We are grateful for the Chairmanship’s efforts on building consensus on a Permanent Council Declaration just adopted. Its key signals, in particular of respect to cease-fire and full implementation of the Minsk agreements remain fundamental for peaceful resolution in the east of Ukraine.
We thank the Serbian Chairmanship for convening this special Permanent Council meeting which is prompted by grave concerns over the dangerous escalation in Donbas launched by the militants.
At the last Permanent Council meeting the delegation of Ukraine pointed at consolidation of the illegal armed groups, reinforced with Russian regular troops and hardware. They were increasing the number of shellings and provocations against the Ukrainian forces and peaceful residents, which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries among the Ukrainian servicemen and local civilians.
The developments on the ground over the past week and the last few days testify that the illegal armed groups were tasked by their masters to intensify armed attacks across the entire line of disengagement, with the particular priority of seizing the Donetsk airport. Over the last 10 days only, the number of shellings of Ukrainian positions has surpassed statistics of the whole last month.
Since 13 January the terrorists undertook an all-out offensive on the Donetsk airport, conducting also intensive shellings from nearby residential areas. The leader of pro-Russian gang in Donetsk Zakharchenko ruled out possibilities for further rotation of the Ukrainian forces at the airport or evacuation of wounded Ukrainian servicemen.
I would like to draw your attention that this escalation did not lead to any concerns of the Russian side. Moreover, the Russian state propaganda, including nationwide TV and newspapers, contributed to the tension, encouraging the illegal armed forces for further attacks and announcing almost every day that the airport was taken by the militants.
Responding to the intensified shelling of Ukraine’s positions in the airport, Ukrainian forces carried out a limited operation to unblock the ways to supply our units and to block further assaults by the Russia-led terrorists on the airport. There were no intentions of military gains at Donetsk as Russia claims.
I wish to remind that Ukraine has twice initiated the ceasefire to have progress in comprehensive implementation of the Peace Plan of President of Ukraine and unilaterally observed it.
At the same time, the Russia-backed militants, despite signing the Minsk agreements, continued to brutally violate their provisions. Since September 2014 in breach of the Minsk arrangements the illegal armed groups with Russia’s backing have extended their control on over 550 km2. Terrorists’ incompliance with the ceasefire regime led to the loss of life of 237 Ukrainian military and at least 148 civilians.
Instead of the full and good faith implementation, the Russian side invested efforts into buying time through “process for the sake of process” consultations, aimed at undermining the essence and revision of the Minsk agreements. At the same time, the massive Russian military build-up in Donbas continued.
After placing signature under the Minsk agreements in September 2014 the Russian side has significantly upscaled its military presence in Donbas (over 8,000 Russian regulars, 180 tanks, 570 APC, over 140 artillery systems, over 70 GRAD systems etc.) and flooded the region with most sophisticated heavy weapons (including deadly TOS-1 Buratino systems). Recently, the terrorists announced that they created their “air forces”. We presume that this may be a maneuver to cover up the following deployment and use of the Russian military aircraft in action.
Build-up of the Russian troops at the border with Ukraine has also continued unabated. I would like to draw the attention of the Permanent Council to the information of the Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council that two battalion tactical groups entered the territory of Ukraine from the Russian Federation on Monday.
The recent decision of the President of Ukraine to conduct new waves of mobilization in 2015 is a move of purely defensive nature logical in the situation of an ongoing massive build-up of the Russian military forces in Donbas and on the border compounded by ever increasing violations of the ceasefire and ferocious terrorist attacks.
On Sunday dozens of thousand came to the streets of the cities in Ukraine and across the globe, including Vienna, to commemorate 13 bus passengers, killed following the terrorist shelling near Volnovakha, and other victims of the pro-Russian militants in Ukraine’s east.
The findings of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine provide us with clear answer on what type of weapons and what direction the bus was shelled from. The outcomes of the SMM fact-finding visits has confirmed the information of the Ukrainian law-enforcement authorities and eyewitnesses’ accounts that the shelling was carried out from terrorist-controlled Dokuchaevsk, which is exactly north-north-east of the attacked Ukrainian checkpoint.
We are outraged by the recent statements of the Russian side, attempting to whitewash the patronized terrorists and cover up this crime. In particular, the distinguished Russian representative stated to the Russian media that the SMM findings denied the version of Ukrainian representatives of “shelling from the east”. I regret this public distortion by distinguished Russian colleague as no versions of “shelling from the east” ever existed. We insist that all those responsible for this heinous terrorist act must be brought to justice and will take every effort to this end.
I share with the delegations the findings of the investigation by competent Ukrainian authorities of Ukraine.
The Minsk agreements, which are based on the Peace Plan of the President of Ukraine on peaceful settlement in Donbas, include all crucial elements required for prompt de-escalation, stabilization of the situation and launch of the recovery process in Donbas.
These elements are, in particular: ceasefire, resumption of Ukraine’s control at the Ukrainian-Russian state border, full and immediate withdrawal of the foreign troops and mercenaries, securing the line of disengagement as of 19 September 2014, withdrawal of heavy weapons, release of hostages and illegally detained persons, improvement of the humanitarian situation in the region and holding of local elections under the Ukrainian legislation.
The Ukrainian side stands ready to take part in consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group with the signatories of the Minsk agreements at the earliest time to get progress in practical implementation of the Minsk agreements.
My Minister is ready to go tomorrow to Berlin for the next FM’s Normandy meeting.
Ukraine fully implements the Minsk agreements and is keen to finally see Russia’s commitment to their good faith implementation in their entirety. Such commitment has not materialized yet.