Statement by Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, at the UN Security Council briefing on the situation in Ukraine
I thank the briefers for the updated information they provided on the attack on town Adviivka (Donetsk region of Ukraine) by the Russian occupying forces and their proxies that led to humanitarian emergency in the area.
Ukraine continues to be fully committed to implementing the Minsk agreements in their entirety. The President of Ukraine has stressed on many occasions that there is no military solution in the Donbas; Ukrainian government is strongly focused on the peaceful and diplomatic means in this regard. Ukrainian forces continue respecting the ceasefire; they have a strict order to open a fire only in response to attacks and assault actions of Russia-backed militants.
On the contrary, Russia as the party to the conflict in Donbas and its proxies blatantly violate Minsk agreements from the very beginning. They continued their attacks and occupied several Ukrainian towns and localities. As for now, Russian proxies occupied about 1700 sq.km leaving far beyond the contact line agreed in Minsk on September 19, 2014
Before the “crisis in Avdiivka” there was the battle for Debaltsevo two years ago captured by Russian forces immediately after Minsk summit on February 12, 2015 and contrary to decisions taken by leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
In early hours of Sunday, 29 January, Russian army and its proxies began massive artillery attacks on Avdiivka and its suburbs from Donetsk and Yasynuvata residential areas, which are under control of the Russia-led terrorists, and sent assault units to storm positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Russian forces used multi rocket launcher systems "Grad", tanks, 152mm and 122mm artillery, 120mm and 82mm mortars. All these weapons are forbidden under the Minsk Agreement. On 29 January, alone the Ukrainian positions were shelled nearly four hundred times.
According to the information that we just received, fifteen minutes before the start of this briefing the separatist forces resumed shelling of residential areas of Avdiivka using high caliber artillery systems. Several residential buildings were hit, there are several fires around the town. One of shells exploded close to a temporary heating station that was set up by the Ukrainian authorities to provide Avdiivka residents with warmth in these freezing temperatures.
Shelling intensified on 30-31 January, including aimed at the objects of civilian infrastructure. As a result, the Donetsk water filtration plant and Avdiivka coke plant, which provides heat for Avdiivka, are now de-energized. The city is left without water, electricity and heat. Current temperature in Avdiivka is minus 18°C, without central heating civilians will not survive. 16 000 people ended up without water, electricity and heating, including 2 000 kids. Just imagine, 2000 kids. Without heating. At minus 18°C. Ukrainian Emergency services prepared to evacuate people from Avdiivka.
Numerous attempts of the Ukrainian services to repair damaged infrastructure have been consistently blocked till February 1, 2017 by the Russia-led terrorists, which continued shelling and by Russian part of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) which provided security guarantees necessary to reach the destroyed objects with unreasonable delay.
Destroying critical infrastructure and thus creating humanitarian disaster is a terrorist tactics aimed primarily at civilians. This tactic obliterates the Russian propaganda myth about “peaceful miners” who fight against authorities with their shotguns. Locals would never do this to their neighbors, but those who came to Ukrainian soil as aggressors to destroy Ukrainian statehood do not hesitate to damage factories, houses, powerlines. This tactic is not new for the Russian forces.
The mentioned Russia’s actions may qualify as a war crime. Ukraine will add evidence related to the recent escalation and indiscriminate attacks on the civilian infrastructure to our claim against Russia on terrorism to International Court of Justice. This is the first but very important step in bringing Russia to justice for its mounting violations of the UN Charter and international law.
The Ukrainian government announced the emergency in Avdiivka. We have managed to sustain the functioning of the heating system at a minimum level and to avoid a quick degradation of the situation into a humanitarian disaster. 11 warming centers were set up, scores of field kitchens were deployed, kindergartens and hospitals function in the emergency mode. Additional police units were deployed to protect civil order and help in timely response to the emergency.
Events of recent days became a test for monitoring and coordination mechanisms in Donbas. Since the outbreak of hostilities, Ukraine repeatedly, literally hundreads of times, requested Russian representatives at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) to use their influence to stop hostilities. Out of 230 requests made in the period from 29 January until 1 February 2017 to stop hostilities in the area around Avdiyivka, all but two were ignored. On 31 January, Ukraine called for an urgent VTC meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) to stop tensions. Again, the Russian side and their proxies in Donbas did not show up claiming that this is not the right time. Seriously? Not the right time?
Despite calls from all corners for a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weaponry, the militants continue shelling day and night. On 1 February, despite the appeal of the Trilateral Contact Group for immediate and comprehensive ceasefire at the region of Avdiivka, Russian militants did not stop shooting even at the repair team that was trying to fix the damaged power line. They shelled residential buildings and last night shelled one of the roads assigned for the evacuation of civilians. This is war crime and nothing else. Look at this picture. This is an apartment building in Avdiivka. At least 1,500 people lived there. It was shelled by terrorists. Inhabitants rushed out into freezing cold. It was -20 C degrees outside. This is beyond evil. Perpetrators, those who pulled the trigger and those who gave orders, should face justice. And they will.
It has to be mentioned, that while the content of the said appeal was discussed in the Trilateral Contact Group, the Russian side was against the formulations regarding repair work at the energy and power supply infrastructure. This is another clear evidence of the Kremlin’s intention to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Avdiivka as it was done by the Russian Army in Aleppo.
2 Ukrainian soldiers died and 14 were wounded in the past day. Altogether 20 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 134 were wounded by the Russian hybrid forces and Russia-backed militants since the beginning of this year.
We call on the Russian Federation to follow the cease-fire and to ensure the necessary secure conditions for the repairing works.
The attacks on and near Avdiivka in the last days, as well as the continuing Russian aggression, underscored two important trends.
First, Russia and its proxies in Donbas continue to block and undermine the peaceful process by pursuing their political objectives through the indiscriminate use of force. There has to be no illusion about the Russian role in the Minsk Agreements implementation. Every bit of a progress reached in the TCG or on the contact line is flagrantly destroyed by another assault by Russia-led terrorists.
Second, the existing mechanisms created to avoid further destabilization and to move forward with implementation of Minsk Agreements are not as efficient as is necessary to fulfil their mandate. Despite the urgency of the situation, the TCG met only three days after the outbreak of hostilities. The JCCC appeared to be ineffective tool in the crisis situation. All this due to the Russian non-cooperation. OSCE SMM observers still have serious restrictions to the freedom of movement on the territories temporary controlled by Russia backed militants, they lack 24/7 monitoring capabilities and relevant technical means.
Events around Avdiivka upset Russia’s aspirations to resolve the conflict in Donbass by military means. Yes, the Ukrainian army proved its strength and ability to repeal Russian offensive.
However, Ukraine pays a dramatically high price losing its best sons and daughters in this war.
We do care about our people. Death of every single soldier or civilian is yet another scar on the soul of Ukraine. This is the picture of a 23-years old officer Andriy Kyzylo killed on 29 January near Avdiivvka. Look in his eyes, Mr. Ambassador. It is your weapons and your compatriots who killed him. Вы и убили-с.
Our people treat their fallen defenders on their knees.
Russian invaders are buried in unmarked graves. We are seeking peace and doing our utmost to take every step to bring it back to Ukraine.
And therefore, we do not advocate a military solution and believe that available political means should be used.
Armed confrontation could be easily ended. The Russian Federation should stop arming militants and send its mercenaries and militaries to Ukraine.
Does anybody seriously think that rockets and artillery shells grow on trees in Donbass? We are talking about tens, if not hundreds of thousands of artilleries ammunition! Since November, we and international observers noted increased supply of ammunition and armour to militants from the Russian Federation. Now we see the consequences.
What is clear is that an international security presence on the ground needs to be enhanced to prevent such provocations in future and thus contribute to implementation of the Minsk agreements and ultimately – to the peaceful resolution.
We once again urge the Russian Federation to exercise its responsibility in following the Minsk commitments, specifically their security and humanitarian provisions. We urge Russia to halt support to terrorists and stop building hybrid terrorist armies in the Eastern Ukraine as well as its military build-up along Ukraine’s eastern borders.
Moreover, we call on the Russian Federation not to expand framework of the escalation. On 1 February Russian military forces has shelled and damaged the Ukrainian aircraft An-26 while it has conducted the flight over Odessa gas deposit region in the Black Sea in the exclusive maritime zone of Ukraine. This time only lucky coincidence saved the crew from the Russian shelling. God knows what could happen next time.
The remedy to stop this Russian aggression against my country and to avoid further civilian sufferings is rather simple. What the international community needs to do is to step up pressure on the aggressor and urge Russian Federation to get out of Ukraine.
I thank you.
Indeed, today is a Groundhog Day. The first statement of the Russian delegation repeats word for word what it said in the consultations two days ago. As far as further statement is concerned, I don’t even want to comment this cocktail of demagogy. I would like to stress that frivolous interpretations of the OSCE SMM reports are more than ridiculous. There’s no reference to Ukrainian forces in OSCE reports. I would rather trust assessments by Ambassador Apakan, who is with us today.
By the way, the Russian ambassador asserted that the coal factory in Avdiivka was shelled by the Ukrainian forces. I have to clarify again that this factory is located on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian Government, so the shells that rained down on the factory were propelled by the Russian guns. This was reported by all the briefers.
Russia blames President Poroshenko and other high officials of Ukraine in stirring up violence around Avdiivka. However, it is not Poroshenko who supplies terrorists with ammunition and armor.
One of them, captured during the recent attack on Avdiivka, already confessed that the Russian officers in command of his unit gave orders to capture the town before the end of the last week.
The reality is simple. It is Russian weapons that kill Ukrainians. It is Russian soldiers and mercenaries come to Ukraine to earn money for murdering. Recalling my remarks about resumption of shelling in Avdiivka about an hour ago, I would like to inform the colleagues that as a result, at least two civilians were killed and another civilian injured. The shelling continues to batter residential areas, including a school building used for distribution of humanitarian supplies.
Thus, we do not exclude any escalations or provocations in and around Donetsk in further attempts to discredit the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian leadership. There is information about evacuation of civilians of Donetsk that we assess as a preparation to a possible provocation, similar thing happened in August 2008 when Russia prepared to attack Georgia.
As I stated at the beginning of this meeting, we expected for a serious professional dialogue. A dialogue, that would bring an end to violence and help to avert humanitarian disaster and save lives. A denial of reality is not a way to achieve it.
It looks like Russia lives in a parallel reality created by propagandists from “Russia Today”. And this parallel reality is even more twisted when Ambassador Churkin stands to talk about Crimea.