In 2014, the Russian Federation launched an undeclared war against Ukraine. Following the illegal occupation and attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the Kremlin moved on to the next stage of its armed aggression in the Ukrainian Donbas.
Russian special operations units and other armed formations, no-insignia military “on a leave” and military advisers methodically and purposefully seized the Ukrainian local authorities, police departments, the military facilities in Donbas and carried out other offensive operations against the Ukrainian army and law enforcement. The Russian Federation launched from its territory incessant artillery and rocket attacks on the positions of the Ukrainian border guards and the Armed Forces. Numerous Russian troops, using heavy weaponry and modern arms, unexpectedly and perfidiously invaded the territory of Ukraine and engaged in violent hostilities against the Ukrainian Armed Forces who heroically protected Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ukrainian soldiers took captive many Russian military in these hostilities.
Russia’s military presence in the occupied part of Donbas continues until today. Regular Illegal crossings of the Ukrainian-Russian border section uncontrolled by the Government of Ukraine by train and truck convoys with military equipment to strengthen and rotate the armed formations of the Russian Federation have turned into routine constant practice. Numerous OSCE reports provide verified information on regular violations of Ukraine’s state border.
These are facts that are well recorded, solid, proven and, thus, beyond any doubt. Ukraine is in a possession of huge amount of undeniable documentary and other evidences that Russia irrefutably masterminded and unleashed in 2014 the armed aggression against our country, which continues unabated until now. Ukraine will continue to submit these data to the international legal institutions.
Therefore, the persistent claims of Russian officials on Russia’s alleged “mediation” role in the peace process in Donbas are completely unfounded and outrageous. From the very first days of the armed conflict, Russia has been taking an active part in the illegal seizure of Ukraine’s territories. Thus, Russia as an occupying Power has never been and in principle cannot be a mediator to the armed conflict, which it started and pursues until present.
The Minsk agreements reached through the mediation of the OSCE, Germany and France, as well as the agreements in the “Normandy format”, the implementation of which continues to form the basis of a political and diplomatic settlement of the conflict, have been deliberately sabotaged by Russia from day one. Instead, Russia intends to replace the peaceful settlement process and efforts aimed at putting a stop to the war with the attempts to consolidate its military presence in the occupied territories and to integrate them into its political, information, economic and other space.
It is worth recalling in this connection the seizure of Debaltseve and other Ukrainian territories by the Russian troops in February 2015 - within days following Russia’s signature of the Minsk Package of Measures on 12 February 2015 and the adoption of the decision to cease fire along the line of contact.
Since then all further actions of Russia have been aimed at dismantling any efforts to end the conflict and peacefully reintegrate the occupied Ukrainian territories.
In the past two years, Ukraine has taken unprecedented steps to find the ways to resolve the conflict peacefully, while investing enormous efforts in implementing the agreements reached by the leaders of the "Normandie format" countries at the Paris Summit on 9 December 2019. To this end, Ukraine has advanced numerous proposals and initiatives, in particular within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), in pursuit of full implementation of decisions in the humanitarian, security and political spheres.
Despite all the efforts of the Ukrainian Side, the Russian Side continues to block the TCG work under various pretexts, while refusing to finalize even the decisions agreed at the expert level.
Among them are important initiatives on further disengagement of forces and equipment, continuation of the demining, implementation of the political aspects of the Common Agreed Conclusions of the Paris Summit, opening and ensuring the proper operation of new entry-exit checkpoints at the line of contact, further stages of the process of mutual release of detainees and exchange of respective lists.
An important achievement of the past year - the agreement on additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire of 22 July 2020 - is currently facing numerous challenges against the backdrop of intensified provocations and shellings along the line of contact by the armed formations of the Russian Federation, including with the use of Minsk-prohibited weapons.
International organizations, in the first place the International Committee of the Red Cross, still do not have their full and unconditional access to the affected population and detainees in the occupied territories, while the OSCE SMM continues to face numerous obstacles in ensuring safe and secure access, including to the non-Government-controlled segment of the state border.
Evidently, the goal of the Russian Federation is to turn the occupied parts of Donbas into an inaccessible territory for monitoring by the international community in order to cover up its crimes and carry on its aggression against Ukraine.
Ukraine remains committed to a peaceful, political and diplomatic settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict based on the principles laid down in the Minsk Agreements, including the Minsk Protocol of 5 September 2014, the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014, and the Minsk Package of Measures of 12 February 2015. Our country is ready to continue working on their implementation - both in the TCG and in the “Normandie format”.
Ukraine is grateful for and appreciates the mediation efforts of the OSCE, as well as our partners from Germany and France in seeking solutions that could finally bring peace to the Ukrainian soil.
We are also thankful to the Group of Seven, the European Union and other partner countries for their unwavering support of Ukraine and a clear-cut position on the causes and driving forces of the conflict, including Russia’s role as a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as for the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions. Russia’s direct role and immediate participation in the armed conflict underway in eastern Ukraine has been duly documented and is well known to the international community.
It is the undeniable fact that Russia is a party to the international armed conflict, which it unleashed through the illegal occupation of Crimea, and it sustains this conflict now in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. In eastern Ukraine, as well as in the territory of the Ukrainian Crimea, Russia has committed a crime against the international legal order and peace, which entails international legal responsibility. Undoubtedly, Russia will face it.
Russia must accept its responsibility for launching an armed aggression against Ukraine and make every effort to resolve the conflict. We call on Russia to fulfill its obligations in their entirety, to withdraw immediately from Ukraine its army, weapons, mercenaries and the armed formations it leads, supports and finances, and to return to Ukraine full control over its internationally recognized borders.