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  • Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for Political Affairs, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine.
Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for Political Affairs, addresses the Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Ukraine, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jens Toyberg-Frandzen

Mr. President and distinguished members of the Council,

My briefing today will focus on two specific issues. Political developments in Ukraine and the latest developments related to the conflict in the east of the country. I will also provide a brief update on UN activity in relation to Ukraine.

Political update

On 26 October, Ukraine held its early parliamentary elections. Although there was no voting in Crimea and parts of Donbas under rebel control, the elections were held throughout the rest of Ukraine, in a manner which OSCE observers welcomed as “largely upholding democratic commitments.”
Yesterday, 11 November, the Central Electoral Commission announced the official results of the elections.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Discussions are underway for the formation of Government and we are hopeful that the leading coalition will be committed to the rapid implementation of the comprehensive political, legal and economic reforms to which the Ukrainian authorities have committed themselves. Clearly, the ability of the leading coalition to work constructively alongside the Opposition Bloc will also be key for the unity and stability of Ukraine. We also hope to see the urgent start of a comprehensive national dialogue to rebuild cohesion and address all outstanding critical national issues.

Conflict in the east

Ladies and gentlemen,
On 2 November, rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk held their own “elections” in defiance of the Ukrainian Government and which were deplored by many in the international community, including the Secretary-General. These “elections” have been condemned by the Ukrainian authorities as being outside of the framework of the Ukrainian constitution and law.
Following the “elections,” the rebels have engaged in inflammatory rhetoric, declaring themselves as de-facto independent from Ukraine and threating to expand the territory under their control. A “full mobilisation”, including the creation of local armies and security forces was also announced.
In response, President Poroshenko has proposed that parliament revoke the law providing for three years of greater autonomy or “special status” for the rebel controlled areas that had been offered as fulfilment of a key tenet of the Minsk Protocol. Also, on 5 November, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that pensions and subsidies would be halted to areas under rebel control.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As of 3 November, hostilities in the east reignited with the potential to further undermine the Minsk agreements. Currently, the security situation in Donetsk and Lugansk almost rivals the period immediately preceding the cease-fire agreement of 5 September. Citing credible threats from the rebel leadership that they would launch a new offensive, on 4 November, President Poroshenko ordered army reinforcements to key cities in southern and eastern Ukraine. Reaffirming that Kiev sees no military solution to the conflict and that it would not attempt to retake rebel held areas by force, the President’s stated objective is to protect Ukrainian territory from any further incursions.
This past weekend, particularly on the night of 9 November, hostilities were reported to be at their worst in months, with a heavy exchange of artillery shelling in and around Donetsk. A similar level of fighting was reported today. Lives continue to be lost daily, including of two school children as a result of shelling in Donetsk on 5 November.
The upsurge in fighting comes amidst regular reports from the OSCE of an influx of large convoys of heavy weapons, tanks and troops flowing into rebel-held areas. In this connection, there is no doubt that a failure to secure the Russian-Ukrainian border is a factor that continues to impede the path to peace.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in parts of Donbas. With the onset of harsh winter conditions, the number of IDPs is expected to increase. If there is a return to full-scale fighting, the numbers could grow exponentially.
While Ambassador Apakan will brief you in more detail as to the situation on the ground, one thing is clear: the cease-fire of 5 September is under continuous and serious strain.
Ladies and gentlemen,
If the prevailing hostilities continue, the Minsk agreements could undoubtedly be in jeopardy. Further consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group with rebel representatives have not been scheduled, while the self-proclaimed leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics” have reportedly signalled that they would not participate in future consultations, appointing persons of less authority in their place. Ambassador Tagliavini will be providing further details on this issue.
Yet, while these agreements have been breached in various respects and are fragile, it is critical to note that no side has unilaterally abrogated them. In recent days, there have also been some small, albeit positive steps toward implementation, such as a meeting between the general staff of the Russian and Ukrainian military on a line of delimitation. Although no agreement was reached at that time, subsequent meetings are reported to soon take place.
What my predecessor Assistant Secretary-General Fernández-Taranco said in his last briefing to this Council on 24 October remains valid today: It is incumbent on all actors to fulfil their responsibilities and refocus their efforts towards full implementation of the Minsk agreements. And it is incumbent on all of us to assist them.

UN activity

The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has continued its work providing objective and regular reporting on the human rights situation throughout the country, and on factors that could negatively affect the social, political and security situation and efforts towards the solution of a crisis. The UN HRMMU's seventh monthly report will be published on 20 November. In the meantime, the mission is seeking an extension of its presence in the country beyond 15 December.
With nearly a million people now displaced by this conflict, both within Ukraine and to neighbouring countries, UN humanitarian agencies continue to scale-up their presence to respond to the growing needs.
The UN is leading also a comprehensive Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment (RPA) to conflict-affected, government held areas of eastern Ukraine that also includes EU and World Bank.
Finally, in continuation of the Secretary-General’s good offices, Under Secretary-General Feltman is slated to travel back to Ukraine in the near future, pending the formation of the new Government.


Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, the promise of renewal, and of renewed energy towards solving Ukraine’s problems embodied in the recent parliamentary elections threatens to be overshadowed by the worsening security situation in the east of the country. Nonetheless, the prospect that a new, reform-oriented ruling coalition will be formed, empowering it to move the country closer to a path of peace and stability, provides the avenue for all to support Ukraine out of this debilitating conflict.
With the Minsk agreements in question, and uncertainty over how much strain the cease-fire can withstand, we are deeply concerned over the possibility of a return to full-scale fighting. Alternatively, the conflict may simmer this way for months, with sporadic, low-level battles, marked by periods of increased hostilities and further casualties. While either scenario would be catastrophic for Ukraine, a third, concerning prospect is that of a “frozen” or protracted conflict, that would entrench the current status quo in south-eastern Ukraine for years or even decades to come.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that none of these scenarios take hold. The only alternative is for the fighting to end so that all Ukrainians can rebuild their lives in a stable and secure country, with Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity preserved.
The road to this solution is renewed commitment by all concerned parties to the Minsk agreements and shared responsibility for their full and urgent implementation. The United Nations also stands ready to support this process in any way deemed appropriate.
I thank you for your attention.