Remarks by Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, October 19, 2017
The Ukrainian authorities continue to postpone the settlement of Ukraine’s domestic conflict by sabotaging the Minsk Agreements. This is abundantly clear from the amendments to the draft law on the features of state policy to ensure the sovereignty of Ukraine over the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk. A reference to the priority of implementing the Minsk Agreements (item 7) has been deleted from it. This overtly militaristic document will not lead to peace. The attempt to legalise the crimes of the participants in the punitive so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) will not succeed. The only road to reconciliation and peace and amnesty of the participants in the events in Donbass is mapped out in the Minsk Package of Measures.
“The new Ukrainian Law on Education: a major impediment to the teaching of national minorities' mother tongues” is the title of a PACE resolution. Its fairly mild text does not reflect in full the danger of the attempts to use language as an instrument in the struggle for power. This was the beginning of the actions by the Maidan authorities in 2014, which led to a sharp escalation of the crisis.
Ukraine introduced a 75 percent minimum quota for television broadcasts in Ukrainian.
On October 5, in a frenzy of linguistic discrimination the Kiev City Council banned the use of Russian at enterprises and in paperwork of local government bodies, utilities and services, ads, posters, current event guides, retail price tags and restaurant menus.
This law violates Ukraine’s Constitution and its international commitments. We demand that the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) give a clear-cut assessment of this law, and we urge them to use their influence with Kiev to protect millions of Ukrainian citizens from discrimination and abuse of their rights.
In the absence of reactions from Western countries, the radicalisation of society, especially of young people, continues in Ukraine. Ideas of radical nationalism and extremism are being disseminated. Kiev hosted the so-called “March of the Glory of Heroes” timed to the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA). According to the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), about 20,000 people took part in this march under the flags of radicals and nationalists from the National Corps, the Right Sector and Wotan Jugend. As we understand, youth radicalisation is among the priorities of Austria’s OSCE Chairmanship. We are awaiting a reaction.
Unrest in Kiev involving Mikheil Saakashvili is a sign of the latest surge of political turbulence that has led to the escalation of tensions in Donbass more than once.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) violated the ceasefire once again on October 17, on the eve of the Minsk Contact Group meeting. They subjected the Donbass-controlled settlements of Yasnoye, Trudovskiye, Oktyabr and Kalinovo to heavy mortar shelling. In all, they used 388 shells fired by combat hardware banned by the Minsk agreements. This is the biggest number since the start of the “school truce.” Two civilians were wounded by shelling on October 17. A resident of Zaitsevo was injured on October 8 and two residential buildings were damaged in Dokuchayevsk on October 10.
The security forces are getting ready for new combat operations. OSCE observers revealed new AFU combat hardware beyond the withdrawal lines on October 9-16: 20 howitzers in Alexandropol, six anti-tank weapons in Zhelannoye, three howitzers in Zelyonoye Pole and three howitzers in Granitny. Last week the observers established that about 200 units of AFU combat equipment were missing at AFU depots.
Kiev continues to disrupt the disengagement of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. On October 9, the AFU again failed to respond to the signal of the self-defence forces starting the withdrawal.
It cannot be ruled out that Kiev security forces are preparing new provocations like the SMM patrol vehicle blown up in the Lugansk Region in April. The mine threat continues to be a major obstacle to the free movement of observers at the Government-controlled territories.
We would like to draw your attention to how Kiev has limited the opportunities of the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC), its Russian component. It has no permit to use personal protective equipment (as distinct from the SMM), while the movements of officers that must monitor the ceasefire are being blocked. The head of the Russian part of the JCCC was denied permission to make a planned trip with SMM Principal Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug under the pretext of the “absence of security guarantees.” Nor is he allowed to visit some areas in Donbass. The absurdity of the pretext is obvious – SMM employees were granted security guarantees. Kiev is obviously torpedoing the work of the JCCC that has proved its ability to facilitate local ceasefires for repairs of critical civilian infrastructure facilities along the contact line. Such actions by Kiev may lead to the termination of the JCCC work.
In addition, since August JCCC monitoring groups came under fire from the Armed Forces of Ukraine six times, including three times in October. On October 18, a Russian officer and a SMM patrol came under AFU fire at the Donetsk filter station. Mines exploded 300 and 600 metres from observers. A JCCC representative was supposed to help SMM observers handle a CCTV camera.
To sum up, Kiev’s destructive position was again reaffirmed at the Contact Group’s meeting in Minsk on October 18. The half-hearted decision to extend for one year the invalid law on Donbass’ special status does not remove the problem of the sabotage of direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk on all aspects of the political settlement process.