The Situation in Ukraine
- Human Rights
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you to our briefers today, including from the OSCE, in which we place great confidence for its indispensable monitoring role on the ground. We welcome Ukraine's Permanent Representative Sergeyev.
Two weeks ago Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Fernandez-Taranco told this Council that the Minsk Protocols were not being fully implemented, and that the ceasefire was being violated regularly, causing violent loss of life. He described how the security situation was hampering the return and settlement of internally displaced persons, which was becoming increasingly urgent with the onset of winter.
His report was of concern then, but the situation in eastern Ukraine has now deteriorated much further. As Assistant Secretary-General Toyberg-Frandzen has just told us, the "ceasefire is under serious and continuous strain; Minsk is in jeopardy". Ambassador Tagliavini has spoken of "the blunt disregard for the commitments undertaken in Minsk". We have seen consistent and credible reports of Russian-supplied military reinforcements, including heavy weapons and tanks, moving to the frontlines of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. OSCE Chief Monitor Ambassador Apakan has just described three separate sightings by OSCE monitors of such convoys.
We must all be seriously concerned at these further escalations in eastern Ukraine, and Russia's ongoing violations of the Minsk Protocols particularly its failure to withdraw all its personnel from Ukraine.
And, in further violation of the Minsk Protocols, the OSCE has been prevented from monitoring adequately the Ukraine / Russian border, where Russian troops appear – once again – to be massing in significant numbers. As Assistant Secretary-General Toyberg-Frandzen has just told us; failure to secure the border is a threat to peace. This is all ominously reminiscent of the situation prior to Russia's purported annexation of Crimea. We have seen this positioning before.
These recent developments come against the backdrop of so-called 'elections' in eastern Ukraine. These illegitimate, pseudo-elections have been widely condemned around the world, including by the Secretary-General. And they were another direct contravention of the Minsk Protocol which clearly states that elections must be held – and I quote – "in accordance with the law of Ukraine."
Australia welcomes the legitimate parliamentary elections that were held in Ukraine on 26 October. It was encouraging to note the report from the OSCE-affiliated Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights praising the conduct of the Ukrainian parliamentary elections and the impartial and efficient Central Election Commission. Australia looks forward to working with the new Government of Ukraine.
It is wrong, of course, that people in Crimea and many in the separatist controlled territories in eastern Ukraine were unable to exercise their democratic right to vote. And we commend Ukrainian authorities for their efforts to enfranchise as many people as possible, in these difficult circumstances.
The Jordanian representative mentioned a few moments ago, the risk the deteriorating security situation presents to access to the MH17 crash site. I must emphasise that Australia remains determined to do all it can to bring those responsible for the downing of MH17 to justice. We are committed to making a full international return to the MH17 crash site, when it is safe to do so and in the company of our Dutch and Malaysian partners. We appreciate Russian President Putin's confirmation to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, yesterday – meeting in Beijing – of Russia's commitment to Resolution 2166 adopted in July by all of us, including its support for the full, thorough and independent international investigation into the cause of the crash, and for ensuring complete access for international experts to the crash site. This can, however, only happen if Russian-backed – and Russian-armed – separatists comply with the ceasefire.
More broadly, adherence to the ceasefire and commitments made in the Minsk Protocol is essential to move to a lasting political solution in Ukraine, which must be based on respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
But without genuine engagement from Russia this plan will come to nothing.
This brings us back to the root cause of the deteriorating security situation in Ukraine: Russia's persistent campaign of deliberate destabilisation.
Russia's actions are continuing to fuel the unrest, and are undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Russian economy is already paying a heavy price for that action and any further actions will inevitably lead to even greater consequences for Russia.
There is a clear path forward to end the violence in eastern Ukraine: Russia must withdraw all support to the separatists; remove all its personnel and assets from Ukraine; and engage in genuine dialogue with Ukraine. And the OSCE must also be allowed to do its job and monitor unimpeded the Ukraine/Russia border as set out in the Minsk Protocol.
Russia's continued refusal to heed the international community's call to de-escalate the crisis can only lead to Russia's further isolation.