Distinguished Members of the Council,
On 25 May, according to reports, slightly more than 60 per cent of Ukraine’s eligible voters cast a ballot in the country’s early presidential elections. An unprecedented number of national and international monitors observed the polls and concluded in statements that the election – to quote one statement – “was characterized by high turnout and a clear resolve by the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and that respected fundamental freedoms, despite the hostile security environment in two Eastern regions of the country.”
At the same time, the numbers across Ukraine varied considerably, even in areas under full Government control, with lower participation in Odessa and elsewhere in Southern Ukraine. In parts of Eastern Ukraine, eligible voters were denied their right to vote due to the seizure or blocking of polling stations, destruction of electoral equipment and materials, intimidation and violence.
The United Nations is deeply concerned by the actions of those who have attempted to derail the elections and prevent citizens from having a say in their country’s leadership.
According to preliminary results, Mr. Petro Poroshenko won in the first round, obtaining 55 per cent of the vote.
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke over the phone to congratulate the President-elect on having received a strong mandate from the people, who expect him to move quickly to steer the country away from political, economic and social instability and towards security, greater prosperity and genuine democratic governance.
The Secretary-General welcomed President-elect Poroshenko's statements to immediately engage in dialogue and de-escalation. He reaffirmed that exercising restraint and reaching out to Eastern Ukraine was critical.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite what we at the United Nations hope will be the beginning of a new chapter for Ukraine, violence rages on in parts of the east, causing loss of life and injuries.
Since the last Security Council consultation on 21 May, both Lugansk and Donetsk Oblasts experienced a dramatic increase in deadly fighting. As a result, the numbers of casualties and wounded continue to increase on both sides, with civilian causalities reported as well. While we are unable to confirm the details, the Secretary-General is concerned by reports of scores of casualties; by suggestions regarding the circulation and use of heavier weaponry in the east; and by allegations of arms, fighters, and trucks entering Ukraine.
On 22 May, dozens of Ukrainian servicemen were killed and many others wounded in an ambush by unknown armed persons at a military checkpoint in the city of Volnovakha.
On 26 May, fierce fighting ensued between Government forces and armed groups when armed militia stormed and attempted to seize control of the Donetsk International Airport.
Ukrainian forces, after conducting an air and land operation, are now reportedly back in control of the airport, but sporadic fighting continues close to the airport.
We are aware of video footage purporting to show a UN-marked helicopter allegedly being used inside Ukraine. The UN is unable to determine the veracity of the images. I would note that the Ukrainian authorities have affirmed to the UN that no helicopters with UN markings are being used in operations being conducted inside Ukraine. We recall that it is the responsibility of all Troop-Contributing Countries (TCC) that provide Contingent Owned Equipment to Peacekeeping Missions to remove all logos and signage bearing the UN's name once such equipment has been repatriated to the home country or is no longer being used for official UN purposes.
In a deeply disturbing and alarming development, following the capture of four OSCE monitors on 26 May, today, the OSCE headquarters in Kiev over several hours lost contact with an additional 11 OSCE monitors who were assumed to have been captured or held up by an armed group in Donetsk Oblast. Following my phone conversation earlier today with him, the Head of the OSCE Monitoring Mission, Ambassador Apakan, just informed me that the 11 monitors have been released in Donetsk. There is still no news on the four monitors who have been held for the past two days.
The Secretary-General is appalled that international staff have again been put in such grave danger. He calls for their immediate release and appeals to all with influence to assist.
Distinguished Members of the Council,
The Secretary-General remains committed to help find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine and to assist the country in prevailing over the many difficult challenges which lie ahead.
In this vein, he appeals to the international community to use the outcome of the elections as an opportunity to unite in support of a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united Ukraine.