As Russian Federation’s Invasion of Ukraine Approaches One Year Mark, Speakers in Security Council Trade Accusations for Failure of Minsk Peace Accords
One week ahead of the one-year mark of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the Security Council met today to discuss the collapse of the Minsk agreements, with several delegates noting that what was once intended to be a blueprint for the 2014 crisis has turned into Moscow’s leverage to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine.
While the world witnessed immense suffering and destruction over the past year, today is also a reminder that the armed conflict in Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014, Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, told the 15-member body.
Despite not having any formal role in the Minsk framework, the United Nations has fully supported the implementation of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk accords and provided expert support to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine, he said, including for ceasefire monitoring, issues related to women, peace and security, as well as humanitarian and human rights access in non-Government-controlled areas.
“The outbreak of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 was, up to February of last year, the biggest test the OSCE had faced in its existence,” he observed, describing the Organization’s response as “unprecedented” and deserving recognition. Through its team of over 1,000 monitors, the Mission provided critical information on ceasefire violations on the ground to prevent further escalation and remains a vital actor for European security. Echoing the Secretary-General’s remarks that “until peace agreements are signed and implemented, the risk of renewed violence remains”, he emphasized that “peace is not just about signing an agreement”. On the future of the European security architecture, he instead called for implementable peace that addresses the root causes of the conflict and is in line with international law.
Briefing the Council via video-teleconference, Martin Sajdik, former Special Representative of OSCE for the Minsk agreements (2015-2019), cited a lack of the political will to implement the accords. While a comprehensive ceasefire should have entered into force at midnight on 15 February 2015, heavy fighting continued and persisted throughout parts of that year. He spotlighted major developments in 2017, including the disruption of movement across the contact lines and the Russian Federation’s withdrawal from the so-called Joint Centre of Control and Coordination, based in the Government-controlled part of Donetsk.
Highlighting that the number of civilian victims has decreased over recent years — with 2019 marking the first year that no child lost their life due to the hostilities — he pointed to better conditions at the crossing points. Moreover, in 2019 — after long negotiations — the parties were able to reach agreement on an important exchange of detainees. In light of those efforts, he expressed his “profound shock and disappointment” over the events that have transpired in the region since 24 February 2022.
In the ensuing debate, several delegates once again deplored the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine that began 22 February 2022, noting that the war in Ukraine buried hopes for peaceful coexistence between the parties, as expressed in the Minsk agreements.
“If Russia is committed to the agreements it freely signed up to, why did it unilaterally attempt to annex Ukrainian territory, in violation of those commitments?” the speaker for the United Kingdom asked. Three days prior to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine — bringing suffering to people in all areas of that country — Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a degree recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk as independent entities, which tore up the Minsk agreements, she said. Stressing that “Russia lied when we warned of its intentions to attack Ukraine” and “was planning for war while we called for diplomacy and de-escalation”, she said the country “continues to choose death and destruction while the world calls for a just peace”.
Echoing that stance, the representative of the United States questioned whether Moscow’s aim is to persuade or rather distract from the bombs and missiles killing Ukrainians and decimating cities “in the here and now”. Despite directly participating in the negotiation of the Minsk agreements, signing them in 2014 and 2015 and, in 2019, reaffirming that the agreements remained the basis for the peace process, Moscow repeatedly undermined their fundamental purpose. The Council “does not need yet another revisionist history lecture from the Russian delegation”, he asserted, urging that country to “end this war now”.
Germany’s representative stressed that over 10 years, his country, Ukraine and France — aiming to stop the bloodshed — left no stone unturned to find a peaceful, diplomatic way forward in line with the Minsk agreements. Nevertheless, Moscow made it impossible for diplomacy to succeed, he said, declaring: “It is Russia that launched an unprovoked war of aggression on all of Ukraine; it is Russia that recognized the separatist entities of its own making in Eastern Ukraine; it is Russia that is trying to illegally annex Ukrainian land, starting with Crimea, which we have not and will never recognize.” He voiced concern over Moscow’s unwillingness to enter into serious peace talks, portraying its illegal land grab in Ukraine as final and its acceptance as a pre-condition for negotiations.
The speaker for China, however, said the crisis in Ukraine is the culmination of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s constant expansion since the end of the cold war. While the bloc claims to remain a regional defensive alliance, it constantly reaches beyond its traditional scope, hyping up tensions and stoking conflict. “NATO has committed enough crimes around the world,” he stressed, urging the bloc to stop creating “imaginary enemies” and to instead contribute positively to world peace and stability.
Likewise, the Russian Federation’s speaker said NATO has been preparing for war with his country since 2014, stressing that the West was only imitating a constructive process. Rejecting claims that his country was not implementing the Minsk agreements, he called for a serious talk about the failure of the Minsk process, noting that the adoption of Council resolution 2202 (2015) made these agreements the only legal basis for resolving the intra-Ukrainian conflict. He also cautioned that the OSCE Mission has recently slipped into extremely one-sided approaches, with facts inconvenient for Kyiv — such as murders of civilians by Ukrainian units in Donbas — often whitewashed or hidden from the public.
Rejecting that narrative, Ukraine’s representative stressed that the entire history of the Minsk agreements was “a long list of violations and disregard by Moscow of its own commitments”. Moscow considered the accords’ implementation as Ukraine’s responsibility alone, he emphasized, noting that language envisioning the establishment of a security area in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was never adhered to. Similarly, a paragraph in the 2014 Minsk Memorandum — stating that all foreign military formations and equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, must exit the territory of Ukraine under OSCE monitoring — was never implemented by Moscow. “Russia’s consistent undermining and final killing of the Minsk agreements makes [it] crystal clear” that President Vladimir Putin is “impossible to negotiate with”, he asserted.
Also speaking were representatives of Gabon, Mozambique, Brazil, France, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Japan, Switzerland, Ghana, Ecuador, Malta and Belarus.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.
MIROSLAV JENČA, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, recalled that the Council is meeting today exactly one week ahead of the one-year mark of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. While the world witnessed immense suffering and destruction over the past year, today is also a reminder that the armed conflict in Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014. In the last eight years the United Nations has not been formally part of any mechanism related to the peace process in Ukraine, such as the Normandy format. The Organization was not invited to be a participant in the various negotiations in Minsk, or to be a party to the 2014 and 2015 agreements themselves. Nor was the United Nations involved in the implementation efforts led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the Trilateral Contact Group.
He went on to highlight that despite not having any formal role in the Minsk framework, the United Nations has fully supported the implementation of the Minsk agreements and related measures, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2202 (2011) and the presidential statement of 6 June 2018. The Organization has repeatedly expressed its full political support to all involved in the Normandy format. Similarly, the United Nations has provided expert support to OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine, including with regard to issues related to ceasefire monitoring and women, peace and security. On the ground, the United Nations country team has continuously coordinated with the Special Monitoring Mission on security, humanitarian and human rights access-related issues in non-Government-controlled areas in order to provide assistance to all communities in need. Throughout this entire period, the United Nations has remained consistent in its principled support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, he affirmed.
“The outbreak of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014 was, up to February of last year, the biggest test the OSCE had faced in its existence,” he observed, describing the Organization’s response as “unprecedented” and deserving recognition. Since its establishment, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine — through its team of more than 1,000 monitors — provided critical information on ceasefire violations on the ground in accordance with its mandate, to maintain dialogue, reduce tensions and prevent further escalation. Against this background, OSCE remains an essential actor for European security, he stressed. Long before the situation in Ukraine evolved into the present tragedy, the United Nations stressed the importance of political will by all sides and cautioned all relevant actors about the dangers of complacency regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the risks of keeping the conflict unresolved. The Organization also urged all sides to avoid any unilateral steps that could deepen the depart from the spirit and letter of the agreements.
Echoing the Secretary-General’s remarks that “until peace agreements are signed and implemented, the risk of renewed violence remains,” he emphasized that “peace is not just about signing an agreement”. Instead, he called for sustainable and implementable peace that addresses the root causes of the conflict and is in line with international law. “This is particularly important given the complexity of the current context in Ukraine, but also with regard to its implications for the future of the European security architecture and, indeed, the international order itself,” he stressed.
MARTIN SAJDIK, former Special Representative of OSCE for the Minsk agreements (2015-2019), briefed the Council via video-teleconference, recalling that he last addressed members nearly four years ago. At that time, the focus of his remarks was that the global community must stand united behind the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, to which there was no alternative. Providing a brief history of those accords and OSCE’s role, he said the three sides of the Trilateral Contact Group — the Russian Federation, Ukraine and OSCE — also decided to invite representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to participate in talks. In line with the Minsk agreements, a comprehensive ceasefire should have entered into force at midnight on 15 February 2015. Instead, heavy fighting continued and persisted throughout parts of that year. The OSCE responded with continued engagement and a strong focus on the needs of civilians. Over the course of 2015 and 2016, important agreements were signed between the parties on the withdrawal of heavy weapons and demining activities, among other things. “Unfortunately, the sides lacked the political will to implement these agreements,” he said.
He cited several major developments in 2017, including the disruption of movement across the contact lines and the withdrawal by the Russian Federation from the so-called Joint Centre of Control and Coordination, based in the Government-controlled part of Donetsk. That centre had previously played a major role in the daily management of the contact line, he said. Members of OSCE’s economic and humanitarian working groups focused largely on mitigating the deepening impacts on civilians on both sides of the contact line. He pointed out that the number of civilian victims has decreased over recent years — with 2019 marking the first year that no child lost their life as a result of the hostilities — and drew attention to better conditions at the crossing points as well as improvements in such areas as water management. Noting that various diplomats and other leaders have also attempted to lay the legal groundwork for elections, he went on to say that in December 2019 — after long and difficult negotiations — the parties were able to reach agreement on an important exchange of detainees. Against the backdrop of all those efforts, he expressed his “profound shock and disappointment” over the events that have transpired in the region since 24 February 2022.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled the adoption of Council resolution 2202 (2015), which approved the Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements. That resolution made these agreements the only legal basis for resolving the intra-Ukrainian conflict, he said, calling for a serious talk about the failure of the Minsk process. Western partners were well aware that this process was just a smokescreen to rearm the Kyiv regime and prepare it for war against his country, he said. Noting recent statements by François Hollande, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson, as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg's statement that the Alliance has been preparing for war with the Russian Federation since 2014, he said the West was only imitating a constructive process. Rejecting claims that it is the Russian Federation that is not implementing the Minsk agreements, he asked Mr. Sajdik if OSCE in general, and the Special Monitoring Mission in particular, realize that they were simply being used. Are they aware of their guilt and responsibility? he asked.
Voicing concern that the OSCE Mission has recently slipped into extremely one-sided approaches, he said it has curtailed its contacts “on the ground” with the officials in Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republic and is demanding that Donetsk and Luhansk publicly affirm their loyalty to Kyiv. Further, facts inconvenient for Kyiv and the Ukrainian armed forces, such as murders of civilians by Ukrainian units in Donbass, were often whitewashed or hidden from the public. Expressing concern about the Russophobia of various European countries, “who make no secret of their plans to fracture Russia and seize its natural resources”, he condemned the United Nations Secretariat’s “anti-Russian cliches”. The Ukrainian leadership’s refusal to implement the Minsk agreements is a collective tragedy, he said. To the Western members of the Council, he said his country can no longer believe any promises about not expanding NATO to the East, nor about their unwillingness to interfere in his country’s internal affairs. The more tall tales they tell, the more his country will defend its identity and future, he underscored.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said that the Minsk agreements opened the way for a cessation of hostilities, for restoring the borders of Ukraine and for an improved humanitarian response, along with laying the groundwork for lasting peace. The signing of these agreements, endorsed by the Council, offered hope for peaceful coexistence between the parties. Such hope vanished eight years later, however, with the murderous war in Ukraine — now in its twelfth month. Underlining the need to revive the hope raised by the Minsk agreements, she urged the international community to push the parties to search for a way to cease hostilities. Further, stressing that peaceful coexistence is still possible, she called on the parties to re-embrace, in good faith, the spirit that prevailed during the signing of the agreements. “It is never too late to make peace,” she added, calling on the Council to work towards this end “without further ado”.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) recalled that a year ago, the Council met to discuss the Minsk agreements. At the time, the Russian Federation had built up a force of over 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and in illegally annexed Crimea, inflaming tensions and causing widespread concern. The response of the Council was clear: It called for de-escalation and dialogue, she said, echoing the Secretary-General’s remarks that “there was no alternative to diplomacy”. Despite urgent diplomatic efforts, the Russian Federation did not turn up for the meetings, describing the allegations that it is going to attack Ukraine as “baseless”. Four days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a degree, recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk as independent entities, which tore up the Minsk agreements. Three days after that, Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, bringing suffering to people in all areas of Ukraine. Almost one year on, the invasion continues, with no sign that Moscow intends to bring it to an end, she said, asking: “If Russia is committed to the agreements it freely signed up to, why did it unilaterally attempt to annex Ukrainian territory, in violation of those commitments?” She asserted that “Russia lied when we warned of its intentions to attack Ukraine; Russia was planning for war while we called for diplomacy and de-escalation; and Russia continues to choose death and destruction while the world calls for a just peace.” Against this backdrop, she called on Moscow to end its illegal invasion, withdraw from Ukraine and return to negotiations aimed at establishing a just and lasting peace.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) welcomed the Minsk agreements, particularly those provisions related the immediate and comprehensive ceasefire; the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines; the monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime; the launch of a dialogue between the affected parties; ensuring pardon and amnesty; and the plan for political and constitutional reform. He recalled that Mozambique was born out of protracted struggle for the liberation of the people and their land and — in the process — negotiated many agreements that moved the nation from one stage to another of its history. In the light of its Constitution, Mozambique professes a policy of peace, only resorting to force in cases of legitimate self-defence. “Mozambique defends the primacy of a negotiated solution to the conflicts,” he stressed, reiterating the obligation to support efforts in the direction of a peaceful settlement of the conflict, as stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations. Against this backdrop, he urged the international community to emulate the spirit and the goodwill that led to the signing of the Minsk agreements between the parties.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that the collapse of the Minsk agreements notwithstanding, the spirit of those accords could still inspire a new effort towards a peaceful solution. “It is necessary to discuss the end to this conflict, which has caused the loss of so many lives, so much devastation and has taken a heavy toll in food and energy security across the world,” he said. The conflict also continues to present a serious nuclear safety and security risk to the region and to the whole world. Condemning the use of force to settle any dispute, he said the Council and the international community must act to promote peace talks between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, through mediation efforts by the United Nations and countries willing to contribute. He also reiterated his calls for the protection of the civilian population and the strict observation of international humanitarian law by all those involved in the conflict.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), stressing that the Russian Federation is trying to justify the unjustifiable, said nothing in the Minsk agreements will legitimize its aggression against Ukraine. Pointing to the fighting on the front line, the scale of human losses in Bakhmut and the mass atrocities of the Russian Federation’s army and Wagner supplementaries, he recalled that country’s representative publicly stating a year ago in the Council that there was no alternative to the Minsk agreements. A week later, on 24 February 2022, it invaded Ukraine. The only lesson to be learned here is that the Russian Federation has chosen to put an end to dialogue, he said, adding that the main objective of the agreements was the reintegration of certain regions of Donetsk and Luhansk under full Ukrainian sovereignty. His country and Germany worked tirelessly since 2015 to promote dialogue between the signatory parties, he said, noting that Ukraine, with about 50 co-sponsoring States, will present a resolution to the General Assembly next week that will pave the way for a just and lasting peace. He called on the international community to support this effort.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) observed that “it is profoundly unfortunate that we meet today to discuss the lessons learned from the Minsk agreements in the shadow of the very war we had all hoped they would prevent”. Noting that the prospects for peace negotiations to end the war in Ukraine grow dimmer by the day, he expressed concern that the wrong lessons are being drawn from Minsk — “first, that the past is preordained”. Recent events may lead some to conclude that the agreements were destined to fail but, while that reaction is understandable, the eight years that elapsed between first signature and final collapse suggest that there was both a desire and effort to preserve the agreements. He stressed that a successful resolution to this conflict that establishes the framework for a sustainable, just peace in Ukraine will depend on its design, comprehensiveness and incentives. But, most of all, it will require the ongoing commitment of all relevant actors to implement and evolve with it. “The second wrong lesson is that the past is prelude,” he went on to say, stressing that cynicism about the possibility of a just, lasting peace cannot prevail. This would legitimize the pursuit of military victory at all costs, he added, calling for a cessation of hostilities and supporting all earnest efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the Minsk agreements were supposed to be a blueprint for the crisis in Ukraine, the only path on which peace can be built. However — never implemented — the agreements turned out to be a conundrum. Moreover, they were used by Moscow as leverage to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine and make the country dysfunctional. Moscow’s military aggression against Ukraine did not start in 2022; it began in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea and with the open support of the Russian proxy in the eastern part of Ukraine which has taken more than 14,000 lives and brought immense damage to the country’s economy and infrastructure. The Minsk agreements included key provisions such as for Ukraine to restore control of State borders and for withdrawal of foreign armed formations. However, this never happened; while Ukraine can be credited with implementing the agreements as much as could reasonably be done, the Russian Federation did not cooperate, hiding behind its role as co-facilitator. He also noted that Moscow was in full control of the separatist groups on the ground. “When Russia wants something, agreements mean nothing,” he warned, pointing to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and the relevant Council resolutions. These agreements mean nothing to Moscow, he said, asking: “why would the Minsk agreements mean more?” Describing the full-scale invasion of Ukraine as “just another chapter of the same playbook”, he reiterated his country’s principled position against war.
ZHANG JUN (China) said his country’s position on the conflict in Ukraine remains unchanged. It believes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be safeguarded, the principles of the United Nations Charter upheld and all efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis supported. Expressing regret that the fighting never stopped following the signing of the Minsk agreements in 2015, he said the accord nevertheless represented a step in the right direction towards a resolution through peaceful dialogue. What the international community learned from the Minsk agreements was that the viability of any agreement depends on how well it is implemented. “Even the best accord will end up just being a piece of paper” if it cannot find translation into concrete action on the ground. Describing the crisis in Ukraine as the culmination of NATO’s constant expansion since the end of the cold war, he said that while the bloc claims to remain a regional defensive alliance, it constantly reaches beyond its traditional scope, hyping up tensions and stoking conflict. Meanwhile, it continues to strengthen its military and security ties with Asia-Pacific countries. “NATO has committed enough crimes around the world,” he stressed, urging the bloc to stop creating “imaginary enemies” and to instead contribute positively to world peace and stability.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) noted that the Russian Federation “seems to think that it can avoid criticism by blaming others”. However, it is Moscow’s own aggression against Ukraine that is shaking the very foundation of the international order, which the world painstakingly built over many years and with great sacrifice. Such a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force undermines security in not only Europe, but in the entire world, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms as a flagrant violation of international law. “No argument can justify the aggression,” he stressed, reiterating his strong calls on the Russian Federation to immediately end its war of aggression and withdraw its forces from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) spotlighted the importance of Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, regarding the role of regional groups in maintaining peace and security. It is against that backdrop that OSCE has taken steps to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, including through its Special Monitoring Mission, and responded to the conflict in eastern Ukraine by facilitating the Minsk agreements’ implementation. Recalling that Switzerland was involved in those efforts as the bloc’s chair beginning in 2014, she said that by recognizing the independence of the “people’s republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk in February 2022 — and by launching a military aggression against the entire territory of Ukraine a few days later — the Russian Federation effectively ended the Minsk agreements. “Russia has resorted to violence on a large scale, in violation of the United Nations Charter and in disrespect for the principles of the OSCE,” she stressed. Voicing support for the role of the Monitoring Mission, she encouraged the OSCE to continue its engagement, despite great difficulties facing the organization. She also joined other speakers in calling on Moscow to cease all military operations, observe international humanitarian law and withdraw its troops from Ukraine without delay.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) observed that, today, all masked interests are exposed, and further consideration of the Minsk agreements is rendered moot. He recalled that, exactly one week after the Council considered the matter, Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were assailed by the Russian Federation, who subsequently attempted to annex the concerned territories in Ukraine. He went on to say that the high rate of casualties and destruction that followed in the wake of the war in Ukraine “makes us convinced” that, if the concerns for the Donbas region were genuinely shared, the approach to resolve those concerns would not have been through an escalation of the conflict but, rather, its immediate cessation. Any hope of renewing the spirit of the Minsk agreements would demand, as a minimum condition, the cessation of hostilities to encourage the signatories and other relevant actors to recommit to their obligations. He therefore called on the aggressor State to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. Reaffirming Ghana’s commitment to uphold respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, he added that his country maintains its firm position of non-recognition for the purported annexation of any Ukrainian territory.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), stressing that his country did not and will not recognize the annexation of territories by force, recalled the occupation of Crimea and the signing of the Minsk agreements. Security Council resolution 2202 (2015) reaffirmed full respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine, he said, noting that it expressed concern about the violence in the eastern regions of the country. Expressing regret that the seventh anniversary of that agreement was commemorated with the launch of missiles, he added that the lesson is obvious: the use of force by one State against the other undermines agreements and destroys trust. Recalling other agreements that have been violated, he pointed to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, by the terms of which Ukraine agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal in return for guarantees of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Expressing dismay at the violation of such crucial agreements, he appealed for the withdrawal of foreign troops and the establishment of a ceasefire that will return the parties to a path of diplomacy.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States) said that, given how often the Russian Federation convenes the Council to regurgitate false narratives of the past, one cannot help but question whether its aim is to persuade or distract — distract, namely, from the bombs and missiles killing Ukrainians and decimating cities “in the here and now”. He underscored that attempts to distort history do not change the fact that Moscow is responsible for the brutal, devastating aggression against Ukraine. Recalling that the Russian Federation has long sought to disguise or deny its role in the conflict — despite training and leading forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 — he said that the world can now clearly see what Moscow’s ultimate intentions were: “to fully and violently subjugate Ukraine”. The Russian Federation directly participated in negotiating the Minsk agreements, signed them in 2014 and 2015 and, in 2019, reaffirmed that the agreements remained the basis for the peace process. However, that country consistently, repeatedly undermined the fundamental purpose of the agreements, which was to fully integrate the conflict area with the rest of Ukraine and restore its territorial integrity. He wondered: “Given what we know now, are we to believe that the Russian Federation was serious about honouring that pledge?”. The United States joins its Ukrainian partners in considering the Minsk agreements nullified by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an unprovoked, unjust war. He added that the Council “does not need yet another revisionist history lecture from the Russian delegation”; rather, what the world needs is for Moscow to stop its relentless attacks against Ukraine, withdraw its forces and “end this war now”.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Council President for February, said in her national capacity that one year after the start of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, Malta fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Calling for an end of this war of aggression and full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine’s territory, she condemned prolonged attacks against Kyiv and other cities. The Minsk agreements offered a chance for a dialogue, paving the way for mutually acceptable solutions. However, the agreements were doomed to fail since one of the parties opted for a selective interpretation. As a result of the war, thousands of civilians were killed. Yet, the Russian Federation is further escalating the aggression against its neighbour, pushing Ukraine in a grave humanitarian crisis. She noted that 40 per cent of the Ukrainian population is in dire need, nearly 8 million people have fled to neighbouring countries, 5.3 million are internally displaced and thousands of Ukrainian children were displaced and deported. Moreover, women and girls are targets of sexual violence committed by Russian forces. “Accountability must be our priority,” she asserted, calling on Moscow to stop its aggression and abide by the Charter of the United Nations.
Responding to the statements of Council members, Mr. SAJDIK said that during his tenure, he witnessed the profound dedication of France and Germany to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. Pointing to the intense personal involvement of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel in all the negotiations and the phrasing of the agreements, he said he observed a “great hope and willingness to implement the Minsk agreements by the letter”. Turning to the efforts of OSCE, he said that since 2014, the different country chairs were committed to efforts to implement the agreements and help find a resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Russian Federation might have its own perception regarding the commitment of the officials and political actors involved, but this was his perception, he added.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), noting the Russian Federation’s practice to call anniversary meetings such as the one today, said it has never been Moscow’s purpose to discuss the implementation of the Minsk agreements in good faith — but rather to disseminate their propaganda narratives. Through the years, that country has reiterated its unchangeable statements that the Russian Federation was not a party to the Minsk agreements, and that the accords’ implementation was Ukraine’s responsibility alone. While not adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, resolution 2202 (2015) was a crucial message from the Security Council — including the Russian Federation — that the Minsk agreements must be fully implemented. “Let’s not forget that the entire history of the Minsk agreements […] was a long list of violations and disregard by Moscow of its own commitments,” he said.
Citing several examples of such violations, he said language envisioning the establishment of a security area in the border regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was never adhered to. Similarly, a paragraph in the 2014 Minsk Memorandum — stating that all foreign military formations and equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, must exit the territory of Ukraine under OSCE monitoring — was never implemented by Moscow. That destructive approach was reconfirmed on 16 February 2023, just one day ago, by Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin at the time of the signing of the Minsk agreements. “The truth is that Putin has proved, once and for all, to be impossible to negotiate with,” he said, adding: “Russia’s consistent undermining and final killing of the Minsk agreements makes that crystal clear.”
THOMAS PETER ZAHNEISEN (Germany) stressed that over 10 years, Ukraine, France and Germany left no stone unturned to find a peaceful and diplomatic way forward in line with the Minsk agreements. They aimed at stopping the bloodshed and at reaching a political solution to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. However, Moscow made it impossible for diplomacy to succeed, he said, declaring: “It is Russia that launched an unprovoked war of aggression on all of Ukraine; it is Russia that recognized the separatist entities of its own making in Eastern Ukraine; it is Russia that is trying to illegally annex Ukrainian land, starting with Crimea, which we have not and will never recognize.” To end Moscow’s war of aggression and brutal occupation of Ukraine as soon as possible, Germany supports Ukraine to make full use of its inherent right of self-defence in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. In the meantime, he advocated for keeping all diplomatic channels open to work towards a just and lasting peace, commending Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “peace formula”, which takes into account the wider implications of the Russian Federation’s illegal aggression, such as the impact on food and energy security. The Russian Federation shows no willingness to enter into serious peace negotiations and, instead, portrays its illegal land grab in Ukraine as final and its acceptance as a pre-condition for peace talks, he asserted, calling on the country to cease fire and to withdraw its troops.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV (Belarus), recalling the signing of the Minsk agreements after lengthy negotiations eight years ago, said the long-awaited outcome of the talks in his country’s capital was supposed to be the basis of the peace process in Ukraine. Eight years later, Ukrainian and Western leaders are openly stating that not only were the agreements signed without any intention to implement, but also that they were actively making military preparations. Citing a former President of Ukraine who said the Minsk agreements gave that country eight years to build an army, an economy and a global pro-Ukrainian coalition, he quoted a car bumper sticker he once saw in New York: “Some politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often”. The draft resolution being submitted to the Assembly does not say a word about the destruction suffered by the inhabitants of Donbas or the revival of Nazism in Ukraine, he said. Also noting that for 15 years Belarus had been the only candidate of the Eastern European Group for a non-permanent Council member for 2024-2025, he recalled that in 2021, Slovenia filed its candidacy for the same position. Questioning the political motivation of this anti-Belarusian step, he rejected allegations that his country is a “co-aggressor”.