The Situation in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President and thank you Under-Secretary-General Feltman for your briefing.
Australia congratulates Ukraine on the successful holding of Presidential elections on 25 May. The high turnout, in which millions of people cast ballots across the country, reflects the determination of the Ukrainian people to choose their government without interference. It is a demonstration of their commitment to a sovereign, democratic and independent Ukraine.
We commend the work of the Ukrainian electoral authorities and the willingness of the Ukrainian political parties to participate in and support the electoral process in difficult circumstances.
We also commend the OSCE observer mission for its efforts across the country and we welcome the OSCE's preliminary findings that the elections were held in line with international standards and with respect for fundamental freedoms.
We congratulate President-elect Petro Poroshenko who has been given a clear mandate to govern Ukraine.
Regrettably not all Ukrainians were able to vote. In two areas in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatist forces prevented many polling stations from opening, depriving many of their right to cast their ballots. We commend the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to perform their electoral duties in these areas in the face of threats, intimidation and violence.
Due to the unlawful annexation of Crimea, Ukrainain citizens there were unable to cast their votes at all. We applaud those who travelled from the Crimean peninsula specifically in order to vote elsewhere in Ukraine. This was a clear expression of support on their part for a democratic and unified Ukraine.
The restoration of stability in the East presents a very serious challenge for the new Ukrainian government. Pro-Russian groups continue their efforts to destabilise the region, attacking Ukrainian forces, occupying administrative buildings and targeting major infrastructure, such as Donetsk airport. Reports that militants have attempted to cross the border from Russia into Ukraine in the last few days are deeply concerning. It is essential that Russia controls its borders to prevent any such incursions.
In these circumstances of continued de-stabilisation and use of force by separatists, Ukrainian authorities have the right to protect their own citizens and to re-establish control of their territory. They should continue to do so in a manner proportionate to the circumstances.
Given the current instability, the efforts of journalists and monitors are particularly crucial. We condemn continuing attacks by separatists on journalists. As the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Ms Mijatovic, stated on 23 May, "journalists are deliberately targeted for doing their job, trying to tell the outside world of the events taking place in Ukraine". We condemn the killing of an Italian journalist and his assistant near Sloviansk on 24 May. We are also deeply concerned by reports that the four missing OSCE monitors in the Donetsk region are being held by separatists – they must be released immediately. While we of course welcome the safe release today of eleven OSCE monitors, we share the Secretary-General's concern that international staff in Ukraine continue to be placed in danger, and we agree with him that the detention of OSCE staff is completely unacceptable.
The conduct of Presidential elections on 25 May was a central element of the OSCE roadmap for the stabilisation of Ukraine. Ukraine now has an opportunity to secure a stable and peaceful future.
We welcome the President-elect's commitment to travel to the East and engage closely with communities there to overcome differences. Such an inclusive approach will be crucial to ensure a successful constitutional reform process.
We welcome President Putin's statement that Russia will respect the election outcome. It is now time for serious dialogue between Russia and Ukraine and an express commitment by Russia to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is so obviously in both countries' interests.
As Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on 26 May, Australia stands with the people of Ukraine who have shown, through this election, their commitment to democracy, political and economic stability, and to determining their own, Ukrainian, future.
We share the Secretary-General's desire to see the international community unite in support of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Ukraine. Australia looks forward to working with the new Ukrainian leadership.