediately taken the necessary practical steps.
- it suspended active phase of the antiterrorist operation, main objective of which was the restoration of law and order and protection of civilians;
- Government of Ukraine has initiated constitutional reform. At the extraordinary meeting it approved the decision "On organizing the discussion of amendments to the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine on decentralization of state power". The public discussion including local authorities, civil society, academic and business communities.
- Government of Ukraine approved the Concept of local administrative reform, the main idea of which is decentralization of power in the country, a significant empowerment of local communities, improving management at regional and district levels.
- a draft law on amnesty for participants in the riots in the eastern regions has been prepared, which would apply to those protesters who surrender weapons and free illegally seized administrative buildings, except for the ones suspected of committing serious crimes.
- Parliament coalition invited all political parties represented in the Parliament of Ukraine to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding ways to resolve the situation in the Eastern Ukraine.
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Service continue implementing an nation-wide campaign to seize illegal arms from the population (more than 6,000 arms units have been handed over recently).
- Ukraine is demonstrating its commitment to constructive cooperation with human rights institutions and international organizations.
What has Russia has done as a part of Geneva Document?
Russia has done nothing.
Because of the lack of support for the separatists among the population of the eastern regions of Ukraine, Russia is seeking new ways to destabilize the situation in the region, preparing and carrying out numerous armed provocations through its agents.
Russia’s sponsored illegal paramilitary units continue destabilizing the situation in the Eastern regions of Ukraine creating grounds for a new stage of military aggression.
Russian leadership has done nothing to publicly dissociate themselves from armed separatists and provocateurs or urge them to immediately lay down their arms and release captured administrative buildings.
Russia has not even condemned the seizure of hostages, including journalists as well as facts of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, openly demonstrated by separatists.
Any attempts by Russia to show that Ukrainian Government is trying to use force against peaceful Ukrainian population – is a lie.
Our Government respects the freedom of expression and right of peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed by Constitution of Ukraine.
However, when heavily ARMED professionally trained groups, led by Russian militaries, seize law enforcement facilities and administrative offices, kill Ukrainian police officers and take hostages – such groups operate like terrorists and have to be treated accordingly.
Ukrainian counter-terrorist operation is targeted exclusively against illegal armed groups, threatening civilians.
Meanwhile, the Russian controlled armed groups have in fact taken hostage the entire civilian population of several towns of the eastern region and, thus, went beyond the limit of humanity.
Let me provide you with some facts:
- 3 Ukrainian law enforcement officers were abducted, they were brutally beaten, tortured and later presented to Russian media as “Ukrainian spies”, with their hands and eyes tied,
- Ukrainian and foreign journalists are systematically kidnaped, while Russian journalists are allowed to operate in the areas controlled by those illegal armed groups.
- a military helicopter was destroyed with MANPAD guided missile (you understand, peaceful protesters cannot buy MANPAD in the shop)
- OSCE military verification mission representatives were taken hostages in Slovyansk.
Forceful detention of international observers is yet another testimony to criminal and terrorist nature of the separatist armed groups
What is important, the leaders of the illegal armed groups have publicly admitted responsibility for all of the abovementioned crimes!
Many members of the illegal militant groups are citizens of Russian Federation and they are not even trying to hide it, publicly showing their IDs. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have credible evidence of involvement of the abovementioned persons in committing serious crimes.
- For instance, Volodymyr Rybak, member of Horlivka city council, and Yuriy Popravko, a 19-year-old activist from Kyiv, were murdered by the members of terrorist groups. Their bodies, mutilated by torture, were found in Torez River in the vicinity of Slovyansk. Volodymyr Rybak disappeared on 17 April in Horlivka after he tried to remove the separatist flag from the building of Horlivka city council.
A video of the kidnapping as well as audio recording of phone conversations, intercepted by the Security Service of Ukraine, provide sufficient proof that terrorists’ leaders, notably self-proclaimed “mayor of Slovyansk” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov and “military commander” of terrorists, Russian agent Igor Strelkov were engaged in this murder. The real identity of this Russian agent was established – colonel Igor Girkin of the Russian military intelligence with registered permanent residence in Moscow.
The Government of Ukraine strongly condemns the abovementioned acts of terror and violence, including the yesterday attempt to assassinate Kharkiv city mayor Hennadiy Kernes, who publicly supported unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, Russia has not even publicly condemned or dissociated itself from those acts of terror and violence perpetrated by illegal militants following the Geneva agreement.
Let me remind you, Russia used to deny participation of its Armed Forces during the occupation of Crimea. However, now President Putin openly admits use of Russian military forces, praising them for their “heroism” and successful completion of operation aimed at reunification of Crimea with Russia. They even have issued special Medal of Honor.
And now, again, despite numerous irrefutable facts of Russian military involvement in organizing and guiding illegal armed groups in eastern Ukraine, Moscow denies any Russian military participation just as hard.
3) Furthermore, Russia is now threatening use of force by demonstrative concentration of its Armed Forces directly on the Eastern border of our country. There has been an increase in number of units along the borders of Ukraine.
Last week we all have heard an intensified militaristic rhetoric from Russian high officials, including President Putin, Minister Lavrov and Minister Shoygu, threatening sending of Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine under various false pretexts.
Russian Defense Minister Shoygu reported the start of new military exercise of battalion tactical groups of Southern and Western military districts of the Russian Armed Forces in connection with "the deteriorating situation in south-eastern Ukraine". With this, Russian side has in fact confirmed that its military activity near the Ukrainian border during the last months has not been routine in nature, but has been directly related to the developments in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of troops announced by Minister Shoygu yesterday, has not proved true and they are still observed near our borders.
Even my Russian colleague Vitaly Churkin allowed himself such comments, having said that in case the events take a bad turn in Ukraine’s southeast, Russia will remember the permission to use armed forces in Ukraine given to President Vladimir Putin by the Federation Council”. He also said that Russia has international legal basis for sending its "peacekeeping" troops into Ukraine and referred to right for self-defense, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which, Russia used during the conflict in the Caucasus in 2008.
Right for self-defense on the territory of another country?
Let me remind you that Ukraine has never threatened Russia and never will.
Ukrainians want to live in peace and want to be left alone.
The highest level of cynicism is a Russian reference to the right for self-defense in a situation where it is Russia who is acting as aggressor, having occupied Crimea and today is brutally interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, destabilizing and trying to create an explosive situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, we are deeply concerned, that the scenario which is prepared for Eastern Ukraine, might be similar to the one implemented by Russia in Abkhazia.
This scenario might assume several steps.
Step 1 – a small group of local separatists, supported by Russian controlled armed groups, would seize control over Regional councils making them to illegally proclaim the creation of so-called Independent Novorossija, within the boundaries described by President Putin at his recent press interview.
This step we already have seen started being implemented in Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkiv, against the will of vast majority of local population and against Ukrainian Constitution.
Step 2 – Russian Federation would immediately recognize such regional unit as an independent state.
Step 3 – Upon request from new self-proclaimed authorities, Russian Federation would send its troops to Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers or collective self-defense.
Unfortunately, we have to state such scenario is realistic, as it has been reported that some Russian heavy military vehicles have been noticed near Ukrainian borders with special signs in Russian and Ukrainian languages, saying “Peacekeeping Mission”.
One of the main purposes of such scenario is to disrupt the Presidential elections scheduled for 25 May, which are top priority of the Government and people of Ukraine.
Let me sum up my address with short conclusions.
12 days have already passed since Geneva meeting.
Ukraine has done its utmost to de-escalate situation.
Our steps have been acknowledged and supported by OSCE and other parties involved.
Russia has done nothing.
How the problem should be solved? Answer is simple – Russia has to implement the Geneva document.
First, Russia should withdraw its army from the Ukrainian borders.
Second, it should make a high-level statement calling on its “protégés” to free all hostages, to disarm and to vacate all seized administrative premises. Also it has to condemn all terror and violence committed by those groups and dissociate itself from such activates.
Third, it should stop war-time rhetoric and start acting in constructive and civilized manner.
Last but not least, Russia should restrain from any actions aimed at undermining the May 25th Presidential elections in Ukraine.
We call on the Security Council to give the most serious assessment of the actions and statements of Russia regarding Ukraine and to take the most decisive steps to stop their aggressive appetite and to protect Ukrainian territorial integrity, challenged once more.
MsoNormalOne of the main purposes of such scenario is to disrupt the Presidential elections scheduled for 25 May, which are top priority of the Government and people of Ukraine.