Thank you Mr President.
The United Kingdom voted in favour of this resolution because of the importance of providing full Security Council backing for the agreements reached in Minsk on 5 and 19 September 2014 and on 12 February of this year.
These agreements must now be implemented comprehensively and according to the agreed timelines in order to secure a sustainable and peaceful resolution of the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Over 5,400 people have lost their lives in this conflict, and over 1.5 million have been displaced. The parties must commit to and invest in this opportunity for peace.
We welcome the intensive diplomatic efforts that have brought us to this point. But agreements have been reached before. This time we must see commitments translated into action and full delivery of the obligations that have been undertaken.
The ceasefire has now been in place for two and half days. OSCE reporting suggests that it has been respected in the majority of the Donbas. However, intense fighting continues around Debaltseve, where heavy shelling and street-by-street fighting have resulted in scores of casualties. This flagrant disregard of the ceasefire is deeply concerning and risks undermining the Minsk package in its entirety. The fighting for Debaltseve must stop and any detained soldier must be treated humanely.
It is totally unacceptable that separatist leaders have made statements claiming that the ceasefire did not apply to Debaltseve, where they were clearly intent on making further territorial gains, and it is deeply concerning that the OSCE monitoring mission has not been given access to the town. The press statement that this Council has just agreed makes clear our collective grave concern over Debaltseve and our unified call for OSCE access.
The actions in and around Debaltseve are not the actions of a party interested in peace. We recall how Russian-backed separatist offensives brought to an end the ceasefire agreed in September, a cynical effort to undermine the September Minsk agreements and create new realities on the ground.
So we call on Russia to use its influence on the separatists to cease their onslaught against this town and abide by their commitments. It is vital that the ceasefire is respected in full and upheld across all of eastern Ukraine.
But the ceasefire is only the first step in a series of obligations set out in the Minsk package. We also expect to see the withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides over the next two weeks, in order to create an effective security zone. As the Minsk package makes clear: this process should be facilitated, monitored and verified by the OSCE.
It is welcome that the Ukrainian armed forces have already set out their withdrawal plan to the monitoring mission. We call on the separatists to show the same commitment to this crucial element of the Minsk package.
In parallel, we look forward to progress being made towards local elections, special status legislation, the release of all hostages and the urgent distribution of humanitarian assistance on the basis of an international mechanism.
The resolution we have adopted today reaffirms resolution 2166 on the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, in which this Council demanded that those responsible be held to account and that all States cooperate with their efforts to establish accountability. Let me be clear that the amnesty provided for in the Minsk package does not apply to those found responsible for that dreadful crime.
This Council must scrutinise closely the implementation of the Minsk package and use its influence to prevent any repetition of what we saw last autumn.
We call on Russia to deliver on the promises it has made. Russia has committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements at the highest level. That commitment needs to be reflected in actions on the ground. We also call on Russia to use its undoubted influence over the separatists to ensure that they meet their commitments in full. And, until we see such actions, international pressure must remain on Russia and its separatist proxies. This Council must play its full role in ensuring that there is complete compliance so that stability can be restored and to guarantee the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This must include regular and close monitoring of the ceasefire and the willingness to take further steps in the event that it is not implemented.
Finally Mr President you’ll recall this crisis began with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. As we approach the first anniversary, we must not let events in eastern Ukraine distract us from Russia’s blatant disregard for the UN Charter through its illegal annexation of Crimea.
I thank you.