UN Human Rights Report says nearly l000 people were killed in Ukraine since the cease-fire. Ukraine dominated the G-20 Summit

Shown here is Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York, addressing the November 12  emergency session of the Security Council on his country. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
Shown here is Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York, addressing the November 12 emergency session of the Security Council on his country. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

“Frosty” is the best word to describe the reception that Russian President Vladimir Putin received at the recent G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia

President Putin left the two-day summit of world leaders which took place on November 15-16 after spending just one day at the summit. Remarks by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made headlines around the world when he bluntly said to Mr. Putin:  “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you, get out of Ukraine.” Yes, Ukraine dominated the G-20 Summit in Australia and US President Barack Obama said that “Moscow continues to be isolated.”

According to the latest UN Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine dated November 15, 2014 issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “civilians have continued to be killed, unlawfully detained, tortured, and disappeared in eastern Ukraine. “  In addition, this report mentioned during the daily noon  briefing on November 20 by the Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General in New York, stated that “the number of internally displaced people has risen considerably despite the announcement of a ceasefire on September 5.”

The  report itself, the seventh produced by the 35 strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, covers the period between September 17 and October 31, 2014. Based on this report,   “the continuing presence of a large amount of sophisticated weaponry, as well as foreign fighters that include servicemen from the Russian Federation, directly affects the human rights situation in the east of Ukraine. “

As stated by the UN  Human Rights Office, from mid-April to November 18, at least 4,317 people were killed and 9,921 wounded in the conflict-affected area of eastern Ukraine.  Since the ceasefire began, from September 6 up to November 18,  957 fatalities were recorded  – 838 men and 119 women,  although some may have been killed prior to the ceasefire, with the data only recorded later.  The number of internally displaced people (IDP) has also sharply increased from 275,489 as of September l8 to 466,829 on November 19, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

Earlier on  November 12 at UN Headquarters in New York, Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev emphasized “the dangerous, deteriorating security situation in the east of Ukraine” in an emergency session of the UN Security Council. “Baltic Review” was there in the UN Security Council Chamber  to witness the powerful statements made by members of the UN Security Council.

 

The OSCE’s Ertugrul Apakan  speaking to members of the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine on  September 12 via video conference.   UN Photo/ Loey Felipe
The OSCE’s Ertugrul Apakan speaking to members of the UN Security Council on the situation in Ukraine on September 12 via video conference. UN Photo/ Loey Felipe

 

Briefing the 15-member body via video conference was the  Chief Monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Erugrul Apakan, and Chair of the Trilateral Contact Group (made up of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE), Heidi Tagliavini.

Mr. Apaken said that fighting in Lugansk and Donesk regions had worsened and stated that OSCE monitors, on three occasions, had observed unmarked heavy weapons and  tanks in areas controlled by armed groups.  The mission consisted of 266 international members from 42 States, he said, and of those, 170 had been deployed to Donesk and Lugansk.  It had communicated with all those involved in the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum process, including the Trilateral Contact Group.

 

 

Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandsen, Assistant Secretary-General  ad interim for Political Affairs on November 12.  UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandsen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for Political Affairs on November 12. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

 

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandsen, reported that failure to  secure the Russian-Ukraine border continued to impede the path to peace, while the humanitarian situation deteriorated and the numbers of displaced persons was expected to rise as winter approached.

Heidi Tagliavini said that she agreed that the central issue was to ensure that all signatories kept their commitments in good faith, including the ceasefire provisions and respect for the “line of contact” separating opposing forces. She said the Minsk documents were at a crossroads. On one side, there had been progress: a ceasefire, no major military operations, and the release of hundreds of hostages and other detained persons. On the other, there had been a  “blunt disregard” of some Minsk commitments, she said, pointing in particular to ceasefire violations and the November 2 alternate elections.

Following the briefing, several members of the UN Security Council took the floor to express concern on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.  Comments were made by Raimonda Murmokaite (Lithuania), Samantha Power (USA),  Mark Lyall Grant (United Kingdom) Gary Quinlan (Australia), Francois Delattre (France),  and Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg). Here is a brief  summary of what these diplomats had to say, including remarks by Yuriy Sergeyev (Ukraine).

 

Shown here is Raimonda Murmokaite, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations in New York.  Since Lithuania is a non-permanent  member of the UN Security Council, Raimonda Murmokaite has issued several  strong statements on the situation in Ukraine at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Shown here is Raimonda Murmokaite, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the United Nations in New York. Since Lithuania is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Raimonda Murmokaite has issued several strong statements on the situation in Ukraine at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

 

Raimonda Murmokaite ( Lithuania) pointed to an “alarming rise” in the gravity of provocations involving Russian jets over a widening territory as evidence of a more “aggressive unilateral Russian military posture” that went well beyond Ukraine’s borders. The conflict in Ukraine was not an internal affair, or a civil war, or rebellion of disgruntled citizens; it was Russia’s war against Ukraine for daring to choose a different – namely, European path. “

Lithuanian Ambassador Murmokaite went on to say: “While Ukraine had followed the ceasefire agreement, Russian-backed  separatists used the time to rearm and grab more territory, asserting that those illegal groups were better armed than some smaller European States. Moreover, Lithuania was ‘profoundly worried’ by recent reports by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission of unmarked convoys carrying substantial heavy weaponry, ammunition, rocket systems and howitzers, as well as armoured personnel carriers and tanks moving across the borders and westward inside the separatist held areas.”

 

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Ukraine. UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Ukraine. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

 

Samantha Power (United States) said that the root of the problem in Ukraine was the Russian Federation’s flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity  Neither the Russian Federation nor the separatists it supported had fulfilled their responsibilities under the Minsk agreements, with separatists even firing on monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“The Russian Federation had done nothing to rein in the separatists and had continued to provide them with material; it was also holding abducted Ukrainian citizens.”

 

Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations  in New York during a UN Security Council meeting. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations in New York during a UN Security Council meeting. UN Photo/Mark Garten

 

Mark Lyall Grant (United Kingdom) said that Russia’s actions were flouting international norms, including the United Nations Charter, and had undermined the Minsk agreements by continuing support to the separatist rebels.  Recounting OSCE reports of heavy weaponry being supplied through unmarked columns of military vehicles, he said that there was no credible explanation but that they had come from the Russian Federation, despite Russian denials.  Monitoring must be allowed over the whole length of the border, he stressed. He regretted the holding of what he called illegal elections in the east, as well as the Russian refusal to disavow them.

Gary Quinlan (Australia) speaking in his national capacity said he had seen “consistent and credible” reports of Russian-supplied military reinforcements, including heavy weapons and tanks moving to the frontlines of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.  In further violation of the Minsk Protocol, the OSCE had been prevented from adequately monitoring the Ukraine/Russian border, where Russian troops appeared – once again – to be massing  in significant numbers . Those  recent developments came against the backdrop of the “illegimate” pseudo elections”  in eastern Ukraine, which were another direct contravention of the Minsk Protocol.  “

In addition, the Australian ambassador said that he would do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for the downing of MH 17.  He said that it supposed a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the cause of the crash, but that could only happen if Russian -backed separatists complied with the ceasefire. A political solution in Ukraine would “come to naught” without Russia’s “genuine engagement”. Russia’s  continued  refusal to heed the international community’s call to de-escalate the crisis could only lead to Russia’s further isolation, he concluded.

Francois Delattre (France) said that Ukraine had chosen  democratic modernization in its latest elections and reforms.  Such progress had been hampered, however, by the actions of  separatists and interference in the country’s internal affairs. The alternative elections in rebel-held areas were detrimental in that light.  The Minsk agreements continued to represent a good framework for ending the conflict . Under those accords, the parties must be brought to the negotiating table to shore up the ceasefire and end the conflict.

Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg) expressed concern over the worsening situation in eastern Ukraine ince the illegal elections in Donetsk and Lugansk. Non-compliance with the Minsk documents had led to a spike in tensions. She was concerned at the build-up of Russian troops along the border and movement of convoys in separatist-controlled areas towards Ukrainian army positions. She also condemned the “farcical” elections on November 2 held by separatists with the blessing of the Russian Federation, which violated the Minsk Protocol and had been denounced by the United Nations.

Pictured on November 3 during a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, is Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Pictured on November 3 during a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, is Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Yuriy Sergeyev  (Ukraine) warned that the situation in Ukraine threatened to become another frozen conflict, even though the Minsk agreements had provided a way out. He added that those had been grossly violated by the Russian Federation and the militants.  Detailing such violations, he said Russian-backed militants continued to shell  Ukrainian forces, disregarding efforts to establish a touch line and maintaining a  supply corridor for arms.

Ambassador Sergeyev also described observations of convoys bringing in weapons, some of them as big as 50 trucks. The Russians denied this.  He asked if someone else was allowing military convoys to cross its border.  There were thousands of troops and hundreds of Russian tanks and artillery units, in addition to attack aircraft, massed on the border.

Yuriy Sergeyev explained that the only reason there was no open war yet in the region was Ukraine’s restraint.   That country had cooperated fully with the OSCE monitors, Russia and ‘its puppets’ had not.  He urged the Russian side to allow monitoring of the whole border.  Measures had been taken to allow democratic local self-government in the east, but  instead separatists had held their own elections, supported by the Russian Federation: Despite all Russian violations, however, his Government continued to call for implementation of the Minsk agreements; including withdrawal of men and material and return of abducted citizens. He urged the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and ensure compliance with those accords.

The urgent Security Council meeting was called in response to a November 7 letter written by Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev which stated that the situation in Ukraine was threatening the territorial integrity of his country, and that there was a tendency to transform Ukraine into a “frozen conflict.”

This article also highlights the shared UN and OSCE values, stability, security, and respect for human rights, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the important role of  the OSCE Special Monitoring to Ukraine (SMM).

The OSCE Special Monitoring to Ukraine (SMM) reported on November 11 that it had observed an unmarked military convoy in the eastern outskirts of Donetsk city.  It has been spotted three kilometres east of Donetsk City Centre, and it was observed that a convoy of 43 unmarked green military trucks, with tarpaulin covers, was moving in the direction of the city centre.”

During a November 3 press briefing held by Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev. Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations in New York, the briefing focused on the highly successful parliamentary elections held on October 26 in Ukraine which overwhelmingly supported Ukrainian] President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

According to the Ukrainian Ambassador, “for the first time since Ukrainian independence, there will be not a single Communist represented in the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), and based on preliminary results, members of nationalist parties ”Svoboda” and “Right Sector” will not be represented in the new Parliament, as well.“ In contrast, Ambassador Sergeyev also discussed the illegitimate “quasi” elections organized by pro-Russian terrorists in some Eastern regions of Ukraine which were largely supported by Moscow.

 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) is shown meeting with Thomas Greminger (left) Chairperson of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of OSCE. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) is shown meeting with Thomas Greminger (left) Chairperson of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of OSCE. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

 

During his address to the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on November 4 in Vienna, Austria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon  spoke about the situation in Ukraine which he said remains a matter of great concern. He pointed out that the conflict had created divisions that stretched beyond the region. Here is what the UN Secretary-General had to say on the subject in his exact words:

“The elections in the eastern part of the country this past Sunday are an unfortunate and counterproductive  I urge all concerned to urgently recommit to full implementation of the letter and spirit of the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, designed to bring peace and stability to all of Ukraine. In addition to the tragedy of lost lives both on and and in the sky, the crisis risks jeopardizing our collective ability to solve global problems.”

Ban Ki-moon also commended the OSCE for its early and active engagement and Its prominent role on the ground, and said that “we have a common responsibility to defuse tensions, and that we have been working hand-in-hand. In fact, UN mediation advisors have provided technical support to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.”

As the UN Secretary-General reiterated in his remarks, “in addition to addressing immediate issues, we are committed to work together alongside the OSCE and other international sectors to provide long-term support to Ukraine and to tackle the deep-rooted issues underlying this crisis. For example, our organization have expertise in supporting elections, mediation and national dialogues; assisting rule of law and security sector reform; advising judicial and constitutional reform processes as well as in designing economic and trade policies. Let us pool those strengths in the months ahead.”

 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right)  met with the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, during the OSCE meetings in Vienna to discuss the frozen conflict in his country. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) met with the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, during the OSCE meetings in Vienna to discuss the frozen conflict in his country. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

 

During this OSCE meeting, the UN Secretary-General also referred to the pressing security challenges, and mentioned the long-standing tensions in the South Caucasus which remain unresolved and periodically flare up to potentially dangerous levels. In fact, Ban Ki-moon met with the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, to discuss the frozen conflict in his country.

Earlier on October 29, the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General issued a statement at UN Headquarters in which he  said: “The Secretary-General deplores the planned holding by armed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine of their own ‘elections’ on November 2, in brief of the constitution and national law. These ‘elections’ will seriously undermine the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum, which need to be urgently implemented in full.”

The statement also said that “the Secretary-General urges all to uphold these agreements and work towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict  The Secretary-General reiterates the fundamental importance of restoring stability and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.“

 

Pictured is Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine, addressing the general debate of the 69th  session of the General Assembly on September 24, 2014. UN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann
Pictured is Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine, addressing the general debate of the 69th session of the General Assembly on September 24, 2014. UN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann

 

In looking back at the origin of the conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsunyek explained in his recent remarks in the general debate of the UN General Assembly on September 24 that “the origin of the conflict in Ukraine is the invasion of the Russian Federation in Ukraine. A P-5 member of the UN Charter which is absolutely and entirely unacceptable for the Permanent UN Security Council member.

“20 years ago, Ukraine abandoned nuclear weapons,” said the Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsunyek,   He added that “we possessed the third biggest arsenal in the world. As we relinquished our nuclear power arsenal, in Budapest, Ukraine got guarantees at territorial integrity and sovereignty. And Russia was a co-signer and contributor to the memorandum. Instead of security guarantees in 20 years we received Russian military boots on Ukrainian soil.”

However, as Prime Minister Yatsunyek added, “it seems it’s difficult to convince another country to stop nuclear proliferation. We are committed to our nuclear non-proliferation program, but we need to get guarantees of our territorial integrity and security and independence. “

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of "Baltic Review" based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body's work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.