CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES SITUATION IN UKRAINE
Countries denounce violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine
3 March 2014
The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon held a public meeting in which speakers discussed the crisis in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Ukraine said the overt military invasion by Russia was in breach of the United Nations Charter, represented a serious threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, jeopardized peace and stability in Europe and contravened the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on security assurances. It demanded an immediate withdrawal of all troops, combat and military equipment from its territory. Ukraine urged all Conference Members, particularly the Security Council Members, to support it in this very challenging time, to guarantee the inviolability of its borders and thus to secure peace and stability on the continent.
Russia said political issues relating to war and peace should be discussed in the Security Council, and it was inappropriate to raise them in the Conference on Disarmament. Russia spoke in detail about the origins of the crisis, which it said was provoked by armed extremist groups supported by the current authorities in Kiev. Russia stressed that the Black Sea Fleet of Russia was not interfering in the political activities of the Ukraine and that all forces without exception should work towards ensuring a return to a law-based situation.
The United Kingdom said Russia had contravened its obligations as a member of the international community and violated the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine which was not an acceptable way to conduct international affairs. The United Kingdom called on Russia to cease military action in Crimea, and said it was committed to a diplomatic response to the situation.
United States said it condemned Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory and commended the Ukraine Government in showing the utmost restraint in the face of the clear and present danger to the integrity of their State and assault on sovereignty.
The United States called on Russia to withdraw its forces, refrain from interference elsewhere in Ukraine and support international mediation.
France called upon all parties to abstain from any action likely to exacerbate tension and to jeopardise Ukraine’s territorial integrity. France called for the escalation of the crisis to be reduced and for a political process based on the respect of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, its independence and sovereignty.
Poland thanked Ukraine for bringing the issue to the attention of the Conference and said it strongly supported the involvement of the international community in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis, in particular the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Swiss chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Germany said the situation in Ukraine was the deepest crisis in Europe of the twenty-first century. Diplomacy was called for right now. Respect of international law was imperative. Germany called for refrain from any use of force. The Ukrainian people and its Government should settle the crisis with assistance from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and United Nations mechanisms.
Speaking in today’s discussion were Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, France, Poland, Russia and Germany.
The Conference on Disarmament will next meet on Tuesday, 4 March at 10 a.m. to continue its high-level segment, with statements from dignitaries of Kazakhstan, Japan, Canada, Hungary, Czech Republic and Qatar.
Ukraine said it had requested the floor because of an extraordinary situation: the overt military invasion by Russia was a breach of the United Nations Charter and international law. It represented a serious threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity and jeopardized peace and stability in Europe. On March 1 2014 the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of Russia unanimously supported the appeal of the Russian President to send a “limited contingent of military troops” of Russian armed forces into Ukraine territory. However, Russian troops had started illegal penetration into the territory of Ukraine even earlier, on 21 February. Ukraine regretted that the most recent case was the most flagrant among other breaches of Russia’s international commitments, such as the provocative territorial dispute over the ownership of Tuzla Island in October 2003 and standing economic coercion.
Russia’s latest decision violated the United Nations Charter, the Declaration of Principles of International Law of 1970, the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe of 1975, the Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Ukraine and Russia of 1997 and a number of other international treaties. A briefing note had been circulated among permanent missions and international organizations in Geneva on the guaranties of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the territory and frontiers of Ukraine, as well as a fact-sheet of Russia’s outrageous breaches of existing bilateral agreements between it and Ukraine, the Permanent Representative said.
Ukraine recalled how just 20 years ago it had made an unprecedented step and voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world, by joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State. In connection with its accession to that treaty Ukraine was provided for with the explicit guarantees of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within the existing borders in accordance with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Those guarantees were secured by the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on security assurances which was signed by Ukraine and the Guarantor States: Russia, United Kingdom and United States, and followed by declarations from France and China. In accordance with the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine had initiated international consultations in Kiev with the Foreign Ministers of the Guarantor States. The groundless refusal of Russia to participate in those consultations revealed a blatant disregard of its obligations under international law.
Ukraine strongly believed that the act of military invasion of Russia against a non-nuclear State, incidentally on the twentieth anniversary of the Budapest Memorandum, jeopardized the credibility of security assurances and discouraged States from giving up their nuclear arsenals and joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty in non-nuclear status. Ukraine reiterated its call upon Russia to exhibit restraint and to respect its territorial integrity, political independence and sovereignty. It demanded an immediate withdrawal of all troops, combat and military equipment from its sovereign territory, including that of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia, to the places of their location. It also demanded Russia’s strict adherence to their Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997, the Agreement on Status and Terms of Stationing the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the Territory of Ukraine of 1997, and other applicable international norms. Ukraine urged all Conference on Disarmament Member States, particularly the United Nations Security Council Members, to support Ukraine in this very challenging time and to do whatever possible to guarantee the inviolability of its borders and thus to secure peace and stability on its continent. The speaker urged States not to lose the chance while they still had it.
United Kingdom said Russia had contravened its obligations as a member of the international community and violated the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the independent state of Ukraine. That was not an acceptable way to conduct international affairs. The United Kingdom called on Russia to cease military action in Crimea. The United Kingdom said it was willing to engage on the matter on the basis of the Budapest Memorandum and was committed to a diplomatic response to the situation. It was in close contact with Russia and the United States and other international partners. The United Kingdom called on all parties to think about their actions and work to lower, not escalate, tensions. Yesterday evening the British Foreign Secretary discussed with the United Nations Secretary-General the need for a peaceful diplomatic process to prevent the escalation of the Ukraine crisis and emphasized that the United Nations had an important role to play. The Foreign Secretary was now in Kiev meeting with senior members of the Ukrainian Government, who he would strongly advise to continue with its current approach of not rising to provocations. The Conference could not operate in isolation from the real world; actions taken from beyond this chamber and words spoken had a very real impact on the security environment in which we all live. The events in Ukraine bore witness to that. The security environment should not be used as a pretext for inactivity, rather it should bring renewed urgency to the work of the Conference.
United States condemned Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in full contraventions of Russia’s obligations under the United Nations Charter, Helsinki Final Act, its 1997 Military Basing Agreement with Ukraine and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, as stated by Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend. Russia’s action was a threat to the peace and security of Ukraine and to the wider region. The United States commended the Ukraine Government in showing the utmost restraint in the face of the clear and present danger to the integrity of their State and assault on sovereignty. As President Obama said, the United States called for Russia to withdraw its forces back to bases, refrain from interference elsewhere in Ukraine and support international mediation.
France said France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and called upon all parties to abstain from any action likely to exacerbate tension and to jeopardise Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The North Atlantic Council and the G7 Ministers yesterday made public very clear press releases in which they reminded everyone of the existing law including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum signed between the Ukraine and the three depository States of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As has been reminded, in 1994, France as a nuclear weapon State published a declaration on Ukraine that was still fully in effect. France called for the escalation of the crisis to be reduced and for a political process based on the respect of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, its independence and sovereignty, and based upon the values of democracy, the respect of human rights, the rights of minorities and of the rule of law and that may meet the democratic hopes of the Ukrainian people.
Poland thanked Ukraine for bringing the issue to the attention of the Conference. Poland said it was very concerned about Russia’s military operation in Crimea that constituted a clear violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty, serious breach of international law and a threat to international peace and security. Poland strongly appealed for respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for full observation of international law as well as the principals and commitments of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Poland strongly supported the involvement of the international community in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis, in particular the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Swiss chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Russia noted none of the high-level speakers at the morning plenary had referred to the political situation in the Ukraine, because the Conference on Disarmament was a place to deal with disarmament. Political issues relating to war and peace should be discussed in the Security Council, and it was inappropriate to raise them in the Conference. Russia said it shared one phrase used by the Ukraine – “extraordinary situation” – which was indeed the case. Russia said in order to make a full assessment of the current situation in Ukraine one had to return to the very heart of the problem and where it all started. The crisis was provoked by actions in Kiev by armed extremist groups supported by the current authorities in Kiev, or groups that the current authorities were unable to control.
From the very beginning of the conflict, radical elements of Maidan had resorted to torture and other cruel treatment, arbitrary detention and other illegal activities. They also committed acts of cruelty on unarmed representatives of law enforcement agencies.
Peaceful demonstrators carried out those unacceptable acts, using the slogans of their spiritual leaders, including Stepan Bandera, a henchman of World War II fascist forces who participated in mass killings not just of Russians and Ukrainians but of Jews and other people. The violence committed by fascist elements in Kiev was being carried out with the support of Western States and their parliaments, who were closing their eyes to those acts. Not a single voice of condemnation by those supporting the so-called democratic forces in the West had been heard.
Russia spoke about the agreement of 21 February 2014 signed by Ukrainian President Yanukovych and representatives of the opposition, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland, in which the Government and the Opposition mutually agreed to refrain from using force and to hand over their weapons. However, it had not been implemented by the opposition and furthermore, the new parliament had repealed the law on the quality of languages, which was not accepted by some eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, including Crimea. In light of the unpredictable aggressive acts by the extremist forces now ruling Kiev people really feared for their lives, and were creating to protect civilians from the acts committed by armed groups being sent to Crimea and other areas by EuroMaidan activists and their supporters. In response the representatives of the Crimea region had taken control and were not allowing extremists from Kiev to impose their rule.
Russia stressed that the Black Sea Fleet of Russia was not interfering in the political activities of the Ukraine. All movements were the formations of the fleet; the armed vehicles linked to the fleet were only there to protect military installations in Crimea and other areas from radicals and extremists. Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov referred to that situation in his statement today to the Human Rights Council. At the same time it seemed that some people in Kiev were still trying to use force to resolve the situation. On 1 March unidentified armed people from Kiev tried to take over the building of Ministry of Interior of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, resulting in victims. Consequently the President of the Council of Ministers of Crimea asked the President of Russia, Mr. Putin, to provide support and assistance to return normalcy to Crimea. That appeal was a result of the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of the citizens of Russia, compatriots and personnel of armed forces of Russia currently located in Ukraine with international agreements in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
The Council of the Russian Federation approved the decision to provide support, but it did not mean the immediate use of armed forces, but was simply an adequate response to the growing threat from ultra nationalist forces to Russian citizens and compatriots in Ukraine. Without questioning the sovereignty of Ukraine, Russia believed that it was highly irresponsible to exacerbate further the already difficult situation in Crimea and in Ukraine. Russia duly believed that all forces without exception should work towards ensuring that the situation returned to a law-based situation and to fully implement the agreement reached on 21 February.
Ukraine replied that they had heard a very biased and politicized view of the events. Ukraine did not like to politicize the Conference on Disarmament, but since the Budapest Memorandum was a very important agreement in the field of disarmament, they had brought the issue to the gathering today. Attention was drawn to the non-paper circulated by Ukraine on the violation of its laws by Russian troops. With regard to the aforementioned agreement on the settlement of the crisis, the former president of Ukraine, Mr. Yanukovych, had left the country and had not signed into force the law reinstating the 2004 Constitution, which would bring the country back to a more balanced Presidential-type of republic. The legislation signed on 21 February 2014 was a key element of the settlement of the crisis. It had already entered into force and continued to be a roadmap for the de-escalation of the political tension. Its implementation was a top priority for the Government, with human rights at its core.
Regarding the legitimacy of the current leadership of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine said that the acting President of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, had issued a decree concerning the legitimacy of Sergei Aksyonov as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In answer to mention of extremists in the Ukrainian Government, the current opposition and the Communist Party of Ukraine had explicitly decided not to take part in the new Government but they did support it, as it was voted in by more than a constitutional majority of the parliament – 331 Members of Parliament. Furthermore three Government Ministers represented Crimea. Ukraine was very committed to the peaceful settlement of the situation and to do whatever possible to remove tension. At the same time, urgent practical measures must be taken to guarantee its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Germany said it was deeply concerned by events happening in Ukraine, which was one of the reasons why the European Council of Ministers was meeting right now in Brussels, to make a contribution towards a peaceful settlement of the crisis. Let us be clear, the delegate said, we faced the deepest crisis in Europe of the twenty-first century right now. Diplomacy was called for right now. Respect of international law was imperative and Germany called for refrain from any use of force. A fait accompli should not be created, it should be left to the Ukrainian people and its Government to settle the crisis with assistance from established Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and United Nations mechanisms.
For use of the information media; not an official record