Thank you Mr President and I congratulate the Republic of Korea for assuming the Presidency of the Security Council in the month of May and I thank Ambassador Ogwu and the Nigerian team for the admirable way that they stewarded the Security Council during April.
Thank you for convening this meeting. The Russian Federation has described events this morning in eastern Ukraine as a punitive military operation against peaceful activists. This is, yet again, a gross distortion of the facts.
The Ukrainian government has the right and indeed the responsibility to uphold the rule of law and protect its citizens in its own territory. Of course, in doing so, it should at all times, do so in a proportionate and measured way.
The actions undertaken this morning by Ukrainian security forces in and around Slovyansk appear to have been just that, in an effort to relieve the city from armed groups sponsored and controlled by Russia that have been terrorizing the local population.
We urge them to continue to take every effort to ensure that the risks to civilians are minimized.
But let’s be absolutely clear: there is no Council member sitting around this table that would allow its towns to be overrun by armed militants. There is none of us that would abrogate responsibility for the protection of citizens on our own territory who are being intimidated and brutalised by heavily-armed groups backed by a neighbouring country.
Proportionate is not the same as passive.
The scale of Russian hypocrisy is breathtaking. Russia stoutly supports and indeed arms the most repressive regimes in the world, notably Syria, a regime which brutally represses dissent without any sense of restraint or concern for the protection of civilians. Russia’s synthetic indignation of Ukraine’s proportionate and measured actions convinces no one.
Russian claims that these are peaceful activists are simply not credible. Peaceful activists do not have the means or the capabilities to shoot down three Ukrainian military helicopters, reportedly using MANPADs. The use of such sophisticated weaponry against Ukrainian forces reaffirms our assessment that the armed groups in east Ukraine include professionals funded, equipped and directed by Russia.
The situation in east Ukraine has continued to deteriorate. Armed groups stormed the Prosecutor’s Office in Donetsk yesterday, increasing further the number of government buildings occupied since the 17 April Geneva agreement.
We remain gravely concerned by the kidnap and continued detention of the OSCE Vienna Document inspectors and call on Russia to condemn this criminal act and use its influence over those who are holding these inspectors to bring about their immediate safe and unconditional release.
We are deeply disturbed by reports of abductions and intimidation of journalists reporting from east Ukraine. This Council discussed the protection of journalists in an open debate last year. One of the clearest conclusions from that was the central importance of safeguarding a free media so that facts and the truth can be told. Instead what we are seeing in Ukraine is a torrent of disinformation and propaganda.
Three days ago, all the members of this Council emphasised the importance of the 17 April agreement and its implementation. Abiding by that agreement remains the best way to de-escalate a volatile and dangerous situation in east Ukraine. It is regrettable, therefore, that Russia’s Presidential press secretary said this morning that Russia did not think it any longer possible to implement the 17 April agreement.
Worsening instability in Ukraine is in no-one’s long term interests.
We urge Russia to step back from such rhetoric, to desist from their inflammatory propaganda and to commit to de-escalating a perilous situation.
We urge Russia to throw its full weight behind the 17 April agreement and to rein in the militant armed groups which it supports and which are responsible for the current crisis.
I thank you.