"The UK is deeply alarmed by the escalation of Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine"

Statement by Ambassador Lyall Grant, UK Mission to the UN, at the Security Council Meeting on Ukraine

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


I thank Mr Feltman for his briefing this afternoon.

The United Kingdom is deeply alarmed by the escalation of Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine over the past 72 hours.

Formed units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are now directly engaged in fighting inside Ukraine against the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These units consist of well over 1,000 regular Russian troops equipped with armoured vehicles, artillery and air defence systems.

This incursion is a clear violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation. It is a clear breach of international law and a contravention of the Charter of the United Nations.

Russian denials of this reality fit into the pattern of Russia’s dishonest approach to Ukraine from the very beginning of this crisis.

We all remember that Russia denied that it had any extra military personnel on the ground in Crimea right up until its illegal annexation with military force.

Russia has denied providing military support to the separatists. In fact Russia has been transferring significant quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery to separatist groups for several months. As of today, the separatist arsenal includes up to 100 Main Battle Tanks; 80 Armoured Personnel Carriers; 100 MANPADs; 500 Anti-Tank weapons; and over 100 artillery pieces. Almost all of these have been supplied directly by Russia since the conflict started.

In the past three weeks, this support has increased significantly – no doubt in response to Ukraine’s success in liberating territory from the separatists. On 7 August, 50 vehicles, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and BM-21 GRAD Multiple Rocket Launchers crossed from Russia into Ukraine at the Chervonopartisansk border crossing.

On 15 August a convoy of 23 armoured personnel carriers crossed close to where the Russian humanitarian convoy was awaiting customs clearance. The following day a further convoy of 84 military vehicles crossed the border.

The evidence is overwhelming. And plenty of it comes from the Russian military itself. On 13 July armoured vehicles flying Russian flags were photographed by a Russian serviceman crossing the Ukrainian border at Izvaryne in Donetsk.

On 31 July, a Russian soldier posted photographs of himself operating military hardware inside Ukraine. His photographs included images of himself inside an SA-11 missile launch system – the very same weapon that appears to have been used to shoot down MH-17.

Russia has also denied that it has shelled Ukrainian territory.

In fact, over just five days between 14 and 19 August Ukrainian armed forces were fired on from positions inside Russian territory on at least 21 separate occasions from weapons systems ranging from heavy mortars to GRAD rockets.

And now we see irrefutable evidence of regular Russian forces operating inside Ukraine.

For some months Russia has deployed small groups of SPETsNAZ Special Forces, operating under the command of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, in support of the separatists. These forces have been responsible for coordinating attacks, and facilitating communications, equipment transfers and personnel. Their presence is clear from their communications. Over a single 24 hour period from 29 to 30 July alone there were 45 separate instances of Russian secure military radio transmissions originating from inside Ukrainian territory.

Today NATO has released satellite imagery taken on 21 and 23 August of Russian self-propelled artillery units inside Ukraine in the vicinity of Krasnodon in Luhansk province.

On Monday, 10 Russian paratroopers belonging to the 331st Regiment of the 98th Svirsk Airborne Division were captured near the village of Dzerkalne - 20km inside Ukrainian territory. We have satellite imagery confirming the deployment of Russian armoured vehicles supported by artillery south of Donetsk close to this location. Today another Russian soldier, Petr Khokhlov, serving with the 9th Motor Rifle Brigade, was captured in Luhansk.

It is simply not credible for Russia and its proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk to keep claiming that these serving members of the Russian armed forces are in Ukraine ‘by accident’ or ‘on holiday’.

Nor is it credible for Russia to continue claiming to the whole world, including to the Russian people, that Russian soldiers are not present on Ukrainian territory. The increasing number of Russian casualties and captured soldiers gives the lie to that.

Russia can no longer pretend that it is not a direct party to this conflict, indeed this conflict would no longer exist without direct Russian military involvement in support of the separatists.

President Putin has said that Russia is willing to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. These words have little value against this clear pattern of escalating Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine.

Violating international law and the UN Charter in such a brazen manner is not compatible with Russia’s responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council. We again call on Russia to immediately withdraw its military forces from Ukraine, stop its flow of weapons to the separatists, and instead help to secure a political solution to this crisis.

Published 28 August 2014