UN says 9,300 killed in Donbas
On April 28, the United Nations Security Council on the initiative of Ukraine held a public meeting due to the deteriorating situation in Donbas.
Statements by Ukraine MFA
First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko said at a meeting of the UN Security Council that the Russian Federation had concentrated a 34,000-strong hybrid military force in the occupied part of Donbas. At the same time, he said that 470 tanks, 670 armored vehicles, 450 cannon artillery systems, 190 rocket-propelled grenades were spotted in the occupied part of Donbas.
In addition, the representative of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that on April 23 alone, four Ukrainians were killed in Donbas, and another five were injured as a result of militant shelling. On April 28, the Ukrainian side was informed that three civilians had been killed and another seven were injured in a crossfire.
Ukraine also urged the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to contribute to the deployment of the police mission in Donbas. "Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had recently proposed deploying a police mission in Donbas. This would also facilitate the holding of elections in Donbas," Prystaiko said.
In this regard, he noted that the status of such a mission and its composition could be figured out during the negotiations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman also called on the United Nations Security Council to demand that the Russian Federation restore the rights of the Crimean Tatars. He drew attention that the culture and language of the Crimean Tatars had been under threat of extinction since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, while the activity of the Mejlis was banned.
Prystaiko said that the occupation authorities had launched 130 criminal cases against the Crimean Tatars, 20 representatives of the Crimean Tatars were abducted, and another nine gone missing.
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs on situation in Donbas
The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun reported that the total number of conflict-related casualties continues to climb, now standing at 30,729, including 9,333 killed and 21,396 injured since the beginning of the conflict in mid-April 2014.
"While some of the recent civilian causalities have been caused by indiscriminate shelling, most are caused by landmines, booby traps, and other explosive remnants of war, which continue to represent the biggest threat to civilian life and security," he warned.
Some positive developments have been registered since the Security Council last considered the situation in Ukraine last December, Mr. Zerihoun noted, such as the largely respected ceasefire during the last weeks of 2015. Meanwhile, he said the Government of the new Prime Minister has committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which has been "widely welcomed."
"These developments are highly valuable in their own right," the UN official told the 15-member body. "However, to an extent, these positive steps forward continue to be heavily undermined to some extent by an overall precarious and unsustainable situation in the conflict area."
Meanwhile, he indicated that the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in eastern Ukraine remains instrumental: "In order to carry out its mandate, the Mission must urgently be granted full and unfettered access, including to the border, as stipulated under the Minsk agreements."
Traditional statements of Russia's Permanent Representative to UN
Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin expressed his belief that the OSCE police mission in Donbas would be an option to resolve the conflict in Donbas, which had no relation to reality.
"It is no coincidence that the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly invented new ideas for the deployment of the UN peacekeeping forces or the police with heavy weapons in Donbas. It's very convenient – at first, to deliberately escalate tension, and then, to propose solutions that have no relation to reality," he said.
"The only objective here is to play for time and divert attention from the failure of the Minsk agreements," Churkin said.
In addition, he said that the U.S. wanted to join the 'Normandy format' and to make a constructive contribution to resolving the crisis in Donbas. "However, in practice, as we have repeatedly convinced, their interaction with Kyiv has the opposite effect and leads to a radicalization of the position of the Ukrainian authorities and the growth of bellicose rhetoric," Churkin said.
U.S. on elections in Donbas
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power said that the current conditions in Donbas did not meet the necessary requirements for holding elections in Donbas.
"To hold a democratic election, citizens and election monitors need basic security, basic freedom of movement, candidates must be able to express their opinions and assemble publicly without fear of violence or reprisals. Yet the climate created by the separatists in the parts of eastern Ukraine that they occupy is not a climate that looks anything like this," she said.
She went on to speak about the restriction of access of the OSCE monitors: "As the fighting has increased, the unarmed international monitors whose job it is to document ceasefire violations and to try to deescalate the violence have found themselves denied access, threatened, and in some instances even targeted themselves."
"This brings us back to a question we have asked many times before in this Council when Russia and the separatists it backs have denied impartial monitors and investigators access – from the invasion of Crimea to the inspection of the MH17 crash site, the question is: What do they have to hide? Why are OSCE monitors so scary that one needs to shoot up their car and cock guns at them and impede their movement? What are you hiding?" said Power.
France: Minsk agreements only way towards settlement of Donbas conflict
Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations Francois Delattre said that the Minsk agreements were the only viable terms of reference towards a long term, pacific settlement of the conflict in Donbas.
"As you know, the resolution on the East Ukrainian crisis remains a critical objective for France. We are highly preoccupied by the deterioration of the situation on the ground. The last developments on the ground have only strengthened our analysis of the situation: the Minsk agreements are the only viable terms of reference towards a long term, pacific settlement of the conflict," he said.
"We remain more than ever resolute, with our German partners, in keeping our tireless efforts under the Normandy format towards a full implementation of the Minsk agreements at the earliest opportunity. And we are now reaching a decisive time where we expect the parties to take their responsibilities so that full application of the Minsk agreements can be achieved. That's what I wanted to say at this critical point, that's why I believe this meeting is important," Delattre said.
UK: A word 'ceasefire' losing its meaning in eastern Ukraine
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to UN Matthew Rycroft said that the word 'ceasefire' was losing its meaning in eastern Ukraine, emphasizing that all sides had an obligation to uphold it and to protect the vulnerable.
"The word 'ceasefire' is losing its meaning in eastern Ukraine," Rycroft said.
"The ceasefire was the bedrock of the Minsk agreements," he said, adding that much of the responsibility for violations fell squarely at the door of Russian-backed separatists.
According to Rycroft, continuing support from the Russian Federation had sustained instability in eastern Ukraine, where humanitarian convoys crossed the border without inspection.
"The Russian Federation's influence could help to end the madness," he said, calling on that country to bring the separatists to heel, allow unhindered access for the Monitoring Mission and enable humanitarian organizations to enter separatist-held areas.
"The human rights situation in Crimea was worsening, with the Tatar community particularly affected. Through its actions in that enclave and its support for separatists there, 'Russia has brought chaos to Ukraine,'" he said, calling on that country to fulfil its Minsk commitments and enable Ukraine to regain control of its sovereign territory, which could happen only with a ceasefire in place.
Reporting by UNIAN.