Reaching Out to East Critical after Ukraine Elections, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council in Briefing
7185th Meeting (PM)
Reaching Out to East Critical after Ukraine Elections, Under-Secretary-General
Tells Security Council in Briefing
Speakers Support Poll Results, Stress Importance of National Dialogue
Despite hope for a “new chapter” for Ukraine after Sunday’s presidential elections, violence continued and deadly fighting peppered towns in the east, with the Secretary-General calling for the release of international monitors and appealing to all with influence to assist, Security Council members heard today.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the 15-member body on the latest developments in Ukraine, particularly since the 25 May presidential election, in which 60 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, electing Petro Poroshenko. After congratulating the President-elect, the Secretary-General had said that exercising restraint and reaching out to eastern Ukraine was critical. He appealed to the international community to use the election outcome as an opportunity to unite in support of a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united Ukraine, Mr. Feltman said.
Ukraine’s representative told Council members that the election had confirmed the full legitimacy of their will to support Ukraine and its European integration. Among the President-elect’s top priorities was settling tensions in the east, which had suffered from Russian propaganda. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation had continued aggressions against his country, he said, “exporting instability into Ukraine”. Peace could be achieved if the Russian Federation stopped flooding Ukraine with weapons. The Security Council and the international community should call on the Russian Federation to cease the practice of fostering instability and to fulfil its obligations under the Geneva agreement.
The Russian Federation’s representative said given that military operations were taking place near his country’s border, he called on Kyiv to put an end to violence. That would allow for genuine national dialogue, with participation of groups from all parts of Ukraine. The 25 May election was a “step in the right direction” and the Russian Federation respected the results. Now, he hoped that the elections would be the beginning of a new, more constructive period backed by concrete actions by Ukrainian authorities.
Many speakers roundly supported that sentiment as well as the election results, expressing support for the new Government and emphasizing the importance of continuing national dialogue to ensure equal rights for all Ukrainians. China’s representative emphasized that a political solution was the “only way out” of the current crisis.
Condemning the ongoing violence, many speakers also called for peaceful solutions to be found to the crisis and for the immediate release of four Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors reportedly being held by separatists. Others raised concerns about reports of weapons and armed groups crossing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation.
Some speakers called on the Russian Federation and Ukraine to engage with one another, with Australia’s representative saying it was “now time for serious dialogue”, which was obviously in the interest of both countries.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Jordan, United States, Luxembourg, France, Argentina, Chile, Chad, Rwanda, Lithuania and Republic of Korea.
The meeting began at 3:11 p.m. and ended at 5:03 p.m.
Meeting today to consider the situation in Ukraine, the Security Council had before it a Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2014/136).
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, highlighted recent developments in Ukraine, particularly the 25 May presidential election. Slightly more than 60 per cent of eligible voters had cast ballots, overseen by an unprecedented number of national and international monitors. Voting patterns across the country had varied, with lower participation in Odessa and southern Ukraine as well as in the east, where voters were blocked from polling stations. The United Nations was deeply concerned by actions of those who attempted to derail the elections. Results showed Petro Poroshenko obtaining 55 per cent of the vote. This morning, the Secretary-General congratulated the President-elect by phone and welcomed his statements to immediately engage in dialogue and de-escalation. The Secretary-General reaffirmed that exercising restraint and reaching out to eastern Ukraine was critical, he said.
Yet despite hope for a “new chapter” for Ukraine, violence raged on in parts of the east and deadly fighting was reported in Luhansk and Donetsk, with casualties increasing. The Secretary-General was concerned by reports of scores of casualties, the use of heavy weaponry and allegations of arms, flights and trucks entering the country. Armed confrontations had taken place outside the city of Volnovakha and the Donetsk International Airport. Other developments had included reports of a UN-marked helicopter being used inside Ukraine and the alarming capture of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, with four of those personnel still in custody. The Secretary-General was appalled that international staff had again been put in such grave danger, calling for their immediate release and appealing to all with influence to assist. The Secretary-General also appealed to the international community to use the election outcome as an opportunity to unite in support of a peaceful, stable, prosperous and united Ukraine, he said.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said the elections had been conducted largely in line with Ukraine’s international commitments and Mr. Poroshenko’s victory had signalled Ukrainians’ united demand for reform. Welcoming his commitment to reach out to all regions and normalize relations with the Russian Federation, he underlined his Government’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The high turnout was a “powerful rebuke” to armed groups that had sought to deny the people of Donetsk and Luhansk their democratic rights. The elections had given Ukrainians the opportunity to express their views peacefully. The United Kingdom respected Ukraine’s right to respond to armed attacks in order to protect citizens and reassert control over its territory. Insurgents must lay down their arms, renounce violence and join in the debate, while the Russian Federation must take action to prevent the illegal crossing of insurgents and weapons over the Ukrainian border. The focus must be on promoting transparent, inclusive national dialogue. The United Kingdom would not recognize Crimea’s illegal annexation by the Russian Federation.
KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) said attacks last week that had led to the deaths of 16 Ukrainian soldiers near Donetsk had signalled a serious escalation of the situation. Improved relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine were central to resolving the crisis, he said, welcoming the offer by the Russian Foreign Minister to start a dialogue with the President-elect of Ukraine. Those were encouraging signs that the doors to a diplomatic solution remained open. Dialogue was the path to sustainable peace and all armed groups in eastern Ukraine should lay down their arms and desist from violence. The declaration by the Peoples’ Republic of Donetsk had violated Ukraine’s Constitution and carried no legal affect. Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) expressed hope that the elections marked the start of “renewed civility” for Ukraine, welcoming efforts made by that Government to eliminate all obstacles to voting. The international community must recognize and respect the results and work with Mr. Poroshenko to translate his people’s aspirations for a better future. As for violence in eastern Ukraine, he recalled Ukraine’s legitimate right to protect its citizens and sovereign territorial integrity, urging armed groups to lay down their arms and withdraw from occupied buildings and facilities.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) said that the election reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and, as noted by the OSCE, was valid. She condemned the actions of pro-Russian armed separatists that attacked polling stations through abductions and death threats and commended the resolve of the Ukrainian people to participate despite the violence. The Ukrainian Government now faced many challenges and forging a common political vision was essential. The United States supported the President-elect’s aspirations and urged the Russian Federation to recognize the election’s results and to engage with Ukraine. The increased violence was a grave concern and she called on all to end the crisis, voicing concerns about armed groups crossing the border from the Russian Federation. The United States supported Ukraine, including Crimea, to seek a peaceful resolution that respected the territorial integrity of that country.
WANG MIN (China) said his country had respected the choice made by the people of Ukraine, but remained concerned about the continuing violence. China had pursued the principle of non-interference in national affairs and hoped to see an early restoration of stability and law and order in Ukraine. A political solution was the “only way out” of the crisis and should accommodate the concerns of all groups in Ukraine. Based on the four-party agreement, talks should continue and a negotiated settlement should be reached. China was willing to continue its constructive role in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) said the election was characterized by the strong will of the people in broad accordance with international standards. Despite violence, elections had taken place in the east. She condemned the ongoing violence, including killings and abductions. The release of 11 OSCE observers today was welcomed, however concern remained about the four observers yet to be returned. She called on the Russian Federation to respect the will of the Ukrainian people and expected the Russian Government to cooperate with the new Ukrainian Government and to prevent the passage of weapons to Ukraine. She encouraged the Ukrainian Government to continue its national dialogue, with the rights of minorities fully respected.
PHILIPPA KING (Australia) said the election results had shown the will of Ukrainians. Regrettably, not all were permitted to vote, with some stopped from entering polling stations by armed separatists. Crimean citizens were also unable to vote. Pro-Russian groups had continued to attempt to destabilize the region and there were reports that militants had tried to cross from the Russian Federation into Ukraine. She condemned attacks on journalists, and expressed concern by reports that four OSCE monitors were still being held by separatists. It was “now time for serious dialogue” between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as it was obviously in the interest of both countries.
ALEXIS LAMEK ( France) said the crisis in Ukraine had reached a turning point with the election of Mr. Poroshenko. The high voter turnout had spoken to the unity of Ukrainians. The elections were free, having seen no less than 21 candidates, which signalled the broad political diversity available to voters. There had been no pre-determined outcome. They also were transparent, with the OSCE yesterday affirming that Ukraine had upheld democratic standards. France would study the outcome of the Central Electoral Commission. The results showed that the fascist propaganda was baseless, with the two extreme right parties having garnered less than 3 per cent of the vote. Separatist groups should halt their activities and those with influence should urge a return to calm. The elections were an opportunity for Mr. Poroshenko to establish an inclusive Government and enact reforms based on a national dialogue. He called on him to continue the dialogue process launched with the OSCE on 14 May.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said that, on principle, her country did not comment on election results, as they were under the sole jurisdiction of the State concerned. She urged respect for Ukraine’s conduct of internal affairs, without interference, whether military or economic. Argentina had repeatedly stressed the need to establish the conditions for renewed dialogue. The solution to the crisis in Ukraine was political and diplomatic. All parties must show maximum restraint and contribute to a national dialogue. Killings, abductions and cases of intimidation must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice, she said, also urging respect for the rights of minorities.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) commended the OSCE for sending more than 1,000 observers to Ukraine, and called on groups that had prevented the elections from covering the entire territory to join in creating a future for the country. Condemning the violence in Donetsk that had followed the elections, he said the political process had not ended, and Ukrainian authorities had an obligation in that regard. The Government and the separatists should reach an interim agreement on which the basis for dialogue could be built. He supported efforts by the Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights to ensure that all human rights abuses were investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said that, on the whole, the elections in Ukraine had been peaceful, expressing hope that they would help re-establish confidence and a mutual respect for diversity. They had strengthened democracy, having opened a new phase for initiating stabilization through dialogue and economic recovery. The international community must support the new Ukrainian authorities. He condemned ongoing violence in the east, which had led to several deaths, as well as the abduction of four OSCE members. Armed groups should disarm and negotiate with the new Government in order to preserve the country’s unity. Indeed, a frank, open dialogue was the best response to all concerns. The unilateral declaration of independence of part of Ukraine’s territory could only jeopardize the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) commended Mr. Poroshenko’s commitment to continue dialogue with separatists in the east and his pledge to also engage with the Russian Federation. Reiterating support for the Secretary-General’s good offices aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, he expressed concern about the killing of journalists and the abduction of OSCE observers, calling for their release. Armed protesters should disarm and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The elections had provided the country with a legitimate leader who had enough political capital to achieve peace among people and, more widely, in the region. He called on the United Nations, OSCE and others to join him in that political process.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITÉ (Lithuania) said intimidations, kidnappings and seizures of voting premises by pro-Russian separatists could not stop those who cared for Ukraine from expressing their will democratically and freely through a ballot box. Ukraine’s election had “demolished” the myth about radical extremism, which had been fodder for anti-Ukrainian propaganda orchestrated by the Russian Federation. While many in Ukraine’s east had legitimate grievances, they had not sought the country’s fragmentation. The new Government faced enormous challenges in overcoming decades of corruption, restoring the rule of law and rebuilding trust among citizens and regions. The Russian Federation should withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border, stop the flow of arms and foreign fighters into Ukrainian territory, and disassociate from militant separatism in the south-east. She condemned crimes such as hostage-taking, demanding the release of all OSCE observers without preconditions.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the 25 May elections were a “step in the right direction”. His country had respected the results, but would stop short of euphoria. In evaluating elections, preceding events and context must be considered, including the ousting of the President and that the press faced violent limitations. The Security Council had a mandate for the maintenance of peace and security and today’s discussion should centre on bringing an end to violence. Given that military operations were taking place near the Russian Federation’s border, he called on Kyiv to put an end to violence, which would allow for genuine national dialogue, with participation of groups from all parts of Ukraine.
The Russian Federation was being blamed, yet Ukrainian authorities were, among other things, forcing some into the military and shelling areas, he said. Reports of UN-marked helicopters in Ukraine should be dealt with to end practices that besmirched the Organization. He raised a number of concerns, including the progress being made on the investigations into the Maidan sniper killings and the 2 May fire in Odessa, about cases of Russian journalists unable to enter Ukraine and about the abducted OSCE observers. It was hoped that the elections would be the beginning of a new, more constructive period, backed by concrete actions by authorities.
OH JOON (Republic of Korea), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said the elections had been carried out in a fair and transparent manner despite security challenges and had represented a step forward in the de-escalation of tensions. All sides should cooperate with the newly-elected President and the Ukrainian Government should continue to build an inclusive nation. He welcomed the President-elect’s announcement to travel to the eastern part of the country to ease tensions and efforts made to advance national dialogue round tables. The stability of Ukraine was critical for peace and security for Europe and the world, he concluded.
YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) thanked Council members for their support for the elections and the new Government. The vast majority of Ukrainian citizens had participated in the vote, confirming the full legitimacy of their will to support Ukraine and its European integration. Among the President-elect’s top priorities was settling tensions in the east, which had suffered from Russian propaganda. Because of the occupation of Crimea, there was no way to conduct presidential elections there, yet citizens had the opportunity to cast their ballots at other polling stations in Ukraine.
Taking the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border “with a grain of salt”, he mentioned a number of incidents of concern, including several incursions into Ukraine from the Russian Federation over the last week and that some self-proclaimed leaders of separatist areas in the east of Ukraine had announced that they were Russian citizens. The Russian Federation had continued aggression against his country and just yesterday four trucks and passengers broke through the Ukrainian border, exchanging fire with Ukrainian guards. Those events were “exporting instability into Ukraine”. Armed pro-Russian groups were firing on civilians with no intervention from the Russian Federation. All the Russian Federation could do for Ukraine was to cease support for armed groups in the east. Peace could be achieved if the Russian Federation stopped flooding Ukraine with weapons, he said. The Security Council and the international community should call on the Russian Federation to cease the practice of fostering instability and to fulfil its obligations under the Geneva agreement.
Mr. CHURKIN, speaking a second time, said he would not respond to a presentation of pseudo facts. His Ukrainian counterpart did not know his own people. The eastern part of Ukraine had exploded following a February coup d’état in Kyiv. “That is the situation and we all know that,” he said. Blaming the Russian Federation would not solve the issues for Ukrainians.
Mr. SERGEYEV, replying, said that to achieve stability, there could be no stoking of instability. He questioned what hundreds of armed Chechens were doing in Ukraine and why hundreds of Cossacks in Crimea had come to destabilize the situation. Moreover, they were not hiding who they were. He questioned whether the Wolves’ Centurion, a group that had formed the Cossack corpus of the Nazi SS, had come to espouse Nazism today. A group of 22 people calling themselves a Peoples’ Republic in Donetsk did not help foster dialogue.
Mr. CHURKIN said he appreciated the objective assessment of events in the east, saying that region was marked by depressive conditions. There was high voter turnout for the 11 May referendum, yet nothing had been done subsequently to engage in respectful dialogue with those people. “Stop these military actions and maybe then we will help you set up dialogue,” he said, recalling that the Russian Federation had helped to establish an agreement in Geneva, which had resulted in Ukraine’s violation of the agreement. “How can we help you with the east when you're killing people?” he asked.
There was much that tied the Russian Federation to Ukraine, he said, noting that the issue of dual citizenship meant it was difficult to determine who was simply “Russian” or “Ukrainian”. On Crimea, he asked why Ukraine had shut off the water supply, noting that Ukraine’s idea to close the border would mean a loss of trade. Citing Ukraine’s military operation near the Russian border and fanning of anti-Russian rhetoric, he said: “We'd like to turn this page as soon as possible, but much depends on you.”
Mr. SERGEYEV, responding a second time, said the easiest way to make progress would be for the Russian Government to appeal to the Chechen leadership. Rather than conducting parades during Presidential elections, those people should immediately leave Ukraine. A second appeal should be made to the hundreds of Cossacks in Ukraine, he said, citing a decision made regarding the participation of the Russian army that had led to a dual interpretation of their presence. Another appeal might also be made to citizens who had become mercenaries, warning them against any actions. On Crimea, Ukrainian authorities were in contact with the occupying Power of that area, which was Ukrainian territory, on the issue of water. Discussion on such matters must include Crimea’s return to Ukraine.
Mr. CHURKIN said negotiations must be conducted on a broad agenda, rather than on a few points imposed by Kyiv. Both countries had great prospects and relations should be developed as soon as possible to find a way out of a most difficult time in history. The Russian Federation had not brought about what had happened in Ukraine but would contribute to the search for a solution if the new President made the right decision.
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