29 May 2018 - The conflict in eastern Ukraine was not only alive — with 1.6 million people displaced and escalating violence — but it embodied a broader threat to the global rules‑based order, with tens of thousands ceasefire violations recorded in 2018, the Security Council heard today, as it considered the situation for the first time in 15 months.

Briefing the Council this afternoon, senior political and humanitarian officials from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) voiced concern that the situation in the Donbass region remained volatile and the use of prohibited weapons such as landmines threatened some 600,000 civilians near the contact line between Ukraine and the contested area. Providing a snapshot of the situation, they outlined escalating clashes, attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and obstacles humanitarian personnel faced attempting to reach some 3.4 million people in need of assistance.

Council members, for their part, urged the parties to cease all hostilities and resume negotiations to reach a lasting political solution. Some emphasized the need for a balanced resolution and respect for all the positions of all parties, while others described the conflict’s history as deep‑rooted and complex. Delegates also voiced concern over the Russian Federation’s aggression and its wider implications for the international, rules‑based order and the sovereignty of nations.

“The conflict [in eastern Ukraine] continues to test the credibility of international and regional organizations and erodes the trust Member States need to work together in the interest of Europe’s stability,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs. Repeated pledges to respect the ceasefire as laid out in the 2015 Minsk agreements had failed to end the fighting, now in its fifth year. Destruction and immense suffering continued, she said, noting that the civilian death toll stood at more than 2,700, with up to 9,000 injured. Diplomatic talks under the auspices of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group had not reduced the volatility on the ground, while the relative calm that had held in the beginning of 2018 had tumbled, in April and May, with a sharp increase in the number of victims.

Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict. Noting that civilians on the ground regularly risked shelling, sniper fire and landmines, she stressed that civilians must be protected and urged all parties to respect international law. Despite repeated appeals, water treatment workers and facilities continued to be targeted, including eight attacks against the Donetsk filtration station — which supplied water to over 345,000 people — in the last 40 days. Families lived in damp basements and more than 100,000 children attended schools with windows lined with sandbags. “Wars have limits,” she said, urging all parties to avoid and minimize civilian harm.

Ertuğrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, said that since January, more than 100,000 ceasefire violations had been recorded. Following a short pause in the violence over Easter, fighting had increased, mainly in two areas in the Donetsk region. Describing the use of artillery such as multiple launch rocket systems, he urged the immediate removal of such weapons — prohibited under the Minsk agreements — especially from populated areas. The OSCE Mission continued to facilitate dialogue, enabling much‑needed repairs on the ground and to document the human cost of the conflict. Since the start of 2018, it had registered 107 civilian casualties, most caused by shelling, mines or improvised explosive devices.

Stephanus Blok, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said the conflict had put pressure on Ukraine’s young democracy. Calling on the Government to continue its reforms, he said the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian Federation’s destabilizing role in Donbass had contravened Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibited the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any State. Further, on 17 July 2014, 298 people — mostly citizens of his country — had died when a Malaysia Airlines plane had been shot down over eastern Ukraine, from a location controlled by Russian‑backed separatists. Recalling that reports had recently identified the missile system as belonging to the Russian Federation’s army, he called on the that country to accept responsibility.

Jacek Czaputowicz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland and Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, saying 2018 marked the fourth anniversary of the “Revolution of Dignity” sparked by the Ukrainian people’s will to be part of the broader community of the West. “This spirit will not be broken”, either by the illegal annexation of Crimea or the conflict in the east of the country, he said. Urging the international community not to forget the lingering conflict, he cited systematic human rights violations by the Russian Federation in the occupied territories and called on the United Nations to take up its role in defence of civilians. Calling on the Russian Federation to reverse its unlawful aggression, he said also urged the United Nations to deploy a full‑fledged peacekeeping mission to the conflict zone and create a position of special envoy for Ukraine.

Pavlo Klimkin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said the conflict was an external aggression designed to destroy his country’s statehood “only because we did not want to be a part of the so‑called Russian world”. Indeed, the Russian Federation’s reaction to findings on the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 had been the same as those following recent chemical attacks in Syria and Salisbury, United Kingdom — first, denial and later, when caught “red‑handed”, refusal to recognize the conclusions of investigative bodies. “The Kremlin, in pursuit of its grand geopolitical agenda, does not appreciate the value of human life,” he declared.

The representative of the Russian Federation, refuting those allegations, said his country was not in a state of war with any other nation. Kyiv authorities suppressed dissidents and were fostering a new Nazism to “Ukrainianize” the country, he said, citing those as reasons why the people of Crimea had decided to move away from Ukraine. Donbass residents had not been as lucky, he continued, emphasizing that Ukraine continued to ignore many elements of the Minsk agreements. Turning to the downing of flight MH17, he said his delegation would only trust investigations in which the Russian Federation was a full participant.

Also speaking today were representatives of Equatorial Guinea, France (also on behalf of Germany), Peru, Sweden, United Kingdom, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, United States, China, Bolivia, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:58 p.m.

Briefings

ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, said repeated pledges to respect the ceasefire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine — now in its fifth year — had failed to end the fighting. While the situation no longer made headlines, it was neither dormant nor frozen and required the Council’s attention. “While there has been an overall reduction of violence and casualties since 2015, the killing, destruction and immense suffering continues,” she said, noting that the civilian death toll stood at over 2,700, with up to 9,000 injured. An estimated 1.6 million people remained internally displaced, representing the largest population uprooted in Europe. Noting that today’s meeting was the first to be convened on the situation in Ukraine since February 2017, she said diplomatic talks had continued in the interim under the auspices of the Normandy format, in the Trilateral Contact Group and through bilateral processes.

Despite those efforts, she said, the security situation on the ground remained volatile with the continued use of weapons proscribed by the 2015 Minsk Agreements. The relative calm that held in the beginning of 2018 was followed, in April and May, by a sharp increase in the number of victims. Expressing concern about the recent deterioration of the situation at the contact line, including in the area around the Donetsk filtration station, she called for an immediate cessation of fighting which threatened civilian lives and infrastructure on both sides of the contact line. Highlighting the need for restraint — especially in light of recent reports of increased military preparedness along the line — she said the Minsk agreements as endorsed by the Council in resolution 2202 (2015) remained largely unimplemented today. Practical solutions were often identified but not followed through, and discussions on a potential international peace operation had so far been inconclusive.

Describing the serious humanitarian situation on the ground, especially close to the contact line, she said children were out of school, civilians were subjected to shelling, gunfire and landmines, and health problems were worsening. The United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine continued to report on human rights violations and abuses carried out on both sides of the contact line. Meanwhile, restrictions and impediments on international humanitarian access to the conflict‑affected areas continued to limit aid delivery to some 3.4 million people in need. Expressing support for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, and calling on the parties to facilitate its freedom of movement, she recalled that Secretary‑General António Guterres had travelled to Kyiv early in his tenure to highlight the United Nations concern about the situation and its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Voicing support for efforts to overcome the current status quo through intensified diplomatic engagement, she said concluded: “The conflict continues to test the credibility of international and regional organizations and erodes the trust Member States need to work together in the interest of Europe’s stability.”

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN, Chief Monitor, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, said that since January, the Mission had recorded more than 100,000 ceasefire violations. Following a short pause in the violence over Easter, fighting had increased, mainly in two hotspots in the Donetsk region. Areas that had been relatively calm were now at risk of flaring up again. Addressing the Council from Minsk, where on 30 May the Trilateral Contact Group would convene a security meeting, he underscored the urgent need to agree on additional measures that would make the ceasefire irreversible. Progress on the December 2016 framework had been stalled owing to a lack of willingness, which would further erode resolve if it continued.

He went on to say that artillery, such as multiple launch rocket systems, had been used on 5,000 areas, stressing that all such weapons should have been withdrawn under the Minsk agreements. Withdrawal, especially from populated areas, should be a priority, as those weapons, which were often placed in residential areas, caused civilian casualties. The Mission was ready to monitor the withdrawal process. Regarding the protection of civilians, he drew attention to the Donetsk filtration station, which ensured potable water to the area. More than 300,000 people were at risk of not receiving drinkable water due to ceasefire violations. Station employees had been wounded by gunfire and new damages caused by shelling had exacerbated the degrading state of the infrastructure.

He said the Mission continued to facilitate dialogue, enabling much‑needed repairs, and to document the human cost of the conflict. Since the start of year, it had registered 107 civilian casualties, most caused by shelling, mines or improvised explosive devices. It would take years, perhaps decades, to fully decontaminate such areas, and despite exclusive agreements on mine clearance, new mines were being laid. Stressing that the conflict had created an artificial divide between communities, he said that as long as the elements for armed violence were in place, the risk for escalation would persist. He called for renewed political will, stressing that people around the contact line were looking for a normal life, peace and stability. Restrictions on the Mission’s freedom of movement were still taking place, mostly in areas not controlled by the Government.

URSULA MUELLER, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that civilians continued to bear the brunt of the four‑year conflict in eastern Ukraine. Over 2,700 people had been killed since the outbreak of hostilities. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had documented 1 million crossings per month of the 457‑kilometre contact line that divided eastern Ukraine. In doing so, civilians risked shelling, sniper fire and landmines. She recalled visiting the area last year and witnessing how the conflict was disproportionately affecting elderly people, who must cross the contact line every 60 days to register in the Government‑controlled area as internally displaced persons. “It is the only way they can access their meagre pensions of $30 to $60 per month,” she said.

Commending Ukraine for adopting an internally displaced persons’ plan to address the situation of 1.5 million people, she said the success of the plan required commitment and resources. She stressed that civilians must be protected, urging all parties to the conflict to respect international law. Despite repeated appeals, water treatment workers and facilities continued to be targeted. For instance, the Donetsk filtration station, which supplied water to over 345,000 people, had come under fire eight times in the last 40 days.

Over 600,000 people were regularly exposed to hostilities along the contact line, she said, adding: “Families live in damp basements, and more than 100,000 children attend schools with windows lined with sandbags.” More than 400,000 homes had been damaged since the conflict began. Only 10 days ago, two schools in the Donetsk region were shelled when hundreds of children were attending lessons.

“Wars have limits,” she stressed, urging all parties to avoid and minimize civilian harm. In 2018, humanitarians aimed to reach 2.3 million people with vital aid, however, they were met with immense access and funding challenges. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had only received 13 per cent of the $187 million that it had appealed for, she added, emphasizing that such a gap in funding was forcing agencies, such as the World Food Programme (WFP) to leave Ukraine, even though 1.2 million people continued to be food insecure. The health situation remained severe as well with millions lacking access to adequate healthcare. Measles and hepatitis outbreaks were frequent, HIV/AIDS cases were unacceptably high among pregnant women, and multidrug‑resistant tuberculosis often went untreated.

The United Nations, having recently gained more access to non‑Government‑controlled areas, planned to scale up the delivery of critical aid to millions in need. “This conflict has stretched millions of Ukrainians to [the] breaking point,” she stressed, adding that many people had exhausted their life savings and means of survival. They also faced daily hostilities, such as trafficking, transactional sex, drug use and alcoholism. The practical approach taken by humanitarian agencies was generating dividends, she added, also urging all parties to respect international law and make every effort to end the conflict.

Statements

JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland and Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, saying 2018 marked the fourth anniversary of the “Revolution of Dignity” sparked by the Ukrainian people’s will to be part of the broader community of the West. “This spirit will not be broken”, either by the illegal annexation of Crimea or the conflict in the east of the country, he said. Ukraine and its people had responded to brute force and direct aggression from their neighbour with a tremendous effort to reshape and modernize their country. Nevertheless, the conflict lingered on, and the world must not forget it. Emphasizing that Ukraine must be present on the United Nations agenda — and that of the Council in particular — he said the highest price paid by that threat to international peace and security was paid by civilians. Civilians must be protected under international humanitarian and human rights law and humanitarian personnel must have access to the entire territory of Ukraine — including areas outside the Government’s control, he said, drawing attention to systematic human rights violations against non‑governmental activists and indigenous Crimean Tatars. There were also cases of unlawful and arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence and other grave violations.

Calling on the United Nations to take up its role in defence of civilians, he noted that a General Assembly resolution adopted in December 2017 had recognized the existence of an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation and had condemned the retroactive application of the latter’s legal system in the occupied territory — as well as the imposition of automatic Russian citizenship on Ukrainian citizens. The text had also urged the Russian Federation to fully implement the International Court of Justice’s order on interim measures to restore the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens on the peninsula and allow unrestrained entry for international human rights monitoring bodies into Crimea. Describing the humanitarian situation in the conflict zone as a burning issue, he said Poland provided assistance to displaced persons in the affected areas. The Russian Federation’s belligerent behaviour against a sovereign country was a glaring example of violations of the basic principles of international law and the United Nations Charter. That country also continued to finance, arm and train militants, he said, also spotlighting the recent outcome of a Joint Investigation Team which found that the missile launcher used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in 2014 came from the Russian armed forces.

Calling on the Russian Federation to reverse all such behaviour, he said it should also use its influence over the militants in eastern Ukraine to ensure that they observed the ceasefire agreement. For its part, the United Nations should deploy a fully fledged peacekeeping mission to the conflict zone, with the mandate to ensure a sustainable de‑escalation as well as the implementation of the Minsk agreements, facilitate the withdrawal of foreign armed formations and supervise public order, among other tasks. Meanwhile, he also called for the appointment of a Special Envoy for Ukraine, who could monitor the activities of United Nations agencies and specialized organizations on‑site and report on their activity.

STEPHANUS BLOK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said four years of fighting in Donbass had inflicted a heavy toll, with more than 10,000 lives lost, and in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, civilian infrastructure seriously damaged. The conflict had put pressure on Ukraine’s young democracy and he called on the Government to continue its reforms. The illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian Federation’s destabilizing role in Donbass had contravened Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter: prohibition of the use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any State. Further, on 17 July 2014, 298 people had died when a Malaysia Airlines plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine, from a location controlled by Russian‑backed separatists; 196 of them were citizens of the Netherlands. While the Council had immediately responded with the adoption of resolution 2166 (2014), efforts to establish an international tribunal had been blocked by the Russian Federation’s veto.

On 24 May, the Joint Investigation Team released additional findings that the Buk missile system which had downed flight MH17 belonged to the fifty‑third anti‑aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Federation’s army, he said. On that basis, Australia and the Netherlands held the Russian Federation accountable for the plane’s downing and called on that country to engage seriously on the matter and accept responsibility. The Russian Federation must also cooperate fully with the Team’s ongoing criminal investigation, a demand outlined in resolution 2166 (2014). “When it comes to establishing truth and accountability for what happened to MH17, no State has the right to remain silent,” he said, calling on the Russian Federation to take that responsibility. Noting that the Netherlands had kept the Council regularly informed of its findings and would continue to do so, he said the downing of MH17 was a stark reminder of how an armed conflict in one part of the world could impact “any of us, at any time” — another reason why the international community could not allow the conflict to persist.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) expressed concern over non‑compliance with the ceasefire in Donetsk and Luhansk. Stressing that OSCE’s work to maintain the ceasefire required collaboration, he called for its immediate implementation and for both parties to uphold the Minsk agreements. Equally worrisome was the conflict’s impact on civilians, and he expressed gratitude for the humanitarian personnel providing assistance. He urged the parties to the conflict to facilitate safe access for those personnel, aid all those in need and improve living conditions, as the denial of such contravened the Charter and international law. The only outcome to the crisis was through direct, open negotiations and he urged the international community to support all diplomatic efforts to those ends.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), speaking also on behalf of Germany, said that more than 10,000 lives had been lost and millions displaced by fighting in Donbass. France and Germany had worked to ease the suffering within the Normandy format, in which the Minsk agreement had been struck and which had identified stages for exiting the crisis. He called on all parties to implement their commitments, underscoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine along its internationally recognized borders. Eastern Ukraine was a theatre for daily fighting and he urged all parties, especially the Russian Federation, to facilitate the movement of the observers and their equipment, including their drones. He also called for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, urging parties to move towards disengagement along the contact line, which could create a climate of confidence. In that context, he welcomed the Joint Investigation Team’s work to shed light on the downing of MH17 and judge the perpetrators, underscoring the need for cooperation by all States.

He also called for the facilitation of humanitarian organizations to Donbass and for all parties to protect civilian infrastructure, especially the filtration centre, noting that an exchange of detainees could help build confidence. The conflict’s long‑term resolution hinged on political and economic measures, he said, citing progress by Ukraine to implement its Minsk agreements commitments and noting that legislative provisions must be finalized to hold elections in Donetsk and Luhansk. Other measures were needed to guarantee the right to dispatch a team to evaluate environmental issues.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), reiterating his country’s commitment to defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in line with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, expressed concern over the continued fighting and deplored its effects on civilians. Condemning in particular the use of anti‑personnel mines — which ran contrary to the Ottawa Convention — as well as the downing of flight MH17, he said the Minsk agreements remained the core of any future political resolution to the conflict. The parties must adhere to the ceasefire and withdraw all heavy artillery, he said, voicing alarm that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission had registered more than 80,000 ceasefire violations in the last months alone. Civilians must be protected, he stressed, commending the negotiation efforts under way through the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. He also welcomed the United Nations support for the Ukrainian authorities in assisting the displaced population and pursuing efforts toward a sustainable peace.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said the redrawing of borders backed by military action — as had been seen in both Ukraine and Georgia — represented a threat not only to those countries but to the entire international community. “Security is not a zero‑sum game” and the global rules‑based order could only function if everyone adhered to the rules. Calling for the immediate and full implementation of the Minsk agreements, through the ongoing work of the Normandy format, he said those efforts did not negate the fact that the Russian Federation’s aggression was the source of the conflict. Sweden would welcome and consider contributing to a United Nations peacekeeping operation to address the situation, he said, emphasizing that any such mission must cover all of Ukraine. Calling on the Russian Federation to use its influence over armed groups to ensure the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s full freedom of movement, said the European Union would continue its policy of non‑recognition regarding Crimea’s annexation. Recalling that 298 human lives had been lost in 2014 when flight MH17 was shot down, he said that on 24 May a Joint Investigation Team had found without a shadow of a doubt that the missile responsible for the crash had come from Russian military sources. The Russian Federation must take responsibility for that act and pursue full accountability for its perpetrators, he stressed.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), voicing her country’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people, described the more than 100,000 ceasefire violations as unacceptable — especially for the people on the ground. “It’s not just about Ukraine”, but also about the situation in Georgia and larger threats to the international rules‑based order, she said. Calling for respect for the rules of war, she said the Russian‑backed separatists had demonstrated that they lacked respect for international law. Calling on the parties to recommit to the Trilateral Contact Group process during its next meeting on 30 May, she voiced particular concern over the destruction of such civilian infrastructure as the Donetsk water filtration station. Urging the Russian Federation, along with the separatists, to avoid actions that threatened the lives of civilians or that could have environmental consequences for years to come, she said the annexation of Crimea four years ago was illegal and violated the principles of international law. Since that time, several General Assembly resolutions had reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty and the unlawfulness of Russian Federation’s annexation. Calling on that country to uphold the international rules‑based system, she recalled that 10 British nationals had been killed in the downed flight MH17. There was now clear evidence that the missile that brought down that plane belonged to the Russian Federation, she said, urging the latter to accept full responsibility and engage in bilateral negotiations with the impacted countries. She further called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its weapons and engage constructively towards peace.

ALCIDE DJEDJE (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed regret over the upsurge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, which had led to the loss of life and civilian infrastructure. He deplored the absence of progress in implementing the Minsk agreements and upholding the ceasefire. He also deplored the placing of obstacles to implementing the Special Monitoring Mission’s mandate. He advocated a peaceful settlement to the crisis and implementation of the Minsk agreements within the Normandy format. On the worrying humanitarian situation, he said shelling had interrupted gas and electricity distribution, with civilians experiencing frequent water and electricity cuts along the contact line. Last year, the water supplies of 350,000 people had been interrupted. They were still down and the water was at risk of being contaminated. He urged all parties to preserve critical water infrastructure and that for other basic services.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) voiced deep concern over renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine amid multiple ceasefire violations by weapons that should have been withdrawn under the Minsk agreements. Referencing the Donetsk filtration plant, which offered water to 350,000 people, he urged parties to cease hostilities and avoid provocative acts that could increase tensions. He underscored the need to respect Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity along internationally recognized borders, citing resolution 2202 (2015) and the Minsk agreements. Indeed, parties must find comprehensive and balanced solutions to the crisis through dialogue in the Normandy format. For their part, Ukraine and the Russian Federation must show political will by upholding the ceasefire and relaunching negotiations. On the downing of MH17, he stressed the importance of abiding by resolution 2166 (2014), noting that 40 per cent of people along the contact line suffered daily under shelling. He underscored the importance of aid delivery and implementation of the Minsk agreements to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the conflict in Ukraine was an example of a violation of one State’s sovereignty by another, stressing that when the Russian Federation’s forces entered Crimea, it was also a violation of the United Nations Charter. Russian Federation forces had imposed an illegitimate referendum on people there and had since pushed into eastern Ukraine. While the Russian Federation had signed the Minsk agreements, committed to a ceasefire, countless truces and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, as well as to allow monitors, it had disregarded all those commitments, and instead created a catastrophe of suffering in Ukraine, she said, citing increased ceasefire violations and higher civilian casualties. Militants in eastern Ukraine reported directly to the Russian Federation’s army, whose combined forces included thousands of tanks and heavy artillery. Stressing that there was no doubt the Russian Federation was driving the conflict in Ukraine, she said the families of the victims of flight MH17 deserved answers, and applauded the investigation team for handling that matter with expertise and independence. She called on the Russian Federation to acknowledge its role in that downing, and further, that its soldiers were in Ukraine. Resolution of that conflict was profoundly straightforward: the Russian Federation must withdraw its forces, call on its proxies to honour the ceasefire and fulfil the Minsk agreements commitments. She condemned in the strongest terms that country’s involvement in eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

MA ZHAOXU (China), expressing support for work of the Trilateral Contact Group, called on all parties to adhere to the Minsk agreements and seek a long‑term political solution to the conflict. Addressing the legitimate concerns of all parties — and balancing their interests — would be critical, he stressed, underlining the long and complex history of the conflict. All parties should implement resolution 2202 (2015), cease hostilities, remain committed to seeking a lasting, balanced resolution, promote harmony among all ethnic groups in Ukraine and pursue Ukraine’s peaceful coexistence with its regional neighbours. For its part, the Council should support negotiations that were conducive to a lasting peace.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) called on all parties to cease hostilities, facilitate humanitarian access and allow the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to complete its work. They must also abide by prohibitions on the use of heavy weapons and resolution 2202 (2015) through which the Council had endorsed the Minsk agreements package. Further, the parties must abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, he stressed, calling for redoubled negotiations within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group process. Expressing concern that attacks on urban areas and civilian infrastructure had affected 60 per cent of those living near the contact line — which was also rapidly becoming one of the most mine‑affected areas of the world — he urged the parties to comply with resolution 2365 (2017) which demanded an end to the use of explosive devices and called on conflict parties to protect children from the threats the devices posed. Condemning all attacks against civilians, humanitarian and health personnel and civilian infrastructure, he welcomed recent efforts to relaunch the work of the joint working groups and expressed support for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. If it decided to mandate a peacekeeping mission, Council members must remain fully united, he said.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed concern about the unpredictable and volatile situation in eastern Ukraine, including the frequent ceasefire violations that had a direct impact on the civilian population. He expressed serious concern about the fate of young people, women and those who were vulnerable, including internally displaced persons and refugees, many of whom were elderly. The crisis must be resolved through peaceful means, he said, stressing that an escalation of tensions should be prevented to avoid further complicating the situation. In that context, it was necessary for all parties to withdraw their heavy weapons from the contact line and all parties must follow through on their obligations to provide humanitarian access to the conflict zone.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said his Government understood the impact of the deteriorating security situation on civilians and critical infrastructure, and hence, the need to respond to needs on the ground. Implementation of the ceasefire was vital to de‑escalating tensions and helping to address civilian needs. He also noted the discussion on the possibility of deploying a peacekeeping mission and that there were major differences on its potential scope and mandate. Resolving the situation in eastern Ukraine could only be achieved through peaceful settlement. It was imperative that parties remained fully committed to the Minsk agreements and strictly adhere to resolution 2202 (2015). The Normandy format would facilitate important discussions on implementing those agreements and helping to tackle outstanding issues.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said Ukraine insisted it was in a state of war with his country, but it was unclear who the aggressor was. “We are not in a state of war with anyone,” he said, asking whether the Council understood what was being said by Ukrainian media about Crimea, the situation in Donbass or the Russian Federation’s motivations. “You do not know those things, but we know them very well.” Indeed, Kyiv authorities suppressed dissidents and were fostering a new Nazism to “Ukrainianize” the country, including rescinding a law under which it was possible to use Russian language and carrying out linguistic cleansing. He expressed concern over nationalist feelings around the birthday of Stepan Bandera, pointing also to 2 May 2014, when radicals in Odessa had burned people alive in the House of Trade Unions, an act described as heroic by Ukrainian nationalists. Those were reasons why people in Crimea had decided to move away from Ukraine. Donbass residents had not been as lucky: they had requested autonomy, the ability to speak their own language and honour their own heroes. “You either do not know who you’re dealing with or you do and decide to close your eyes,” he said.

Turning to the Minsk agreements, he said Ukraine had ignored many elements, including the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy equipment, and had carried out aviation exercises, equipped by several countries. Moreover, Kyiv had no plans to hold a dialogue around the elections, nor to pass related laws on amnesty and the release and exchange of hostages. Listing a number of other violations, he said Ukraine had failed to meet with representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk regarding humanitarian access and had blockaded Donbass. While the restoration of control over the border must take place on the first date after local elections, he said the necessary constitutional reform had not even taken place, adding that there were there were no Russian troops in Donbass. On the issue of constitutional reform, which should have been completed by 2015, he said the rights of people in Donetsk and Luhansk to use their language and to self‑govern had not been fulfilled. Further, Ukraine had shirked its political agreements and had not outlined a law for the special status of Donbass and was undermining such efforts because it did not want a settlement, which would require negotiations and an “acceptance that this is an internal Ukrainian conflict”. Kyiv did not have the political will for that and could not afford the destruction of its anti‑Russian narrative. What was required was to read the Minsk agreements and implement them correctly.

On the downing of flight MH17, he said the Russian Federation, having greatly mourned that event, had expected to see an impartial investigation. However, the investigation team had rushed another portion of its comments. His Government’s view of the tragedy had not changed and it insisted on conducting a credible investigation, with the perpetrators determined on the basis of reliable proof. Immediately after the tragedy, the Russian Federation was at the fore of passing resolution 2166 (2014), which demanded an investigation, had extended maximum assistance to the Netherlands and had called for transparency. The Office of the General Prosecutor had swiftly reacted to requests for assistance and in October 2016, authorities had sent invaluable radio location data. Yet, the possibility that the missile had been fired from militia‑controlled territory had been excluded and he wondered why. Ukrainian authorities had not closed off the conflict area to aviation and he asked why such actions had not been considered. Rather than considering irrefutable facts, the team had manipulated information from social networks. European investigators had discredited themselves by making accusations before the investigation’s completion, demonstrating an ideological and political background to seeking the perpetrators. The Russian Federation would not respond to ultimatums and could not accept its conclusions. Instead, his country could only trust investigations in which it was a full participant.

The representative of the Netherlands, taking the floor again, said the Russian Federation’s statement about flight MH17 was nothing new. That country continued to question the Joint Investigative Team’s credibility and impartiality, while spreading impossible alternative theories. It was disappointing that the Russian Federation’s representative had failed once again to acknowledge irrefutable hard facts — even in the Council chamber — and its officials did not show the slightest interest in ensuring accountability for that tragedy. Recalling that the Russian Federation had also blocked efforts in the Council to establish an international tribunal to investigate the matter under Chapter VII of the Charter, he urged Moscow to accept the invitation from his country and Australia to engage in talks about the incident and fully accept its responsibility.

PAVLO KLIMKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, emphasized that the conflict being discussed had been brutally imposed on his country beginning with its invasion by foreign military forces four years ago. Over 10,000 people were killed and millions were displaced during the conflict, which was completely artificial in nature, invented by the Kremlin to punish Ukrainians for their aspirations for freedom, democracy and a European future. “The conflict is not, as [the Russian Federation] pictures it, an ethnic conflict between Ukrainian and Russian‑speaking populations”, nor a civil war within Ukraine, he stressed. Instead, it was an external aggression designed to destroy his country’s statehood “only because we did not want to be a part of the so‑called Russian world”.

The Russian Federation’s troops in territory belonging to Ukraine were shooting and killing not only Ukrainians but also others, as illustrated by the recent findings by the Joint Investigation Team on flight MH17, he said. The reaction of the Russian Federation to those findings had been the same as those following recent chemical attacks in Syria and Salisbury, United Kingdom: first, denial; and later, when caught red‑handed, refusal to recognize the conclusions of the investigative bodies. Emphasizing that the downing of flight MH17 had no doubt been a terrorist act, he said Ukraine would soon submit a memorandum to the International Court of Justice providing additional evidence of the Russian Federation’s violations of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. “The perpetrator of this and other crimes has to be brought to account,” he stressed.

Describing the severe humanitarian impacts of the conflict — as well as the daily reality of shelling and armed hostilities experienced by some 600,000 Ukrainians living on both sides of the contact line — he cited several recent examples of the Russian Federation’s aggression and violations of human rights. “The Kremlin, in pursuit of its grand geopolitical agenda, does not appreciate the value of human life,” he said. Emphasizing that the Russian Federation’s ongoing military activities in the occupied territories of Donbass remained the obstacle to a peaceful resolution to the conflict, he said the fighting would cease as soon as Moscow decided to end it. As a first step, he expressed support for the deployment of a full‑fledged United Nations‑mandated peacekeeping force throughout the occupied territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which would pave the way for progress in implementing political steps under the Minsk agreements and organizing and holding local elections.

Reiterating Ukraine’s position in support of the reintegration of all of Donbass, he said it was also important to continue to focus on the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea. “These actions of the Russian Federation constitute the most flagrant breach of the United Nations Charter since World War II,” he said, adding that they challenged the norms and rules of international law and created an atmosphere of mistrust, fear and hatred throughout the region. Crimea today had become a huge military base, often used for the Russian Federation’s interventions in distant hotspots such as Syria. The Russian Federation also continued to ignore the International Court of Justice’s 2017 ruling that required it to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the Crimean Tatar community to preserve its representative institutions. The Russian Federation blatantly disregarded General Assembly resolutions on Crimea and denied access to the international human rights monitoring mission. Urging the Russian Federation once again to end its aggression, he said that, until that happened, the issue must remain a high priority on the Council’s agenda.

Concluding, he briefed the Council on today’s tragic news from Kyiv, saying he had just learned that a Russian journalist and well‑known opponent of the Russian Government had been killed.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor for a second time, said he had no doubt that Kyiv would find a “Russian trace” behind the murder of the person referenced by his counterpart from Ukraine, who he also advised not to worry about the people in Crimea, as they were happy. Crimea was part of the Russian Federation and “it’s about time that was accepted”, he said. His Government grieved for all those who had died in the conflict, including the person in the picture displayed by Ukraine’s representative, members of the Ukrainian army who had been used as “cannon fodder”, and those who had perished in Donbass as a result of Ukrainian weapons.

Source: