Madam President and distinguished members of the Council,
Since the last time we met to discuss Ukraine, the results of efforts to end the conflict remain mixed. On 5 September 2014, under the auspices of the Trilateral Contact Group, the Minsk Protocol was signed to halt the violent conflict in eastern Ukraine. It outlined specific steps that, if fully implemented, would help the people of Ukraine emerge from the national nightmare that they have endured for much of this year. As a follow up, on 19 September, the Minsk Memorandum was signed, which clarified the implementation of the cease-fire agreement. The Secretary-General joined many other leaders in welcoming these agreements and urging their full implementation.
However, despite these important agreements, we are here today because much more work needs to be done to ensure that lasting and durable peace prevails in Ukraine.
The situation on the ground
Initial, important steps have been undertaken by various stakeholders to implement the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, including, notably, the implementation of the cease-fire, the exchange of a number of detained persons, and the Ukrainian Government’s steps toward decentralisation, including by the adoption of a “special status,” or interim self-governance for certain areas in Donetsk and Luhansk.
However, continued violation of the cease-fire agreement is a daily occurrence, with the regular loss of life. We must all, collectively, make every possible effort to support the urgent implementation of the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which is at present, very slow.
While fighting has decreased since 5 September, sporadic fighting in Donbas continues, largely concentrated around Donestk airport, and areas around the strategic towns of Luhansk and Mariupol. In his upcoming statement, the Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Rights Simonovic will provide us with the latest information on the human rights situation
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, charged with the responsibility of monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and other provisions of the Minsk Protocol, is doing its outmost to carry out its crucial mandate, even in the face of logistical challenges. The United Nations has engaged continuously with the Mission and the OSCE Secretariat to identify specific areas where UN expertise and resources can be of assistance. The international community should fully support the OSCE’s efforts to ensure that it has full capacity as well as access to monitor and verify the cease-fire and to observe that the Russian-Ukrainian border is fully secure.
Alleged use of cluster bombs
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,
In recent days we have seen deeply disturbing reports on the alleged widespread use of the internationally banned cluster munitions, including references to 12 documented incidents in eastern Ukraine, in which at least six people were killed and dozens of others wounded.
On 22 October, in his meeting with the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, the
Such heinous practices, if confirmed, are utterly unacceptable. The reports should be urgently and fully investigated and those found to be responsible should be held accountable. These serious allegations serve as a stark reminder of the necessity to urgently implement all twelve parts of the Minsk Protocol as well as the Memorandum, to lay the ground for sustainable peace, recovery and accountability.
The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, particularly with the onset of winter, remains of utmost concern. Despite the cease-fire, there are continuing security challenges which hamper relief efforts. The UN continues to work to ensure humanitarian access to all people in need, including in the more volatile areas of eastern Ukraine.
We need to urgently redouble our efforts to assist the internally displaced and refugees to cope with the effects of the conflict and prepare for the coming winter. We also need to ensure that the current humanitarian situation in south-eastern Ukraine does not further deteriorate. These efforts require the ongoing support of the international community, and a high level of coordination with the Government of Ukraine.
Madam President, -ladies and gentlemen,
We are meeting today only two days before polls officially open for the early parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Given the still fragile situation in parts of the country, it is more important than ever that the extraordinary legislative elections and the local elections scheduled for 26 October and 7 December, respectively, can peacefully take place throughout Ukraine and serve as important milestones in the efforts to help stabilise the country and refocus national energies on achieving reform, rebuilding and reconciliation for all Ukrainians.
Reports of alleged violence against several parliamentary candidates and representatives of various parties in the upcoming legislative elections are deplorable. Similarly, inflammatory statements by armed rebel groups threatening to disrupt voting in areas of eastern Ukraine and hold their own elections on 2 November, in breach of the constitution and national law, should be condemned by all.
All national and international stakeholders should make every effort to support the successful holding of peaceful parliamentary elections. International election monitoring efforts led by the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), with an estimated 600 observers, as well as an additional 1,700 international observers and 37 domestic NGOs registered by the Central Election Commission (CEC), will be critical. The United Nations also welcomes efforts by the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all Ukrainian citizens have the right to exercise their franchise under the Ukrainian Constitution.
While the upcoming elections are an important step forward for Ukraine, they will need to be followed by the rapid implementation of the comprehensive political, legal and economic reforms announced by the Ukrainian government and by the urgent start of a comprehensive national dialogue to rebuild cohesion and address all outstanding critical national issues.
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,
We must all work together toward the peaceful resolution of this conflict, in a manner upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We cannot and should not allow eastern Ukraine to become just the latest in a string of “frozen conflicts” in Europe.
Recent discussions on the conflict in Ukraine on the margins of the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting held on 16-17 October in Milan, Italy are welcome. Continuing bilateral discussions between the Ukrainian and Russian Presidents on the means to fully implement the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum remain critical.
The Secretary-General remains committed to using his Good Offices to help resolve this violent conflict, and we will continue to keep the Council informed of the collective efforts of this Organization to help the Ukrainian people and government restore peace and stability to their country.
It has become clear in the past weeks that, despite the critical agreements reached in Minsk, we are still far from their full implementation, and thus, also, still far from a sustainable peace in Ukraine. It is incumbent on all actors to fulfil their responsibilities and refocus their efforts in this direction. And it is incumbent on all of us to assist them.