During the recent UN Security Council meeting in December, the Foreign Minister of Lithuania, Linas Antanas Linkevičius, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, stated that Ukraine was suffering from a conflict initiated under false pretense and supported by an aggressive campaign of propaganda and hate. He was, of course, referring to the highly criticized actions by the Russian Federation, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, focused on international peace and security
He stated on December 11, “22 months have passed since the beginning of aggressive actions of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. For nearly two years now, Ukraine has been suffering from a conflict initiated under false pretexts and supported by an aggressive campaign of propaganda and hate. The redrawing of Ukraine’s borders by force early in 2014 and continued violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remain a major challenge to the rules-based international system. “
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevičius further added, “Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has already left over 9,000 dead, more than 20,000 injured, over l.5 million uprooted from their homes within Ukraine and another million forced to flee abroad. Five million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Approaching winter makes the lives of those in need even more difficult. And yet by now this conflict barely makes it into the headlines.”
“After a short period of lull this autumn, in November, the situation worsened again. It is evident that peace agreements will not be implemented fully in 2015. Daily breaches of cease-fire continue to be registered by OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. Impunity, lawlessness, and abuse continue to reign in the areas held by the illegal militants. Last week again, OSCE monitors were threatened with automatic rifles.”
In addition, Lithuanian s Foreign Minister Linkevičius stated,” Crimea, an integral part of Ukraine, remains occupied in breach of the fundamental principles of international law, the UN Charter, the Budapest Memorandum, and bilateral treaties. All this in spite of the fact that UN General Assembly Resolution on the Territorial Integrity of Ukraine is very clear on the illegality of Crimea’s annexation and the sovereignty, political independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
“As the end of the year approaches”, Foreign Minister Linkevičius also stated, “the probability that this crisis will become yet another frozen conflict in Europe remains dangerously high. “There are already too many of those. Five out of the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries bordering Russia suffer from protracted conflicts in Moldova, Russia continues to instigate separatism. Violations of Georgia’s territorial integrity, too, continue unabated. The pattern could not be more obvious.”
Although Foreign Minister Linkevičius admitted that the “Minsk Agreements may not be perfect, they are the only thing we have. Today, there is simply no other alternative. We support the diplomatic efforts undertaken in the Normandy format, and in the Trilateral Contact Group under the auspices of OSCE. At the same time, we remain critical of the recent trend of reshaping the sequence of the commitments of Minsk agreements and putting more pressure on the political commitments of Ukraine, rather than on security commitments by Russia and its militant proxies.”
According to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, “tangible peace can only be achieved by a full implementation of the Minsk agreements. And that means full implementation by Russia which is a party to this conflict and bears direct responsibility for its de-escalation, inter alia, Russia must withdraw its arms, weapons, soldiers, and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine, cease its support for the illegal armed groups and allow Ukraine to restore full control over its international border.”
In addition, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs added that “all hostages and illegally detained persons, including Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov and others, must be released. With regard to the local elections, we remain concerned that even if postponed to 2016, elections in the territories occupied by Russia’s militant proxies, in the presence of foreign soldiers on the ground, will neither be free nor fair. It is up to OSCE observers to ascertain the conditions are right for conducting the elections and to assess their legitimacy,” Foreign Minister Linkevičius said “We have seen the results of Crimea’s gunpoint referendum – we don’t want to use more of the same. All foreign weapons and foreign fighters must be withdrawn, preferably before the elections, to ensure that those elections are free and fair.”
In his concluding remarks, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevičius remarked:
“The lack of effective protection of human rights in areas under the control of Russia’s proxies have left people vulnerable to serious human rights abuses and violations, including killings, torture, degrading treatment, illegal detention, and forced labour. We need to continue shining the light on the lawlessness and impunity of these areas and work to ensure that the perpetrators will one day be brought to account. Therefore, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine should continue their much appreciated work and reporting.”
Also, “monitors from the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, and other organizations should be allowed into Crimea to investigate the increasingly restrictive environment and curtailment of the rights of its residents, especially the indigenous Tartar community” he added.
In addition, he pointed out that “sanctions against the Russian Federation in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and a deliberate destabilization of Ukraine should remain in force until the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements”.
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister also stated that “the Council. too, has its responsibility. It has unanimously backed the package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements agreed upon back in February and must deliver on its promise to demand their full implementation.”
He also said “importantly, the continuing conflict in Ukraine, cannot be allowed to fester or be forgotten just because we are facing the pressing need to address other urgent challenges. We cannot close our eyes to the ongoing breach of the ideals, principles, and rules of behavior that have governed this organization and the entire international system for decades. Our failure to stand firmly for those values and principles will only embolden those willing to challenge the international order, bringing even more conflict, more instability, and more human suffering.”
“The international community needs to continue supporting Ukraine on the path of reforms, where significant progress has already been made” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linkevičius. “Ukraine and the Ukrainians have the right to create the future they want free from coercion and gun-point pressure by their big neighbor. Lithuania reaffirms its support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity with Crimea as its integral part. By supporting Ukraine, we support our own freedom and independence and the right to live free from fear and in peace.”