We meet today in the most tragic of circumstances. Yesterday Malaysia Airlines passenger plane MH17 appears to have been shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all passengers and crew. Our deepest, most heartfelt condolences go to the families of the victims and to the people and governments of those countries affected. In the United Kingdom, we are mourning the loss of at least 9 British citizens who were passengers on this flight. This is a dark moment for the international community. The senseless violence unleashed by armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine has reached monstrous proportions.
The precise circumstances and causes of this tragic event must be established quickly and beyond any doubt. As the Council has affirmed this morning, this will require a full, thorough and independent international investigation in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation, which provides the international legal framework for the investigation of air accidents should have a central role, ensuring that there is credible and independent international involvement. We welcome the indications from the Ukrainian authorities that they want international investigators to join their efforts. The United Kingdom will provide whatever assistance is necessary to support this investigation.
The immediate priority has to be for investigators to gain access to the crash site so that they can start their work. They must be able to operate unhindered and securely. There must be no interference or tampering with the evidence. Armed separatist groups in the vicinity must allow such access. Despite assurances that were made yesterday evening, we understand that this has not yet happened. We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to ensure that this happens. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, already present in eastern Ukraine, can play a key role in facilitating and safeguarding this access.
Early indications are that Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile. MH17 is not the first aircraft that has been brought down in this area. On 14 June armed separatists claimed responsibility for, indeed gloated publicly over, the shooting down of a Ukrainian IL-76 transport aircraft with the loss of all 49 on board. On 14 July armed separatists shot down an AN-26 transport aircraft with a surface to air missile and on 16 July a Ukrainian Sukoi-25 jet was shot down in circumstances which have yet to be fully clarified.
We have to ask searching questions about why we are now confronting this tragic situation. Russian officials have claimed that armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine represent a spontaneous local insurgency. We know that this is not the case. We know that the 3 leading figures of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic are Russian citizens and have come from outside Ukraine. We know that weapons, equipment and logistical support has been systematically provided to armed separatist groups by Russia including:
- up to 100 MANPADS
- 15-25 main battle tanks
- not to mention artillery pieces, rocket launchers and other armoured vehicles
The United Kingdom urges Russia to reflect carefully on the situation they have created. We urge Russia to cease its policy of supporting armed separatist groups and their violent actions, of destabilising a neighbouring country, of generating displacement and social and economic hardship. Let us hear today clear and unequivocal condemnation from Russia of the actions of these armed groups. These armed groups do not represent the people of Ukraine. Without Russian support, they would wither.
It is the Council’s responsibility to respond to such tragedies by drawing the right lessons and working together with commitment and conviction to prevent their repetition. It is clear where responsibility lies: with the senseless violence of armed separatists and with those who have supported, equipped and advised them. The Council must be united in condemning these actions; and in demanding that these groups disarm, desist from violence and intimidation and engage in dialogue through the democratic mechanisms that are available to them. They have been given the opportunities to do so, most recently through President Poroshenko’s peace plan. These opportunities have all been spurned.
In the Press Statement agreed earlier today, the members of the Security Council expressed their condolences and called for an international investigation and appropriate accountability. That is welcome but it is not enough. The Council must go further. It should come together behind a clear demand that the armed separatist groups should lay down their arms and pursue whatever political legitimate objectives they may have through exclusively peaceful and democratic means; that the flow of arms, fighters and logistical support to the armed separatists is fully halted and the borders secured. In the light of yesterday’s tragedy, any other course of action would be unconscionable.
I thank you.