The Situation in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Like all of us, Australia has watched events in eastern Ukraine with mounting concern. What we have seen unfold is a coordinated operation where well-trained and well-armed paramilitary units have moved quickly to lay siege to, occupy and control key institutions in five or six towns in Donetsk province. The violence in Slovyansk has led to one death and nine wounded. The stakes are obviously dangerously high.
This has not been a spontaneous, grass-roots broad-based protest movement by local inhabitants. Rather, this is a pattern of highly orchestrated destabilisation by pro-Russian groups. These groups have included units of highly trained armed men with Russian military equipment, operating without identifying insignia. These units have used force to storm and besiege local government buildings and institutions.
If this sounds familiar, it is because we have seen the playbook used by Russia in Crimea. It became clear in that case that militia were in fact Russian forces. We condemn any use of proxy forces. A state cannot seek to avoid responsibility for its actions by seeking to cloak the identity of those working on its behalf. The principles of state responsibility make it very clear that a state bears international responsibility for acts undertaken by informal actors it engages on its behalf.
We have heard Russia’s statement about the crisis taking place in eastern Ukraine. But what we are actually witnessing is violence and destabilisation in an effort to manufacture a sense of crisis and separatism. Ukraine’s response to these provocations has been one of restraint under intolerable threat to its stability and independence. There is no evidence of actions directed at Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine that could possibly justify an intervention by Russia. Nor is there the generalised anarchy claimed. The ongoing work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission is all the more important in providing an objective account of the situation in eastern Ukraine. And, we welcome advice that the number of monitors will increase significantly in coming days.
International condemnation of Russia’s actions against Ukraine in the past six weeks has been resounding. General Assembly resolution 68/262 unambiguously condemned the threat and use of force in this manner as contrary to the UN Charter and to Russia’s specific treaty obligations to Ukraine. Many countries, including my own, have imposed unilateral sanctions to register the depth of our concern.
Repeated calls for de-escalation have been ignored. Russia’s significant military build-up along Ukraine’s eastern border has been a significant and deliberate provocation. This only further escalates tensions and the likelihood of conflict. It deepens Russia’s own isolation. It also strengthens the resolve of the international community to stand with and to support Ukraine as it seeks to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The only way forward, as we all know, is de-escalation and dialogue – and free elections as planned on 25 May. And Ukraine must be allowed to prepare for those elections without the interference or the coercion that we are witnessing. The talks between Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US planned for 17 April are an essential step in that direction. But talks can only take place with genuine commitment and good faith by all sides. The use of strong-arm tactics and attempts to change the “facts on the ground” are completely contrary to dialogue and peaceful resolution.
We call on Russia to work immediately to reduce tensions, stop its destabilisation, and withdraw its forces from the provocative posture they have assumed on Ukraine’s border. We have heard assurances in the past that it will take such action. It really is now imperative that it do so.