The Situation in Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
When we met on 29 April on the situation in Ukraine, we urged Russia to abide by the commitments it made in Geneva on 17 April, including to refrain from violence, intimidation and provocative actions. Since then, the situation in eastern Ukraine has – as Under-Secretary-General Feltman has just told us – further deteriorated severely. This planned and coordinated destabilisation could not happen without external support.
The shooting down of Ukrainian helicopters in Sloviansk today by surface-to-air missiles is dramatic further evidence of this. We are witnessing well-armed, well-trained personnel using military weapons, who are intent on armed provocation.
We have seen further take-over and consolidation of control by armed militia groups over key facilities in cities and towns right across eastern Ukraine, including Donetsk, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Sloviansk and Horlivka. Orchestrated violence has today spread to Odessa. Journalists in eastern Ukraine have been detained. There are kidnappings, torture. The OSCE observers, detained on 25 April, are still being held in captivity a week later. This is an affront to the entire international community and they must be released immediately.
These actions by pro-Russian groups are clearly not a legitimate protest or an attempt to protect Russian speakers from alleged or spurious threats. They are calculated, cynical and highly provocative actions, obviously designed to undermine Ukrainian state authority, to intimidate and destabilise. They make a mockery of what Russia has committed to in the Geneva agreement.
Ukraine itself is working to implement its Geneva commitments. It has submitted to parliament a draft law on amnesty for protesters who surrender their weapons. It has initiated a process of constitutional reform, aimed at decentralising power. It has committed to holding a broad public debate on possible constitutional changes.
However, in response to the extreme provocation Ukraine is facing, Ukrainian authorities have the right and responsibility to seek to re-instate state authority and restore public order over all their territory. Ukrainian authorities have given clear messages to militant groups as to what is required of them – as Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is quoted as stating “free the hostages, lay down weapons, vacate administrative buildings and get municipal infrastructure back to normal”. This has not happened. In these circumstances, it is appropriate and necessary for the Ukrainian Government to take measures to try to ensure security – and protect its own citizens – in its own territory.
We have seen a statement from Russia’s Foreign Ministry earlier today describing – hypocritically, shamelessly – the policy of those who have supported Ukraine as, and I quote, “destructive”. But what is destructive is Russia’s own reckless interference in its neighbour’s affairs: destructive of Ukraine’s stability and territorial integrity; destructive of the Geneva agreement; destructive of regional security; destructive of the United Nations Charter and the laws governing relations between countries; destructive of Russia’s own standing and credibility. We are at a very dangerous, manipulated moment. Russia must de-escalate the situation; ensure militia groups desist in their armed rebellion; implement the Geneva agreement; and demonstrate, as President Putin has claimed, that it has no further territorial ambitions on Ukraine. This certainly does not look like the case.