Today, at the initiative of Ukraine, members of the Security Council discussed the situation in the east of the country. The UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs urged to refrain from unilateral actions undermining the Minsk agreements. Before the meeting, representatives of a number of European Union countries spoke, who consider this decision to simplify the procedure for obtaining Russian passports by residents of the eastern regions of Ukraine.
Statement by representatives of EU members state in support of Ukraine
EU members state, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland and Belgium, issued a joint statement in support of Ukraine. They condemned Russia's decision announced on Wednesday to simplify the procedure for issuing Russian passports for residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and called for respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and in accordance with resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council.
“The fact that this decision was made immediately after the presidential elections, which demonstrated Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law, speaks of Russia's further intention to destabilize Ukraine and exacerbate the conflict,” said Permanent Representative of France to the UN Francois Delattre on behalf of colleagues. -
Representatives of the European Union demanded Russia to stop military and financial support for the separatists. "We expect Russia to refrain from decisions that threaten the implementation of the Minsk agreements and impede the restoration of government control over these territories, as enshrined in the agreements."
They also called on all parties to fully comply with the commitments made under the Minsk Agreements, and, above all, to establish "a full-scale, sustainable and long-term cease-fire and withdraw heavy weapons."
Remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary Dicarlo
The elections of the President of Ukraine on April 21 were held in a peaceful atmosphere, although they were overshadowed by the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, and many residents of the eastern regions could not use their right to vote. With these words, the Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs and Peacebuilding, Rosemary Dicarlo, addressed the UN Security Council members.
She expressed regret that the parties could not reach a cease-fire agreement on the eve of Orthodox Easter.
Dikarlo stressed that today's meeting of the Security Council is following in the footsteps of the decision of the Russian president to simplify the procedure for obtaining Russian passports by residents of the eastern regions of Ukraine.
The UN hopes that all parties will follow the spirit and letter of the Minsk agreements. And we urge the parties to avoid any unilateral steps that could undermine the implementation of these agreements.
Dikarlo noted that, according to the text of the presidential decree, it was adopted with the aim of “protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens” and in accordance with the “principles and norms of international law”. The Ukrainian authorities, in turn, called the presidential decree interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine and a violation of its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
The humanitarian situation in the east of Ukraine
UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Muller told the Security Council about the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. As a result of the fighting, more than 3,300 civilians have already died, more than 9,000 people were injured. 3.5 million people need humanitarian assistance. Half a million Ukrainians live within five kilometers of the line of contact. The UN representative condemned the shelling of settlements and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Ursula Muller named three main tasks in the humanitarian area: to facilitate the movement of people in the conflict zone, including to abandon the use of anti-personnel mines, to simplify the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need, and to increase funding for humanitarian projects.
UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Muller urged all parties to abandon the politicization of humanitarian activities in eastern Ukraine.
OSCE regrets that the parties failed to reach agreement on the resumption of the ceasefire during the Easter holidays.
Ertugrul Apakan, head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and Martin Sajik, the OSCE Representative for Ukraine, addressed the audience via a video link from Minsk. Ertugrul Apakan regretted that on April 24 the members of the working group on security issues could not reach an agreement on the resumption of the cease-fire during the Easter holidays. He said that Kiev announced a unilateral decision to adhere to the cease-fire, starting from April 18. The head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission believes that a general cease-fire is an important step towards solving security problems on the ground.
He said that after the previous cease-fire due to the International Women's Day (March 8), which was one of the shortest, more than 50 thousand violations of the cease-fire regime, including about 15 thousand explosions, were registered. After March 8, the Monitoring Mission reported 238 cases of the use of weapons, which were to be withdrawn in accordance with the Minsk agreements. Ertugrul Apakan said that in the framework of the working group on security in recent months, it was possible to agree on specific steps in the field of mine clearance for humanitarian purposes.
Meanwhile, the head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Martin Sajik, welcomed the law adopted today by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which will allow donors to directly finance demining activities in the east of the country. Martin Sajik urged the parties to urgently begin humanitarian demining of the areas around schools, hospitals and checkpoints.
The OSCE representatives called for urgent measures to improve the living conditions of civilians living near the contact line, in particular, to ensure the functioning of the water supply system and to simplify the procedure for crossing the contact line at checkpoints.
Permanent representative of Russia: presidential decree - a response to the aspirations of thousands of Ukrainians
Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, said he did not understand how the issue being discussed today in the Security Council relates to the Minsk agreements.
“After listening to our Western colleagues, you can make a false impression that Russia forcibly forces the citizens of Ukraine to change citizenship, and at the same time, of course, well, without it,“ violates ”the Minsk agreements. I still want to ask you again: what point of the Minsk agreements have we violated? ”- addressed Nebenzya participants to the meeting.
The Russian ambassador stressed that in order to obtain a Russian passport, residents of Donetsk and Lugansk regions will not have to give up Ukrainian citizenship. He also noted that the process of drafting a presidential decree was transparent and began “far from yesterday”; accordingly, there is no reason for asserting that the decree was timed to some event or is a signal to someone.
“According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, from April 1, 2014 to April 2, 2019, 925,548 citizens from the south-eastern regions of Ukraine entered the territory of the Russian Federation. And in total there are 2.3 million citizens of Ukraine in Russia. On the issue of acquiring Russian citizenship during this period, more than 334 thousand citizens of Ukraine addressed with this problem to the authorities ”said Nebenzya.
“In other words, with this initiative, Russia responds to the aspirations of many thousands of people,” he added.
Vladimir Yelchenko called Moscow's new decree another step towards the "annexation of Donbass"
Vladimir Yelchenko, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, strongly protested the presidential decree "which opens the way to the illegal issuance of Russian passports in the temporarily occupied territories in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine." He stated that the document is not legally binding and Ukraine will never recognize it. The Ambassador of Ukraine called on Moscow to annul the decree.
In his speech, Vladimir Yelchenko called Russia's decision a continuation of interference in the internal affairs of his country and an attempt to justify and legitimize Russia's military presence in the occupied part of the Ukrainian Donbass. Vladimir Yelchenko believes that the decree is a new stage in the occupation of Donbass.
“The illegal“ passporting ”of Ukrainian citizens means the following: the Kremlin recognizes that it occupied Ukrainian territory in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and in fact takes another step towards annexing this occupied territory. With this decision, Russia again refutes its own propaganda statement about the so-called “internal conflict” of Ukraine, ”the Ukrainian ambassador said. He added that Russia's goal is to “reset” the Minsk agreements, where its obligations are clearly spelled out: to stop the shelling, to withdraw its troops and armaments, to release the Ukrainian hostages, to return to Ukraine control over its state border.