The Situation in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by Mr Michael Bliss, Chargé d'Affaires, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President.
And thank you Mr Feltman for your briefing. We recognise the ongoing efforts that the Secretary-General, and you and other colleagues are making to resolve this crisis.
There is now overwhelming evidence that significant numbers of Russian troops, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and other equipment have moved into Ukrainian territory.
Credible reports show Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine. Large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defence systems, artillery, tanks and armoured personnel carriers are being transferred to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
Russian paratroopers have been captured in Ukraine, and there are reports of funerals being held in Russia for Russian troops killed in Ukraine.
Yesterday there were reports of some 100 tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers travelling towards Telmanove, south of Donetsk.
In the past 48 hours, separatists have conducted operations to seize the coastal town of Novoazovsk and several villages inside Ukraine, near the Russian border. Reports that regular armed forces of Russia are involved are deeply concerning.
These latest developments indicate a new and even more dangerous escalation of this crisis, which appears to be moving to a wider area of Ukraine and drawing in the southern land route to Crimea.
All of this points to the use of force by Russia against Ukraine. This would be a flagrant breach of Ukraine's sovereignty and a blatant violation of the UN Charter.
These latest developments come against a backdrop of other serious incidents, over the past few days, including:
- the killing by separatists of the Lithuanian honorary consul in Luhansk
on 22 August
- the parading by the separatists of captured Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk
on 24 August, in blatant contravention of the prohibition on humiliating and
degrading treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and customary
- a Russian helicopter attack on a border post in Luhansk on 25 August, in
which four border guards were killed
- And despite claims of non-involvement by Russia in the conflict, we have
a public statement of 28 August by a separatist leader (Zakharchenko, "Prime
Minister of the Donetsk People's Republic") claiming that some 3,000-4,000
Russians had fought in separatist ranks since the conflict began.
We are also deeply concerned over Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's announcement on 25 August that a second aid convoy would be sent to Ukraine this week, despite the fact that the first proceeded without the agreement of the Ukrainian Government or the participation of the ICRC
Australian Foreign Minister Bishop described the aid convoy situation on 24 August as one in which Russia showed "flagrant and reckless disregard for international norms and international law". Any further aid convoy must only be sent with the agreement of the Ukrainian Government.
The 26 August talks in Minsk had the potential to provide a useful forum for finding a diplomatic way to end this crisis. But at the same time that Russia was engaging in these talks, further escalation was occuring in southern Ukraine.
Further steps must be taken.
Russia must immediately withdraw military equipment and personnel from Ukrainian territory. As Australia's Foreign Minister said earlier this week, Russia "should withdraw all support for the separatists and ask them to lay down their arms, so the conflict can be brought to an immediate end".
Russia must control its border – border control is the only effective way to stop Russian troops and military equipment entering Ukraine. This is key to a ceasefire and key to peace.
Further, strenuous efforts must be made to engage in political dialogue. A peaceful solution to this crisis is long overdue and must be found immediately. This depends on Russia.
While the focus of this discussion has been on developments in the last 48 hours, we must not lose sight of the need for the full implementation of Resolution 2166.
The Netherlands Mission has just circulated to Council members a letter on its response to the downing of MH17. Significant progress has been made by the Netherlands in identifying the remains of the victims and repatriating them to their home countries. The letter also states that the independent investigation into the cause of the downing is ongoing. The letter also states that it remains fully committed to ensuring accountability for the perpetrators.
Australia is working closely with the Netherlands on the response, and fully supports its efforts. In order for those efforts to succeed, it is imperative that all states fully implement the provisions of Resolution 2166.