On April 2, transportation vehicles once again illegally crossed the Ukrainian state border from Russia - under the pretext of delivering what was declared by Russia as “humanitarian" but is in essence contraband cargo. The Ukrainian side did notofficially approve this in view of the violation of the law of our country, established international practice, as well as the conditions and modalities previously agreed between Ukraine, Russia and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Russian side once again completely ignored the need for cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Crossin matters relating to delivery of humanitarian aid from the Russian Federation. Large amounts of dangerous and non-humanitarian cargo were transported without notice – this including herbicides and foam materials respectively.
The lack of legitimate grounds made impossible proper processing of the “humanitarian cargo” at Russian checkpoints by Ukraine's border and customs authorities, which is mandatory under Ukrainian law.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has delivered a diplomatic demarche demanding that the Russian side immediately stop violating the sovereignty of Ukraine under the pretext of delivering so-called "humanitarian aid". We once again strongly urge the Russian side to send only properly completed and duly executed humanitarian shipments through checkpoints controlled by the respective authorities of Ukraine.
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Regarding the Nadiya Savchenko case. Nadiya is still detained at the hospital of the pretrial detention center #1 in Moscow and continues the hunger strike in protest against illegal detention in Russia, resumed on March 16. At the same time, she began consuming nutritional compounds and food in small quantities required for life sustenance. Detention center doctors evaluate her health condition as “satisfactory”.
Unfortunately, the Russian side continues to ignore numerous calls by the Ukrainian side and the international community for unconditional release of Nadiya Savchenko even without consideration for the evidence provided by the defense that the citizen of Ukraine is not involved in the crimes, with which she is being charged.
We would like to once again emphasize that Nadiya Savchanko, who was kidnapped on the territory of Ukraine by Russian special services, is being detained in Russia unlawfully. The full responsibility for life and health lies on the Russian side. We demand immediate release of our citizen and urge the international community to increase pressure on Russia to force it to abandon the practice of taking hostage and detaining Ukrainian citizens on Russian territory as political prisoners.
In this regard, I would also like to note that repeated requests to permit Ukrainian consular officers to visit citizens of Ukraine Mykola Karpyuk (detained 21.03.2014), Stanislav Klykha (detained 11.08.2014) Valentyn Vyhivskyi (detained 18.09.2014) and Yuriy Soloshenko (detained 05.08.2014) have been rejected by the Russian side in breach of its international commitments.
The Russian side also continues to refuse visits by consular officers to Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, and Hennadiy Afanasiev, who were detained in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in May 2014. The Russian side argues that, according to Russian legislation, these individuals are considered to be citizens of the Russian Federation.
The Russian side’s obstruction of contact between Ukrainian consular officers and the detained Ukrainian citizens causes righteous indignation, especially considering the statements by O.Sentsov, S.Lytvynov, and other Ukrainian citizens detained on the territory of the Russian Federation, concerning the use of physical violence and torture against them during the investigation.
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Recently, certain media outlets published information, with reference to the report of the UN Office for the Coordination ofHumanitarian Affairs, about possible curtailment of the UN humanitarian aid to residents of Donbass, including on territories not under control of the Ukrainian Government, due to lack of funding for the UN Humanitarian response plan for Ukrainein 2015.
In this regard, I would like to note that according to the UN, as of late March 2015 donor countries have allocated/announcedthe allocation of over USD 50 mln. or 16% of total HRP budget (USD 316 mln.).
Analysis of mobilization of donor resources for UN humanitarian plans in other countries suggests that the financing for theUN HRP in Ukraine is the same or better than in other countries. Specifically, the share of UN resources mobilized over the same period for humanitarian operations conducted in most of the other countries is less than in Ukraine (e.g. Syria – 10%, Yemen – 10% of total budget etc.).
According to UN data, out of USD 18.9 bln. required for humanitarian operations worldwide, only USD 1.71 bln. or 9% have been mobilized in the first quarter (i.e. current shortage is over USD 17 bln.). This may be seasonal (beginning of the year) or due to the significant increase in humanitarian needs worldwide, which may sometimes lead to resource dispersal and competition for donor funding.
Given these circumstances, it would be premature and inappropriate to talk about underfinancing of the UN HRP in Ukraine or “donor fatigue”. In this context, it is noteworthy that the 2014 UN HRP in Ukraine with a budget of USD 32.2 mln. was 87% financed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, for its part, is taking steps to attract donor resources for implementation of the UN HRP for Ukraine. In particular, the March 21-24 visit of UNDP Administrator and Deputy Secretary of the UN GeneralH. Klark to Ukraine, which among other issues focused on humanitarian aid for Ukraine, should provide additional incentive for mobilization of donor funds.
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I would like to respond to some of the publications in the Ukrainian media raising the issues faced by Ukrainian citizens in the EU consular offices in the process of obtaining visas.
In this context, it is worth noting that the procedure of obtaining Schengen visas by Ukrainian citizens is governed by the Agreement on Simplification of the Visa Regime between Ukraine and the European Union which entered into force on January 1, 2008, as well as EU Visa Code.
On July 1, 2013 the Ukraine-EU Agreement on Amending the Agreement on Simplification of the Visa Regime signed on July 23, 2012 came into effect. Among other provisions, the Agreement envisages that in addition to 14 categories provided by the effective Agreement, privileges and advantages aimed at simplification of the visa process also apply to 9 other categories of Ukrainian citizens, or hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.
On April 29, 2014 the European Commission approved the unified list of documents required from Ukrainian citizens by consular offices of EU Member States on the territory of Ukraine in the process of application for Schengen visas. The list includes 4 documents certifying the following:
1) purpose of travel;
2) source of income in Ukraine (employer’s statement);
3) proof of financial means for travel (bank letter);
4) proof of accommodation for the period of stay in Schengen zone.
A substantial result of application of “enhanced” Agreement on Simplification of the Visa Regime is a significant growth in the proportion of multi-entry visas with 1-5 years of validity. Every third Schengen visa in 2013-2014 was issued to Ukrainian citizens free of charge.
In 2014, the proportion of multi-entry visas with 1-5 years of validity issued by EU Member States grew up to 52.4% from the general number of visas issued (39% in 2013). Moreover, certain EU Member States have significantly reconsidered their policies regarding this visa type. Greece has become the leader of these changes. In 2014, it increased the number of visas with over 1 year of validity by 24.9%. The Netherlands and Lithuania showed a 20% growth, Hungary – 14%, Spain – 13.2%, Latvia and Italy – 12%, Poland – 9.6% and Germany – 6.6%.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Ukraine recognizes the progress in implementation of the Agreement on Simplification of the Visa Regime by the majority of diplomatic institutions of EU Member States in Ukraine in 2014 – Q1 2015.
There have been instances of improper application of provisions of this Agreement by certain consular institutions of EU Member States. However, they no longer have a systematic nature. This is evident in the significant decrease in the number of citizens’ complaints received by the Ukrainian MFA regarding the breach of the said Agreement (only 1 complaint received in Q1 2015).
That said we realize that the issues related to obtaining Schengen visas can be fully resolved only upon introduction of a visa-free regime by the European Union for short visits by Ukrainian citizens.
A prompt completion of the second phase of the Action Plan on EU visa liberalization for Ukrainian citizens is established as one of the priority objectives of the Ukrainian Government.
Until then, the MFA of Ukraine will continue to respond to any and all instances of violation of Ukrainian citizens’ rights as well as artificial obstacles to obtaining Schengen visas, and will bring respective information to the attention of the European Commission.