Briefing by Mr. Yurii Klymenko, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ukraine
On May 15, 2014 Mr. Yurii Klymenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the Palais des Nations held a briefing for diplomatic corps, international organization, local and international media.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of our briefing is quite eloquent. We are now 10 days ahead of the Presidential elections in Ukraine.
The Government is currently making everything possible to establish an effective national political dialogue, focusing on the core concerns of all regions of Ukraine, in order to lay grounds for successful elections.
However, the peaceful life of the Ukrainian citizens and the expression of their will in the end of May are still endangered by a number of serious challenges.
So, let us take a closer look at this dynamically evolving state of affairs in my country.
1. As you are well aware the Eastern and South-Eastern regions of Ukraine are overwhelmed by the foreign subversive activities aimed at disrupting the stabilization efforts and provoking armed confrontations.
There is plenty of evidence, growing every day, that Russia is directly involved in supporting and coordinating terrorist activities as well as inciting unlawful separatist appetites in Ukraine.
Our Armed Forces face well-trained and heavily armed professionals, who by no means belong to “peaceful local population”. In particular, three Ukrainian helicopters on a non-military mission of distributing leaflets for population residing in the region of counterterrorist operation were shot down by MANPADS and Mi-8 transport helicopter sustained damage from ground fire. According to military experts, attackers applied professional tactics of double shot, which allows circumventing helicopter’s thermal trap. Armed separatists block-posts are increasingly equipped by heavy anti-tank rockets.
The use of such sophisticated and heavy military weaponry, in the majority of cases of Russian origin and exclusively in service of the Russian army, against Ukrainian forces reaffirms that the illegal armed groups in the East of Ukraine include professionals equipped, financed and directed from Russia.
Among the latest events showing the Russian trace are the orchestrated clashes in Odessa on May 2, resulting in more than 40 people killed and more than hundred wounded, when the pro-Russian activists, coordinated by the Russian infiltrators from the Transdnistrian region of Moldova, attacked a peaceful unarmed movement of pro-Ukrainian demonstrators. Investigation of this operation, guided and financed from abroad is under way in close cooperation with international mechanisms. Evidence up to date confirms that it was an organized and thoroughly planned attempt to provoke destabilization in Odessa region.
Blatant kidnapping and detention of the OSCE verification mission members in Slavyansk (Donetsk region) is another example of terrorist nature of activities of these armed groups.
There were also numerous provocations at Ukraine’s borders: blocking of border units, attacks on border patrols, as well as attempts of illegal transfer of weapons and extremist literature or separatist symbols from Russia’s territory. All that could not be done without the knowledge of the Russian Federation authorities.
2. Facing these growing threats to the state and public order the Government of Ukraine had to change strategy of patience, utmost restraint and dialogue for more proactive approach.
As a response to the increasing violence of the heavily armed groups of terrorists, endangering life of civilians and creating an atmosphere of terror, an antiterrorist operation (ATO) in the Eastern part of Ukraine has been launched in full compliance with all national legislation and existing international norms. The ATO’s main objectives are the restoration of law and order and protection of civilians from terrorists by all legitimate and proportional means.
Allegations by the Russian Federation which has described the ATO as a “punitive military operation against local population” are groundless and false.
Special security forces are acting against those who committed and continue to commit crimes, pose armed resistance, ignore legitimate demands to free all hostages, disarm and vacate seized buildings. Not a single state will allow its towns to be overrun by armed militants. It is not only the right, but responsibility of the Ukrainian Government to uphold the rule of law, protect people and secure their rights and freedoms.
The ATO is conducted with extraordinary restraint to avoid casualties among civilians, at the same increasing risks for the law-enforcement servicemen. Conversely, terrorists and armed militants show utter disdain for human life setting their firing positions in residence buildings, schools and kindergartens, opening indiscriminate fire, cowardly using the cynical practice of “human shields”. In particular, on May 3 amid the conversation between Ukrainian servicemen and unarmed local residents in the village on Andreevka near Slavyansk, terrorists insidiously opened fire from behind the civilians, killing two and wounding 12 Ukrainian servicemen.
We strongly refute as groundless all allegations by the Russian Federation on engaging foreign specialists and paramilitary structures to the anti-terrorist operation. It is conducted by special units of the Ministry of Interior, the Security Service and the National Guard, with participation of the Ukrainian Army units as auxiliary forces.
3. Meanwhile in order to further disrupt the internal situation the so-called “referendums” in Donetsk and Lugansk were inspired, organized and funded by the Russian side and its collaborators. They are illegitimate and have no legal consequences for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
In fact there were no “referendums” at two-thirds of the mentioned regions in general, and in some major cities under the control of terrorists mini demonstrations for the Russian media were staged, using homemade printed bulletins.
The purpose of these events was to hide the real mood in the society where the vast majority (70%) of the population in the eastern regions of Ukraine prefers unitary state and only 18% support separatist ideology. This is evidenced by opinion polls, held in April by influential PewResearchCenter, as well as by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.
I would like to note that all these actions were overwhelmingly condemned by the international community.
4. In this circumstances we are alarmed with continuing massive Russia’s disinformation campaign in Ukraine and worldwide aimed at shifting the focus from Russia’s flagrant violations of international law, including fundamental human rights and freedoms, disguising its aggression and blatant interference into the internal affairs of Ukraine.
The last very illustrative example is the so-called “White book” on alleged “human rights violations” in Ukraine, which represents another typical highly biased interpretation of situation on the ground, representing facts in extremely selective manner.
However, all far-fetched and often false allegations are effectively disproved by evidence and expertise of authoritative international specialized institutions – UN, in particular the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, OSCE, and Council of Europe. Their reports clearly expose and reject hypocrisy of the Russian Soviet style clumsy propaganda machinery.
In particular, a report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, issued on May 12, highlighted the results of the joint mission to assess the situation of human rights in Ukraine.
The Mission established a number of serious human rights violations occurred during the reporting period, including murders, physical attacks, intimidations, kidnappings, whose targets were primarily pro-Maidan activists, journalists, Ukrainian servicemen as well as Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian-speaking population. As a rule, these violations did not precede but rather accompanied and followed the emergence of Russia’s led various armed groups, first and foremost in Crimea and Eastern and Southern Ukraine.
We hope that the second OHCHR Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine prepared by its Monitoring Mission currently working in my country and to be released by ASG Simonovic tomorrow in Kyiv will provide the international community with an updated objective picture of these developments in Ukraine. I am sure it will contribute to avoiding politicization and distortion of facts, to which the Russian Federation very often resorts.
5. Against this background we remain deeply concerned over continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in Crimea caused by the aggression of the Russian Federation which resulted in flows of internally displaced persons leaving the peninsula (over 7000 as of beginning of May).
Current human rights challenges are related to the protection of the right to citizenship, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to information, protection of property, incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence as well as protection of minority rights, in particular of the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian community.
Crimean population faces daunting curtailing of their human rights and freedoms as a result of imposing by the Russian Federation, as an occupying state, its restrictive legislation.
On the eve of the sad 70th anniversary of the forced deportation of thousands of Tatars from Crimea by the Soviet leadership (falls on May 18) the Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilov was banned from returning to his homeland until 2019. Some Crimean Tatars involved in peaceful protests over this decision have been fined, while others are facing criminal charges. The Mejlis (representative body of the Crimean Tatar people) has been officially threatened with dissolution, for allegedly “extremist activities”.
In this respect Ukraine pays great attention to further cooperation with international human rights institutions, in particular with the OHCHR, OSCE and Council of Europe and appeals for closer cooperation on protection of human rights and freedoms in the occupied territory of Crimea. We call on the UN and other reputable international institutions to double their efforts to monitor the situation on the peninsula.
And we again strongly demand the Russian Federation to grant access to the peninsula for relevant monitoring missions, including the OHCHR one.
6. For its part the Government of Ukraine is doing everything possible to ease tensions in Eastern and South-Eastern parts of our country. We remain deeply committed to the implementation of the Geneva agreements and ready for a constructive dialogue with all parties, including the OSCE, with a view to finding a solution to the crisis.
Our approach is that the key to resolution of the current situation due to the Russia’s subversive actions against Ukraine is smooth and prompt implementation of three conditions: de-escalation of the conflict, carrying-out of Ukrainian national dialogue and holding of May 25 Presidential elections.
This platform forms the basis of the “Roadmap” elaborated by the OSCE Swiss Chairmanship, an important auxiliary tool in this process.
Unfortunately, this document up till now does not fix the concrete Russia’s obligations for de-escalation of the intense situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, to the existence of which it has the direct relation.
For bringing peace and stability to Ukraine recently we have launched roundtables for inclusive dialogue with all communities. Yesterday the first all-Ukrainian round table of national unity took place in Kyiv. Later on this initiative will be continued in other cities of Ukraine. The newly appointed OSCE negotiator Wolfgang Ischinger as well as former Ukrainian Presidents Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma were invited to be these roundtables’ moderators.
7. Preparations of the Presidential elections on May 25 are taking place in extremely difficult conditions, unprecedented in the modern Ukrainian history.
The Ukrainian Government is determined to hold free, transparent, democratic elections within the defined time-line in close cooperation with the international institutions.
More than 33000 polling stations will be at disposal of our citizens (among them 114 polling stations - abroad). The Ukrainians who live in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea will be able to vote on the territory of neighboring regions of Ukraine.
The ballot will list the names of 21 candidates.
Let me assure you that the elections will be held in full accordance with the national legislation and internationally recognized standards with the participation of as many international observers as possible. To that end we have already invited observers from the OSCE, the European Parliament, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe and other international organizations as well as observers from states. As of May 6 over 600 (of expected 900) observes were already registered.
We highly appreciate the unanimous position of the international community, attaching special importance to insure proper holding of these elections, which are of crucial importance for the further development of Ukraine and a benchmark of normalization and stabilization of the situation in the country.
We believe that they are likewise in the interests of the Russian Federation, provided the declaration of its leadership, expressed after the meeting with the OSCE Swiss Chairmanship on May 7, that “this is the step in the right direction”.
So far, despite all existing and eventual challenges and with due support of the international community, Ukraine will manage to hold the Presidential elections, which will enable the people from all the regions of Ukraine to elect their leader freely and fairly through inclusive democratic process.
Both Ukraine and the entire world would benefit by it.
I thank you.
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