The Situation in Ukraine
- Rule of Law
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Under-Secretary-General Feltman for your briefing – and for your warning to the Council. Australia strongly supported calls for tonight's open briefing to give the Council an up-to-date sense of the continuing destabilisation and increased tensions in eastern Ukraine – much of it evidently sponsored and condoned by the Russian Federation.
We – with all of us – welcomed the 17 April agreement in Geneva on steps to de-escalate the crisis, including commitments to refrain from further acts of violence and provocation. This was a positive development and, we hoped, a demonstration of serious commitment to reduce tensions and work cooperatively towards a diplomatic and political solution to the crisis.
Ukraine is living up to its Geneva commitments. It has submitted to parliament a draft law on amnesty for protesters who surrender their weapons. It has initiated a process of constitutional reform, aimed at decentralising power. It has committed to holding a broad public debate on possible constitutional changes and has sought proposals for constitutional reform. It is working to disarm radical movements.
The Ukrainian Government has also said that it will guarantee the rights of Russian speakers to use their own language. It has strongly condemned xenophobia, intolerance and anti-Semitism and begun an investigation into the distribution of anti-Semitic leaflets in Donetsk.
It has invited all political groups to discuss ways to resolve the crisis in eastern Ukraine. And it has supported the OSCE in its work to de-escalate tensions.
But what has Russia done since 17 April to honor its Geneva commitments? Disappointingly, all evidence to hand points to Russia's continued determination to promote instability and to challenge Ukraine's authority over its sovereign territory. Russia's claims that it has no agency in or influence over the actions of armed militia groups operating in eastern Ukraine are not credible.
The seizure of OSCE observers on 25 April in Slovyansk, their mistreatment and their continued detention is a deplorable – and cynical – act against impartial international personnel working to bring peace and stability to the region. And an act clearly intended to impede the ability of all OSCE monitors to work in eastern Ukraine. We call for their immediate release.
We have also witnessed continued and extreme provocations, including military manoeuvres on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border and reported multiple violations of Ukrainian airspace by Russian military aircraft. We have witnessed the deplorable shooting on 28 April of the mayor of Kharkiv and the abduction and killing of a Horlivka City Council representative. We are seeing the continued occupation of government buildings by well-armed and coordinated paramilitary units, including today, the occupation of government buildings in Luhansk. We are seeing the increasing intimidation of local populations and illegal detentions. Under-Secretary-General Feltman has just reported increasing reports of violence – with people killed, wounded, beaten and tortured.
In these circumstances, it is appropriate and necessary for the Ukrainian Government to take measures to try to ensure security – and protect its citizens – in its own territory. It has shown considerable restraint in the face of extreme provocation. But it has a right to enforce the rule of law and to respond in a manner proportionate to the circumstances. We welcome Deputy Foreign Minister Lubkivsky's statement during his 25 April press conference here at the UN that Ukraine would protect its people from provocation in a civilised manner, so as to avoid bloodshed.
We welcome Ukraine's recent acceptance of the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction with respect to crimes committed in its territory from November last year to February 2014. And we urge Ukraine to extend the ICC's jurisdiction to crimes committed beyond that date and to accede to the ICC Statute.
For its part, overwhelmingly, the international community remains united in its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in its position that Russia cease its illegal intervention, interference and provocative actions in Ukraine. Statements by other Security Council members tonight are further confirmation of this.
To conclude, Madam President,
Australia continues to call on Russia to meet its Geneva commitments; to allow Ukraine's elections on 25 May to proceed without interference or obstruction – the right of every sovereign nation; and to exercise its influence over separatist activists in Ukraine towards these ends. This crisis remains very dangerously poised. Active, genuine and immediate efforts by Russia to defuse it are imperative.