Statement by H.E. Mr. Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, at the UNSC Open Debate on “The Respect to the Principles and Purposes of the Charter of the United Nations as Key Element for the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”
(February 15, 2016)
At the outset, Madam Minister, I would like to underscore particular importance of the topic of today’s Council meeting for all members of the UN family. This open debate should become our common contribution to the efforts of the international community in addressing challenges the world faces today.
I also would like to state that my delegation aligns itself with the statement to be delivered later on behalf of the European Union.
Back in 1945, by signing the UN Charter, the founding member States were determined to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and to “establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.
For these objectives we established the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.
Ukraine as a UN founding member proudly holds a stake in this process, as its delegation chaired the drafting of the Charter’s Preamble and Chapter I “Purposes and Principles” at the San-Francisco Conference. In today’s world these provisions are the prerequisites to any other purposes of the United Nations.
Regrettably, we have also witnessed deviations from these principles or their misinterpretations according to convenience. Since the founding of the United Nations, the basic norms of the UN Charter including sovereign equality, fulfillment of member States’ obligations in good faith, peaceful settlements of disputes, refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, respect for human rights have been violated on many occasions.
Any encroachment on the Charter provisions, arbitrary and selective interpretation of its articles, any actions undermining its authority and inciting disregard for the letter and the spirit of its principles, represent a clear threat to the international peace with far-reaching repercussions for the well-being of all peoples.
Current developments caused by Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and aggression in the eastern Ukraine clearly demonstrate that violation of fundamental principles of international law by a permanent member of the Security Council is a serious threat to peace and security in Europe and the whole world.
It happened in Georgia in 2008. It happened in Crimea in 2014. It is happening now in the eastern Ukraine.
The neo-imperialistic ambitions of the Russian Federation and its reckless militaristic adventurism have created the worst security crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
In trying to justify its actions by misinterpretation of the provisions of the UN Charter, Russia has on numerous occasions in less than 25 years of its UN membership demonstrated that it did not respect its own obligations under international law and the UN Charter.
Furthermore, abusing the right of veto at the Security Council, the Russian Federation has neglects its obligations as a permanent Council member to maintain peace and security.
According to UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 of 14 December 1974, actions undertaken by the Russian Federation in the Crimea, as well as in the east of Ukraine, fall squarely under the definition of an act of aggression – a crime against international peace.
Under Article 2 of the UN Charter, use of force against territorial integrity of another state is illegal; thus, no territorial acquisition can be recognized as lawful or retrospectively legitimized.
Allow me to recall that the military invasion by the Russian troops began on 20 February 2014 by blocking and seizing Ukrainian civil and military facilities, administrative buildings and infrastructure, illegitimate imposition of the pro-Russian “Crimean authorities”, and the holding of the so-called “referendum” of 16 March 2014 at the barrel of a Russian gun.
In a documentary for the Russian state-run TV, broadcast a year later, on 15 March 2015, the Russian President admitted that the plan to annex Crimea had been launched weeks before the so-called “referendum”. No surprise the authorities in Moscow never intended to comply with UN GA resolution 68/262 “Territorial integrity of Ukraine” which called upon all States “to desist from … any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders”.
This aggression has continued in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The aggressor is standing with thousands of troops, heavy weapons, tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, missiles and other military equipment not only at our borders but also on our soil.
At the same time, Russia remains a sponsor of terrorism in the east of Ukraine and keeps providing financial, material, military and technical support to the separatists in Ukraine, which are organized, controlled, and funded by the Russian Federation, including in many cases under cover of the so-called “humanitarian convoys”.
As a result, the almost two-year Russian military aggression against Ukraine has already resulted in over 9 thousand civilians dead, at least 20 thousand injured, and millions of displaced.
The aggressive war, launched by Russia against Ukraine, constitutes a grave breach of jus cogens – peremptory norms of international law, and a flagrant disregard for international obligations and commitments undertaken by Russia under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and other international treaties and documents.
The actions of the Russian Federation constitute yet another proof that in practice there can be no isolated violation of a single principle of the UN Charter: since all principles are inherently connected and interdependent, encroachment upon any of them essentially entails breach of the entire corpus of the principles as a whole and of the many legal rules deriving from those principles.
My country considers such actions as internationally wrongful acts violating erga omnes obligations of Russia and thus entailing Russia’s international responsibility not only vis-à-vis Ukraine, but also vis-à-vis the entire international community. In this situation, not a single State remains unconcerned, no matter how far it might be distant from Ukraine geographically.
Over the past two years, Ukraine has on several occasions urged the Russian Federation to accept its international legal responsibility and demanded termination of such wrongful acts.
We proceed from the fact that Article 33 of the UN Charter envisages an obligation to settle any international disputes peacefully, and provides a toolkit to do so. We remain committed to a peaceful resolution of this conflict. But striving to achieve it and trying to re-establish lost trust does not, however, mean that the breach of the UN principles should be accepted. This would be a false lesson to be drawn from history and fatal for European and world security.
In this context, Ukraine has brought Russia’s attention to the numerous facts of its aggression and proposed to resolve any existing disputes at the International Court of Justice or by an ad hoc arbitration. Ukraine has also brought to the attention of the Russian Federation numerous cases of violations of international humanitarian law and breaches of its obligations as Occupying Power as well as instances of human rights violations attributable to it due to its effective control over parts of Ukraine’s territory. In response, the Russian side expressed general, unsubstantiated denials of these facts and refused to recognize the existence of a dispute and its responsibility.
Not only that. Just a few days ago, I read Russian Foreign Minister’s statement claiming that the Russian Federation allegedly did not violate its commitments under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the NPT Treaty. It says volumes about the mendacity of Russian diplomacy. Let me stress that in this Memorandum, which was duly circulated to all UN member States through a joint letter also signed by Mr. Lavrov, Russia undertook “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”, “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity” of my country and that none of its “weapons would ever be used against Ukraine”. Once again I've got convinced that the Russian side reads international treaties in a specific manner – same as Minsk agreements, the Budapest Memorandum was read by Moscow very much selectively. Unfortunately, all of our previous proposals to convene consultations, in accordance with paragraph 6 of the Memorandum, were ignored by Russia. For a signatory, which is sure that it does not violate the Memorandum, why is there a concern about such consultations? Let me reiterate our call on all signatories to hold consultations without delay.
Ukraine is alarmed with Russia’s unprecedented mounting militarization of the occupied Crimea. To date, Russia has deployed in Crimea more than 23 thousands military, hundreds of battle tanks, armored vehicles, combat aircraft and helicopters, dozens of coastal missile systems etc.
A particular danger is presented by deployment in Crimea of potential carriers of nuclear warheads such as warships and combat aircraft as well as Russia’s intentions to refurbish the infrastructure of some Soviet-era storage facilities in Crimea for nuclear weapons.
Thus, the illegal occupation and subsequent militarization of Crimea threaten far-reaching consequences for security not only in the Black Sea region, but in the whole South Europe, as well as in the North Africa and the Middle East.
The ongoing events in Syria are convincing proof of this. Such a disturbing state of affairs urgently needs to be appropriately addressed by the world community.
Against the background of intense activities of the Russian occupation authorities to transform Crimea into a huge military base, we observe a significant deterioration of the human rights situation. International organization reports contain numerous facts of systemic and large-scale violations of human rights in Crimea, including disappearances, killings, torture and ill-treatment. Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who openly supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine remain in a particularly vulnerable position.
During the last week only, we witnessed a new wave of repressions and intimidation directed at Crimean Tatars. Early in the morning of 11 and 12 February, the Russian security forces surrounded a number of villages across the peninsula and raided Crimean Tatar homes, breaking windows and doors, confiscating computers and other property. Some people were detained. The Russian Security Service opened a criminal investigation against several Crimean Tatars, accusing them of being involved in extremist activities. The way it was done reminds us the tragic days of 1944 mass deportation of Crimean Tatars from their homeland. But, sadly, all this is happening now. On Friday, I wrote to the Security Council President to draw attention to these developments.
We urge the Russian Federation as the occupying power to immediately provide a free and unconditional access to the peninsula for a constant international presence of relevant UN, Council of Europe and OSCE mechanisms, as well as other international organizations.
Ukraine fully recognizes the key role of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security and its capacities to that end to take effective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.
In this regard, to ensure effective implementation of the Minsk Agreements and UN Security Council Resolution 2202 (2015), proceeding from the need to involve additional instruments in order to prevent further violations of the UN Charter and to guarantee the lasting peace and stability in certain areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, we continue to insist that deployment of a UN international peacekeeping operation in the territory of Ukraine could be an important step towards an effective solution for the conflict unleashed by the Russian Federation against my country.
The UN Charter has withstood dramatic changes in international relations and proved its key place in today’s global architecture as the primary international legal instrument for protection of the international peace with far-reaching effects for the well-being of all peoples. Adherence to the principles embodied in the UN Charter is the best safeguard for the implementation of all other international legal documents and, ultimately, for the international rule of law.
We trust that the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the world leaders will exert every effort and explore every opportunity to restore the respect for and the authority of the UN Charter.
To conclude I would like to cite Aristotle: “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.”
Today, seven decades after the end of the World War II and the adoption of the UN Charter, we must not forget its primary purpose – to maintain the international peace and security.
Unless the Charter is respected, there will be no peace, nor security in the world.
Unless the Charter is respected, chaos and violence will prevail.
The Charter must be respected. The order must be restored.
The violations of the Charter must not go unpunished.
I thank you.