Vienna, July 12, 2018
The “bread ceasefire” has led to a substantial reduction of exchanges of fire on the line of contact. It is necessary to strengthen and sustain it. Even so, between July 1 and 10, the SMM recorded sporadic ceasefire violations. In most cases, the Ukrainian Armed Forces fired on the self-defence forces’ positions. Shelling on July 1 and 4 damaged houses in Dokuchayevsk and Yasinovataya. The Ukrainian forces destroyed cereal crops on an area of 120 hectares in the south of the Donetsk Region.
What is needed to prevent a new escalation is not only monitoring, but also a mechanism of disciplinary measures with regard to the offenders. Kiev should restrain the hotheads in the Ukrainian Armed Forces and punitive battalions. It is necessary at long last to publish the orders banning the use of arms by all the military units in Ukraine, to hand over their copies to the SMM, and to bring the offenders to account. We support the proposals of the Head of the SMM Ertugrul Apakan and his deputy Alexander Hug on strengthening the ceasefire regime on the contact line.
Kiev should be made to comply with the Contact Group Framework Decision on Disengagement of Forces and Hardware. The Ukrainian forces have occupied the disengagement area in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye and have repeatedly disrupted the separation of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. At the Contact Group meeting on July 11, Ukraine once again fudged the issue of disengagement of forces. Kiev has challenged the SMM data on the latest ceasefire violations near Stanitsa Luganskaya. This is nothing but sabotage of earlier agreements.
We urge the Ukrainian forces to pull back military hardware from the contact line. From July 1 to 10, the SMM recorded 64 military vehicles violating the pull-back line. Ukrainian Hurricane multiple launch rocket systems are deployed in the immediate proximity of separation areas. Combat vehicles are parked next to functioning schools in Artyom and Troitskoye. Ukrainian soldiers are billeted in residential houses at Peski. The Ukrainian forces have held shooting exercises in Orekhovo-Donetskoye in violation of the Contact Group decision of March 3, 2016. A new minefield has been discovered near Vodyanoye.
A lasting settlement of the conflict is impossible without compliance with the political provisions of the Minsk Package of Measures in line with the concept of parallel steps approved by the heads of the Normandy format summits in Berlin and Paris. Nevertheless, to date Kiev has done nothing to implement it. It is blocking the negotiations at the Contact Group political subgroup. The question of including the Steinmeier Formula in the law on the special status of Donbass has been put on hold. The so-called law on reintegration has created legal prerequisites for a military solution in Donbass. The Ukrainian law On Education deprives the Russian-speaking population of the right to study in their native language and undermines the relevant provision of the Package of Measures on language self-determination. Kiev must be given a clear signal about the need to start implementing the obligations it has assumed.
The humanitarian problems urgently need to be solved. In addition to the global issues of restoring the severed trade and economic ties and lifting the transport blockade Kiev is dodging topics that are important for the local population. The Ukrainian negotiators in the Contact Group are blocking a decision on the start of repairs to the bridge in Stanitsa Luganskaya in spite of SMM confirmations that the situation there is critical. The wooden access ramp is in disrepair and people wait for hours on the Ukrainian side of the disengagement line. Deaths of people in queues have been reported.
Instead of seeking to settle the conflict with fellow citizens in Donbass Kiev continues attempts to impose a false Russophobic paradigm of “Russian aggression” on its own society and on its foreign partners.
The clean-up of the media space continues. The head of RIA Novosti Ukraine, Kirill Vyshinsky, is still under arrest. On July 10, the Ukrainian Border service denied entry to the British journalist John Warren Graham Broderip.
The Ukrainian State Committee on Television and Broadcasting initiated sanctions against 12 Russian publishing houses and sites. As of July 10, the “stop list” included 184 titles of printed items. Under the pretext of “repeated violations of standards,” the Good Morning, Country programme has been taken off the air. It was on this programme that the leader of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, Yulia Timoshenko, said that Petr Poroshenko is planning to disrupt the presidential elections in the country by escalating military action in Donbass. Where is the reaction from the USA and the EU? Where is the reaction from the OSCE executive bodies?
The Verkhovna Rada has initiated hearings on the draft law on counteracting the threats to national security in the media space, which would legalise the blocking of information resources without a court order. This runs counter to the provisions of Ukrainian and international law concerning the access of citizens to information and freedom of expression, dilutes public control over the actions of the authorities and narrows the space for public discussion.
We are surprised that all these facts, as well as manifestations of radical nationalism have failed to be properly assessed at the EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels. Including the notorious law On Education, which does not take into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The fact that the final statement is replete with anti-Russian passages far removed from reality merely encourages Kiev to continue sabotaging its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. This line is hardly conducive to the prompt settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict.