The United Nations Security Council held another meeting on Ukraine on June 24. Formally the session was devoted to the report on the situation in Ukraine to be presented by Mr. Taye Zerihun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. He put it plainly and impartially as usual, «Today, in a welcome development and one that will not only help reduce tensions but also improve the chances for a negotiated settlement, President Putin asked the Russian parliament to revoke the authorization to send troops to Ukraine», Mr. Zerihoun stated. (1) He emphasized the initiative will facilitate the reduction of tension and raise the chances for peaceful crisis management through talks. That’s how the whole situation in Ukraine was highlighted.
The Assistant Secretary remembered that on June 20 the Ambassador of Ukraine formally presented to the Secretary General the peace plan offered by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko destined to settle the conflict in the east of the country. Mr. Zerihoun highlighted the plan which included de-escalatory measures such as amnesty for those who did not participate in ‘serious crimes’; disarmament; decentralization of power and early local and parliamentary elections; and a programme for creation of jobs in the region.
His inadequacy capped the climax as he informed the United Nations Security Council members that, «There are encouraging signs towards de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, and political and diplomatic steps are beginning to emerge towards the resolution of the crisis». He said this is due in large part to the initiative taken by President Petro Poroshenko since his inauguration on 7 June to find a peaceful, lasting resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, as well as to the unrelenting efforts of the international community. At the same time, the President – upon the advice of his military commanders that the border with Russia has been secured – announced the start on 20 June of a week-long unilateral ceasefire aimed at giving armed militia a window of opportunity to disarm. The armed militia groups have agreed to reciprocate the ceasefire, despite previously rejecting the President's offer and continuing their offensive, noted Mr. Zerihoun. Also, peace talks have reportedly started with representatives of armed groups in eastern Ukraine. «Overall, the ceasefire is holding», he stated, adding that the UN expects all sides to live up to the ceasefire commitment and to leave the door open for effective negotiation and mediation toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis. By saying ‘armed groups» he meant the people of Ukraine’s south-east. The people’s self-defense units agreed to hold fire, no matter they had refused to do it before and wanted to continue the offensive. Zerihoun did not tell the truth and got around the question on what offensive he meant and who was to advance where.
The Western members of Security Council never made any real attempt to tackle the problem of Ukraine and the United Nations Security Council’s sessions become more like routine propaganda stunts. For instance, the Ukraine’s representative Sergeev raised the ballyhoo about Russia’s concentrating forces near the border areas. According to him, there are multiple facts confirming the deliveries of tanks, MLRS, portable air defense systems and mortars to the terrorists operating in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He assured the government of Ukraine is doing everything possible for maintaining control, law and order while rendering aid to those who are needy. Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin pointed out that some Council members had not objectively evaluated the situation in Ukraine. He categorically refuted threats that had been made against the Russian Federation during the meeting. Without a ceasefire, there would be no agreement on a solution, he stressed. On the basis of the ceasefire, dialogue must arise to find compromises that respected all parties. Any solution must ensure that people living in the south and east of Ukraine felt they were an integral part of the country. He underscored that he valued the negotiations taking place in Donetsk and hoped the ceasefire would be respected by all parties. However, he went on to say, the peace plan was not viable or realistic, calling for a political settlement to the situation based on the Geneva statement and OSCE road map. Many of the Russian Federation's initiatives had been met with obstructionism from western colleagues. The Ukrainian crisis had directly followed the violent and unconstitutional coup d’état in February. The ceasefire was constantly being violated; including shelling that was reaching his country, wounding people and destroying buildings. There was an unabated flow of refugees to the Russian Federation and the humanitarian corridors promised by President Poroshenko had yet to be established. The majority of refugees were living with friends and family in the Russian Federation, although currently, there were more than 220 welcome centres that had been set up along the border, including tent cities that were home to 19,000 people. But his words did not bother the United Nations Security Council. No other member said anything about how this exodus matches with what Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic and Tayé – Brook Zerihoun told the Council members.
It was the third report by Assistant Secretary-General Šimonovic, so I’d like to say more about it. On June 18 a new report of United Nations Mission to Ukraine was presented describing the events in the period of May 7 to June 7. What did Simonovic and his fellow human rights activists say about the mass crimes committed against civilian population?
The third report was no different from the previous ones. The information was filtered to fit the conclusions prepared in advance. The blame for bloodshed is shifted to the Donetsk and Luhansk self-defense formations. The report does not contain any impartial assessment of the crimes committed by Kiev using aviation, artillery and armor against civilians. The United Nations Mission did its best not to mention the cases of mass murder during the «anti-terrorist operation» in Donbass. It never said anything about the use of internationally forbidden weapons and ways to wage war. The report does not mention the actions of National Guard and the mercenaries of Azov and Dnepr battalions who are involved in gross violations of international law.
True, there was some progress on highlighting some facts related to what happened in Odessa on May 2. The observers admitted that Pravy Sector militants took place in the bloody events and they killed those who tried to leave the burning building. But it was not partial. They tried to justify the actions of law enforcement agencies responsible for dozens of victims who lost their lives, the use of poisonous substances is not mentioned in the report, the death toll statistics are sexed up to reduce the toll.
It should be pointed out that the United Nations human rights activists affirmed in the hypocritical and brazen way that the ‘anti-terrorist operation» was conducted in accordance with the international norms. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Mr. Lukasevych said, «The attempt to shift all the responsibility for the bloodshed in the East of Ukraine to the insurgent forces of Donetsk and Lugansk without providing any proof, is unacceptable. At the same time, there is no objective assessment of the Kiev’s criminal actions, which leads to military action, including using aviation, heavy artillery and armoured vehicles, against civilians. The observers carefully avoided mentioning the large number of civilian deaths as a result of the punitive operation in Donbass. There has been no condemnation of the actions by the National Guard and mercenary battalions Azov, Dnieper and others, which violate norms of international humanitarian law. We are especially outraged about the hypocritical recommendation of the Ukrainian authorities to organise their counter-terrorism operation «according to international standards». In fact, this can be interpreted as an indulgence to continue the elimination of civilians and escalate the conflict. It is strange to hear such things from persons, who position themselves as defenders of human rights, especially in light of the recent appeals of the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to stop the violence». (2)
Actually the report appears to be more of propaganda paper in comparison with the two previous ones. For instance the report states that «The most serious human rights challenges were occurring in eastern Ukraine, he said, noting that an estimated 423 people had been killed. There had also been an increase in arms and in recruitment for armed groups. The self-proclaimed « Donetsk People’s Republic» had recognized the presence within its ranks of Russian Federation citizens, including from Chechnya and other North Caucasus republics of that country. Abductions and detentions by armed groups also remained worrying as lawlessness spread, he said, adding that human rights abuses had increased alongside common criminality. Some 222 cases of abductions and detentions had been documented since 13 April, and of those, four people had been killed, 81 remained in detention and 137 had been released. There had been an increase in enforced disappearances and excessive use of force, leading to casualties among the general population. He said that his Office was in the process of verifying allegations that security forces could have taken measures to prevent those casualties, stressing the urgent need for the Government to ensure that its armed forces refrained from using excessive force and that its ongoing security operations were in line with international human rights standards at all times». The affirmations by the Donetsk Republic officials of the presence of Russian Federation nationals, including the Chechens and people from other Caucasian republics sound especially dubious. (3)
In their propaganda fervor Simonoivic and his team forgot that their mandate had limitations so they went as far as to give their assessments of Russian laws. The authors write about the deterioration of the situation outside Ukraine. The report described the situation in Crimea as «a legal limbo», he said. Although Ukrainian laws were supposed to remain in force, legal institutions in the region were already being required to comply with the legislation of the Russian Federation. The result was that some 15,000 judicial cases remained in legal limbo. Additionally, the Crimean Tatar population faced limitations on their freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and religion. The United Nations human rights teams had been defusing tensions through its impartial reporting on the human rights situation. It had been learned just yesterday that the proposed peace plan and unilateral ceasefire announced recently by President Poroshenko was bearing fruit, he said. Armed groups would observe a ceasefire until Friday, which would create a window of opportunity for human rights and humanitarian confidence-building measures, he said.
Simonovic say the situation in Crimea is worsened because the pro-Ukrainian citizens are oppressed. There is a legal vacuum in the peninsula because freedoms are not observed in violation of resolution 68/262 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. First, the resolution N262 does not envision any restrictions on Russian laws; it cannot do it in theory. The affirmation that the Russia law hinders the realization of fundamental human rights and main freedoms is nothing else but substantiation for not recognizing Simonovic as a UN official anymore. There have been precedents. (4)
Of course, Simonovic is not acting alone. By presenting this report UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay openly sided with the criminals. As her Office (OHCHR) released its third report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, High Commissioner Navi Pillay called on armed groups operating in Donetsk and Luhansk to «stop taking themselves, and the people living in their regions, down this dead end, which is leading simply to misery, destruction, displacement and economic deprivation». The new report describes the breakdown of law and order in the areas held by armed groups in the country’s east – with increasing evidence of abductions, detentions, torture, and killings – as well as a number of «worrying trends» emerging in Crimea. As one can see Pillay openly justifies the criminal actions committed by Ukrainian authorities.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon demonstratively expressed his support for Ukrainian chasteners. Of all the tragic events that have taken place recently in Ukraine he expressed sorrow only on the occasion of the Ukrainian military aircraft hit! (5)
It would be hard to perceive any more shamelessly egregious support for the punitive action against the Ukraine’s on the part of a diplomat. It should be remembered what he has failed to condemn. He demonstratively refused to condemn the attack against the Russian embassy. It evoked direct questions on the part of Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin. (6) He stressed that this is the case when the old tradition is breached. Even the killing of Russian journalist was condemned by UNESCO only. (7) But even after what happened the head of UNESCO went as far as to confirm its loyalty and say that all parties to the conflict must respect the status of a journalist. How unbiased!
On June 20 the Russian Federation presented a new draft resolution on Ukraine. The previous draft was proposed on June 12. The major amendments are related to tragic events exacerbating the situation in the country’s south-east. Today the discussions are going on. There was some delay related to the peace plan proposed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (8) and the talks started in Donetsk on June 23.
The Russia’s stance was made public on June 24 at the United Nations Security Council’s session by the Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. He said Russia positively views the fact that the first consultations started between the Ukraine’s government and the leaders of Ukrainian south-east self-defense formations, including the presence of Russia ambassador and a representative of OSCE.
The talks have started though the initial plan offered by Poroshenko did not envisage any negotiations. No wonder the people in the east are cautious – they have no reason to trust Kiev. We are sure that without taking practical steps and direct talks the peace plan will not live up to expectations, it won’t be realistic and will be doomed to failure, as Churkin put it.
All these actions have not stopped the humanitarian tragedy. Before the new Russian draft was circulated, the Security Council received a briefing by UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on the situation in Ukraine. Amos told council members by videoconference that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating and could deteriorate further. She said that if there is no political settlement, there could be a humanitarian crisis, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the briefing was closed. Churkin told journalists that the information she presented proved that towns and villages in the east are being attacked daily with artillery, tanks and planes, tha «hundreds of people including children were killed in and around the cities of Luhansk and Slavyansk», and that many towns have no drinking water because energy and water supplies have been targeted. He said 60,000 Ukrainian refugees are in Russia. Amos told the Council that 34,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes, including 10,000 from Crimea, and that 4,600 Ukrainians have applied for asylum or refugee status in Russia, UN diplomats said. According to him, Amos presented a comprehensive briefing impartially highlighting the situation.
It’s getting harder to conceal the scale of the tragedy taking place in the south-east of Ukraine. It is becoming a tall order even for those members of United Nations Security Council who sincerely side with the international criminals waging war against civilians. Sooner or later they will have to put the Russian draft resolution to the vote.