Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, to the 1162nd meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, 2 November 2017
Despite the efforts of the international community, the Russian Federation continues its armed aggression against Ukraine. The numbers of military provocations and shellings are mounting to pre-ceasefire levels with the Russian hybrid forces resorting to the Minsk-proscribed weapons more and more often. Due to restrictions the SMM can register only some of those violations, as it was on 26 October, when it reported about “uncountable explosions assessed as a probable outgoing salvo of MLRS” between the two non-government controlled localities of Khreshchatytske and Zaichenko 26km north-east of Mariupol. The shellings by the hybrid Russian forces constantly keep the toll of casualties on the rise: in one single day of 24 October, 4 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and another 4 were wounded. The civilians continue to suffer in this Russia-inflicted conflict, including in the residential areas of Donetsk city, where the SMM “observed indications of the presence of armed formations”, while “Mission’s freedom of movement – and consequently, its ability to establish facts – has been systematically restricted” by the hybrid Russian fighters.
Large concentrations of heavy weapons continue to be regularly revealed by the SMM aerial imagery at various locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, which are under Russia’s effective control. The observations include 14 MLRS, 22 howitzers, 19 tanks and almost 100 military-type armoured vehicles in violation of the respective withdrawal lines near Miusynsk in one single day of 25 October; several infantry fighting vehicles and almost 40 military-type cargo vehicles and trucks in Kalmiuske, in a zone within which deployment of heavy armaments and military equipment is proscribed according to Point 5 of the Memorandum of 19 September 2014, on 18 October; 90 military-type armoured vehicles, 70 military-type trucks, 24 tanks, and 6 surface-to-air missile systems south-east of Buhaivka, outside designated storage sites, on 19 October; 45-50 tanks (T-72) parked in a fenced-in abandoned industrial compound south-west of Manuilivka on 30 October. These are only a few illustrative cases of the weaponry, amassed by Russia in Donbas in pursuit of its aggression against Ukraine.
I would remind the OSCE participating States why the aerial imagery has in fact become the main source of information for the SMM in the areas of Donbas effectively controlled by Russia. It is due to the fact that the Mission continues to encounter severe restrictions of its freedom of movement while implementing its mandate agreed by all 57 participating States, including the Russian Federation. In the last three weeks, the SMM reported on 27 cases of restrictions of its freedom of movement (in addition to those due to the observed or potential presence of mines and UXO) in the Russia-controlled areas of Donbas, whereas none of such cases took place in the areas controlled by the Government of Ukraine. As before, Russia has a lot to hide not only about its presence, but also intentions.
The deliberate character of such restrictions receives clear indication in the SMM reports. For instance, on 20 October “armed men in military-type attire” denied SMM’s access in non-government controlled Samiilove and Boikivske, while “other civilian cars were granted passage into and out of the area”. Or, as reported by the SMM, the Russia-backed illegal “armed formations in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions frequently deny the SMM access to areas adjacent to Ukraine’s border outside control of the Government, citing orders to do so”. Russia and its proxies establish no-go areas for the SMM, including Siedove, where the “armed men” aggressively proclaimed it to be “a closed village”.
We strongly condemn the continued resort by Russian fighters to life-threatening intimidation of the SMM patrols which perform their mandate. The last such outrageous incident took place on 25 October at a checkpoint near non-government-controlled Verkhnoshyrokivske, where the armed men “approached the heavy machine-gun, reloaded its ammunition and pointed it directly at the first SMM patrol vehicle. They then repeated this action.” We urge Russia to exercise responsibility, to observe the undertaken commitments and put an end to these continuing threats and intimidations of the SMM. We also urge Russia to stop deliberate targeting of the SMM’s technical assets, as it was the case on 23 October in Petrovskyi district of the Donetsk city. The Russian persistence in “blinding” the SMM grossly breaches the Minsk commitments undertaken by Russia.
For more information view the following link: Statement by the delegation of Ukraine on Russia’s on-going aggression against Ukraine and illegal occupation of Crime.