Mr. President, Distinguished members of the Council,
Since this Council last met on Ukraine on 6 March, while the situation in eastern Ukraine has remained tenuous, we have had some grounds for hope: The ceasefire continues to largely hold in most parts of the conflict zone; the number and pace of casualties have generally slowed. Importantly, the political process aimed at full implementation of the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements” is finally underway. I also wish to reiterate that, had it not been for the continued diplomatic efforts of Ukraine, France, Germany and the Russian Federation in the Normandy format, and the support of the OSCE, we would likely be faced with a more challenging situation.
The full implementation of Minsk is sine qua non for leading eastern Ukraine and the country out of conflict. The continued non-implementation of various provisions of the agreement entails dangerous limbo.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mr. Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, will brief you in detail on the security situation in eastern Ukraine, including on Wednesday’s hostilities. However, I would be remiss not to note the UN’s grave concern over continued, almost daily deadly clashes, the use of heavy weaponry, the laying of minefields on both sides of the contact line, the reported continued presence of foreign mercenaries on Ukrainian soil, and reported flows of heavy weaponry into eastern Ukraine, all of which run contrary to key provisions of the Minsk package of measures.
The latest death toll since the outbreak of the conflict stands at over 6,400 people. Since the signing of the Minsk package, some additional 400 lives have been lost. Sadly, just this Wednesday, according to OHCHR’s latest figures, an additional 28 people, including nine civilians, were killed in deadly clashes around Marinka. This is a sharp increase over past weeks, particularly as heavy shelling elsewhere in Donetsk reportedly continued throughout yesterday. We are either looking at a return to a deepening, intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict zone. We cannot afford either scenario.
The ceasefire must be fully respected and the protection of civilians a priority. I would also like to stress that all concerned should refrain from using threats of violence and military leverage to influence the political process.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The humanitarian situation also remains dire. Ukraine now ranks among the top ten countries in terms of internal displacement with over 1.3 million IDPs. There were none just over a year ago. 16,000 people were displaced in the last week of May alone. Similarly, nearly 870,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum, residence or other forms of legal stay in neighbouring countries, 10,000 of these in the second half of May alone. The number of displaced will only grow if the violence continues.
Of immediate concern is the now complete lack of humanitarian access across the contact line in either direction. This is preventing life-saving humanitarian assistance from reaching those most in need. All parties to the conflict must immediately guarantee unimpeded access for humanitarian personnel and cargo, both UN and NGOs. The Government of Ukraine must remove all bureaucratic impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and the 2 June decree issued by the de facto authorities in Donetsk that prohibits international NGOs from operating in non-Government controlled Donetsk must be immediately revoked.
Since this crisis began, we have seen this Council convene dozens of times. Security Council members have repeatedly raised concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Yet, the $316 million 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan to assist victims of this conflict faces a shortfall of $221 million. The Secretary-General calls on Member States to urgently translate their concern into action and fully fund the humanitarian response. This will ensure that the capacity and resources are in place to reach those in desperate need, the moment that access is restored.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On the political-diplomatic front, we are most encouraged by the continued and critical work in the Normandy format, with the next political director level meeting scheduled for 10 June in Paris, by the diligent efforts of the Trilateral Contact Group, and by the commencement of the four Working Groups on political, security, humanitarian and economic issues. In our view, these three inter-connected mechanisms are all equally important pieces of the political and diplomatic process, and we are heartened to see that the international community is fully committed to these efforts.
With regard to the Working Groups specifically, we understand that, although they have not been without challenges, each group has met at least twice and the atmosphere has mainly been constructive. The political Working Group has focused its energies on the modalities of local elections, which also includes finding common ground on the “special status” law. Equally important efforts to find political solutions to some of the most pressing economic, humanitarian and security questions are also underway.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On 7-10 May, the Secretary-General visited Poland, Ukraine and Russia. During his visits, he held a number of constructive meetings with regard to the conflict in Ukraine, including with Presidents Poroshenko and Putin. Although they had varying views on the conflict in the east, both Presidents reassured the Secretary-General of their continued commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It was evident that, although the road ahead would be long and arduous, full implementation of the Minsk agreements is possible if all concerned fulfil their obligations and engage in good faith.
The Secretary-General will continue his good offices role on Ukraine, and remains open to considering how best to further support the OSCE as well as the implementation of the Minsk agreements more broadly.
The critical work of the Human Rights Mission in Ukraine, evinced by its latest report of 1 June, as well as of the humanitarian and development actors on the ground remain priority areas for our Organisation.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements, including the reinstatement of full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine, has a deadline. That deadline is less than six months away. As we have stated on a number of occasions, neither Ukraine, nor the region nor the international community can afford to have this process fail.
Above all, we cannot forget the tremendous human cost of the conflict that can only begin to be addressed through respect of the ceasefire and fulfilment of the political, economic, social, humanitarian and human rights provisions of Minsk.
I would like to close by reiterating the United Nations’ unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The people of Ukraine deserve nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. President.