Ukraine's election provides opportunity to focus on future
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UK statement by Ambassador Lyall Grant to the Security Council meeting on Ukraine
Thank you, Mr President, and I thank Mr Feltman for his briefing this afternoon.
We congratulate the Ukrainian people on the success of their historic presidential elections on Sunday. The elections have been endorsed by the OSCE as having been held largely in line with Ukraine’s international commitments and to have respected fundamental freedoms. After the turmoil of recent months, this is an outstanding achievement which demonstrates the determination of the Ukrainian people to exercise their democratic rights and to set Ukraine on a new path towards stability. They have produced a government whose legitimacy cannot be questioned and that deserves the full support of the International Community.
The decisive victory of Mr Poroshenko sends a clear signal that the Ukrainian people are united in their demand for reform. We congratulate Mr Poroshenko on his election. We welcome his commitment to reach out to all regions, to normalise relations with Russia, and to work to restore stability and calm. The United Kingdom remains firmly committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the whole of Ukraine. And we look forward to working with Mr Poroshenko and the Ukrainian government in their efforts to build a safe, independent and prosperous country.
We also pay tribute to the staff of the Ukrainian election commission and to the OSCE for their tireless commitment to ensuring that the elections were a success, and particularly to those who faced threats of violence and intimidation in the East of the country.
The high turnout on Sunday offers a powerful rebuke to those illegal armed groups who sought to deny the citizens of Donetsk and Luhansk their democratic rights and who continue to pursue an armed campaign to destabilise eastern Ukraine.
Opinion polling in March showed that 79% of the people in the East of Ukraine wanted to vote in the elections. In May, despite the rising levels of intimidation against elections officials, activists and ordinary citizens, 62% still wanted to vote. It is deeply regrettable that many in Donetsk and Luhansk were prevented from doing so.
The elections gave Ukrainians the opportunity to express their views in a peaceful and democratic manner. It is telling that the response of illegal armed groups to this display of national unity was an attempt to seize control of Donetsk International Airport. While Ukraine sought a national consensus through the ballot box, these groups immediately resorted to violence.
We respect the Ukrainian Government’s right to respond to such armed attacks, to protect their citizens, and to reassert control over their sovereign territory. No country could possibly accept illegally armed insurgents taking control – by force – of public buildings and key national infrastructure such as an international airport.
The Ukrainian authorities have acted with admirable restraint in the face of repeated provocation. We continue to urge them to ensure that their security response remains measured, proportionate and respects the safety and security of non-combatants.
Since 21 February, the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are committed to deep-rooted reform of Ukraine’s political system and to make a decisive break with past corruption and injustices. The issue of granting greater autonomy to Ukraine’s regions has been on the agenda from the start. In line with this commitment, and those undertaken in Geneva on 17 April, they have embarked on an intensive effort to initiate an inclusive National Dialogue.
This process represents a genuine opportunity for all Ukrainians to address their grievances peacefully. There can therefore be no justification for armed groups to continue to press their cause through violence.
We therefore call on the insurgents to lay down their arms, renounce violence and join in this debate. And we call on the Russian Federation to take immediate action to prevent illegal crossings of insurgents and weapons across their border into Ukraine.
We are deeply concerned by two separate incidents of abductions involving monitors from the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Eastern Ukraine. We welcome the release of 11 monitors after their detention earlier today in Donetsk, but four other, who went missing on Monday, are still unaccounted for. Detention of OSCE personnel is completely unacceptable and we call for their immediate and unconditional release. The Special Monitoring Mission has a vital role to play, often under difficult circumstances and we pay tribute to their continuing work.
Sunday’s elections provide us all with an opportunity to look past the turmoil of recent months and to focus on the future.
We welcome the recent statements by the Russian Federation to respect the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their new President and their commitment to reduce the threat of further external intervention into Ukraine’s internal affairs by withdrawing their forces from the Ukrainian border. These are positive steps towards de-escalation.
But more action is needed. Continued instability is in not in the interest of the people of Ukraine, nor is it in the interests of its neighbours and those countries who value their relations with Ukraine.
The actions of illegal armed groups have resulted in scores of tragic and unnecessary deaths and the disruption of the Ukrainian economy and public services in the East. This is hurting the very people that these groups claim to represent and is denying them a voice in determining Ukraine’s future.
Following the Geneva Agreement of 17 April and the OSCE Roadmap of 7 May, we have a viable political framework in place. And Ukraine has already made much progress towards implementing these agreements, including, notably, the adoption on 20 May of the Memorandum of Peace and Concord.
Our focus must now be on promoting an inclusive, transparent and accountable national dialogue as an alternative to violent insurgency. We welcome the three rounds of dialogue that have already taken place with OSCE facilitation. This national dialogue should allow all parties to contribute their views on issues such as decentralization, local self-governance, language and national minorities, balance of powers, state-society relations, and Ukraine’s role in Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security.
The last few months have seen deep divisions in this Security Council over Ukraine. And some of those divisions will undoubtedly persist: in particular, along with the overwhelming majority of the international community, the United Kingdom will not recognise nor accept Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
However Sunday’s elections provide the Council with a basis for coming together behind some key principles: a respect for the will of the people of Ukraine; a recognition of the legitimacy of the new authorities in Ukraine; a rejection of armed insurgency and attempts to destabilise Ukraine and undermine the rule of law; and strong support for the efforts of the authorities in Ukraine to tackle the many formidable challenges that confront them in an inclusive and democratic manner.
The frameworks are in place to take forward these principles. The United Kingdom urges all Council members and the international community as a whole to join wholeheartedly in a concerted, constructive and united international approach.