The Situation in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Madam President. And thank you to the Deputy Secretary General for his briefing and Assistant Secretary-General Šimonović for his report. And, of course, to Ukraine Ambassador Sergeyev.
As we know, five days ago the Council sought to adopt a resolution on Ukraine reaffirming fundamental principles of international law, including the UN Charter. This resolution was opposed by only one state – Russia. The message of Council members to Russia, reflecting the views of the broader international community, nevertheless, remains clear – it must comply with international law, take active steps to de-escalate this crisis, and engage in dialogue towards a peaceful resolution of it.
But the fact is that Russia has steadfastly ignored this message. It has moved to annex Crimea on the basis of a referendum that was manifestly unlawful and illegitimate, not least because it was carried out while Russian forces exercise effective control over Crimea. President Putin’s signature of a decree recognising Crimean independence and of a purported “treaty” with Crimean leaders, and the Presidential approval of a draft bill on the annexation of Crimea do not validate the referendum. Nor do they provide any legitimate basis for Russia’s acquisition of part of the territory of Ukraine. Indeed, Russia’s actions are a clear violation of the fundamental principles of international law which were contained in the resolution it vetoed on Saturday – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and the illegality of the acquisition of territory by the threat or use of force. These remain the international community’s touchstone and the international community will not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Russia has further strengthened its military control of Crimea in recent days, dramatically escalating tensions. Incidents involving the use of armed force and the occupation of military bases, and the killing of a Ukrainian soldier and the wounding of another, significantly increase the stakes and make a descent into conflict more likely.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk has sought an immediate meeting of Ministers of Defence of the parties to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which provided security guarantees to Ukraine, in order to prevent further escalation of the crisis and we urge Russia to respond positively to this request. He has sent Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister and the Acting Defence Minister to Crimea to de-escalate the crisis – it is crucial that this direct dialogue take place.
The Secretary-General’s travel to Moscow and Kiev over the next few days is clearly welcome. And we urge all parties to engage in constructive dialogue with him.
In pursuing its current course of action, Russia has chosen a path toward isolation. In doing so, it undermines its own standing, credibility and relations with other States, and increasingly poses a threat to security and stability in the region. Inevitably, there are consequences for its unlawful action. In addition to measures put in place by others, the Australian Government announced on 19 March it would impose targeted measures against individuals who have been instrumental in the Russian threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We have not taken these steps lightly and have done so – with regret – only after repeatedly urging Russia to de-escalate and engage in diplomatic dialogue to resolve the crisis.
An important first step for Russia will be to recognise the need for and support the deployment of monitors on the ground. We encourage Russia to engage constructively in support of an OSCE monitoring mission to Ukraine. Such a mission should be deployed as a matter of priority.
Given the allegations raised by Russia about serious infringement of the human rights of Russian speakers in Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine, it is important that these allegations continue to be independently assessed, especially as the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities found no evidence of violations or threats to Russian speakers in Crimea during her recent visit. And Assistant Secretary-General Šimonović has just reported to us that what violations he has learned of are neither widespread nor systematic. On the other hand, Crimea’s Tartar community clearly feel threatened. Mr Šimonović has noted there are credible reports that a Tatar activist has been tortured and murdered. There are also reports that Ukrainian civil society activists have been abducted. These violations must cease. Ongoing human rights monitoring is essential, and we welcome the work the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights team is already doing, and their continued deployment. But such monitoring must also take place in Crimea.
To conclude, Madam President
We are at a critical point – for Ukraine, the region and for the integrity of the rules based international order. All UN Member States have a direct interest in the preservation of that order.
As the Deputy Secretary-General has underlined again today, this crisis must be resolved peacefully through diplomatic means and direct dialogue. Such a resolution must respect Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity. It is up to Russia to commit to finding such a solution. It is not too late for it to turn from the deliberate path of provocation and isolation it has taken.
Thank you, Madam President.