Statement by the Chief Monitor of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine on events in Ukraine (17.02.2015)
Today the OSCE SMM visited the temporary headquarters of Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC). The Deputy Chief Monitor was present at four rounds of videoconference discussions, in which representatives of the General Staff of Ukraine, members of the so-called "DPR" and "LPR," and Russian and Ukrainian heads of the JCCC took part.
The Chief Monitor, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan welcomed efforts to engage in dialogue. "I am, however, profoundly disturbed by reports of what is going on in Debaltseve, where until recently the JCCC itself was based," he said.
"Five months ago the sides agreed on the need for a comprehensive ceasefire and to prohibit attacking moves, they also defined the line of contact between their forces. Five days ago they agreed to an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. Today the SMM intended to visit Debaltseve to implement its mandate. In light of reports of shelling and small-arms fire in the area, the SMM asked the sides to confirm to each other their adherence to the ceasefire, with a view to allowing access to the town. I regret that they were not all able to do this. As a result, the SMM’s mandate has been compromised."
"I am especially concerned about the civilian population of the town. The sides have a duty to them as well, and to each other to adhere strictly to the ceasefire. I condemn any attempts to create new facts on the ground, and so to change the basis on which the latest package of measures has been agreed.
"Thus far, the so-called ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’—citing security fears—have effectively denied access to the SMM to Debaltseve. We insist that they immediately cease the offensive. We insist upon unfettered access to Debaltseve and to the full security zone.
"The SMM will return to Soledar on 18 February and will travel from there to Debaltseve as soon as the sides can confirm to each other their intention to honour the ceasefire agreement. Failure to do so will have grave consequences."
Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Ukraine (15.02.2015)
"The Secretary-General welcomes the start of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine as agreed on 12 February under the ‘Package of Measures for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements’.
He notes that the cease-fire appears to be largely holding, giving a desperately needed respite to civilians trapped in the area and contributing to a swift and peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, the Secretary-General is seriously concerned over reports of continued instances of hostilities including in Debaltseve and reiterates his call for all parties to abide by the cease-fire without exception.
The Secretary-General reminds all of the significance of the cease-fire, which forms the basis for the broader implementation of the Minsk Agreements and to restore peace and stability to Ukraine."
Security Council Press Statement on Situation in Debaltseve (17.02.2015)
"The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Liu Jieyi (China):
The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the continued fighting in and around Debaltseve, Ukraine, which has resulted in numerous civilian casualties.
The members of the Security Council regretted that, despite the announcement of a ceasefire on 15 February, violence has continued in recent days in some parts of eastern Ukraine.
The members of the Security Council called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and abide by commitments agreed in Minsk, including facilitating access for the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe] Special Monitoring Mission to monitor and verify compliance with the Minsk agreements.
The members of the Security Council further called on all parties to treat detained individuals humanely."
Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (17.02.2015)
"Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the situation in the eastern part of the country. The Vice President strongly condemned the violation of the ceasefire by separatist forces acting in concert with Russian forces, in and around the town of Debaltseve. The leaders both noted the ceasefire violation was confirmed by the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Vice President also strongly condemned Russia and the separatists for blocking access to Debaltseve by OSCE monitors, which is allowing the separatists to continue their attacks without inhibition. The Vice President agreed with President Poroshenko that if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreements, including the most recent agreement signed on February 12, the costs to Russia will rise."
Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini on the violation of the ceasefire in Debaltseve (18.02.2015)
"The actions by the Russia-backed separatists in Debaltseve are a clear violation of the ceasefire. The separatists must stop all military activities. Russia and the separatists have to immediately and fully implement the commitments agreed to in Minsk, in line with yesterday’s UN Security Council resolution, starting with the respect of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of all heavy weapons.
Furthermore, the EU calls for immediate access of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to assume its monitoring and verification functions in and around Debaltseve and to any other site the Mission needs to go.
Safe passage for all those who want to leave the area must also be ensured. The EU stands ready to take appropriate action in case the fighting and other negative developments in violation of the Minsk agreements continue."
Opening remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Latvian President
(…) "The Minsk agreement is the best opportunity for a lasting peaceful solution.
What really matters now is implementation of the ceasefire and the Minsk agreement.
Today I am deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve.
The refusal of the separatists to respect the cease-fire threatens the agreement.
As does their denial of access to the area for the OSCE monitors.
Russian forces, artillery and air defence units as well as command and control elements are still active in Ukraine. Russia has supported the separatists with forces, training and advanced weapons.
And there has been a steady buildup of tanks and armoured vehicles across the border from Russia to Ukraine.
I urge Russia to end its support for the separatists.
And withdraw its forces and military equipment from eastern Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreement.
The separatists should halt all attacks immediately.
And allow OSCE monitors full access.
I support the call by the UN Security Council to all parties to implement their Minsk commitments.
We continue to believe that this agreement is the best way forward to a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine."
Press statement following Russian–Hungarian talks and answers to journalists’ questions (17.02.2015)
(…) QUESTION: Mr President, what is your assessment of the situation now that two days have passed since the Minsk agreement on a ceasefire took effect? Things do not seem to be going so smoothly, especially when you look at what is happening in Debaltsevo. There, at any rate, there is no ceasefire in place.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, we place great importance on the agreements reached in Minsk. Perhaps not everyone has noticed this yet, but what is particularly important in these agreements is that the authorities in Kiev are essentially agreeing to carry out far-reaching constitutional reform in order to satisfy demands for independence—call it what you will, decentralisation, autonomy or federalisation—in different parts of the country. This is a very important and very significant decision on the part of Ukraine’s authorities.
But there is another side involved too, and if the Donbass region’s representatives have agreed to take part in this reform, this means that we are seeing some support for progress along this road of developing Ukraine’s statehood.
Of course, the quicker everything is done to end hostilities and withdraw military equipment, the quicker this will put in place the real conditions needed for a political settlement to really go ahead.
As for military operations, I want to say that we have noted overall a substantial drop in activity. But let me note too that last time, when President Poroshenko decided to resume military operations and then stop them, it was not possible to do this immediately. What we do see now though is a clear and big decrease in the amount of shooting and exchange of hostilities along the entire battle line.
Yes, clashes are still taking place around Debaltsevo. But there too the scale and intensity of operations is less than it was before. What is happening there was not unexpected. According to our information, a group of Ukrainian troops were already surrounded there before the meeting in Minsk last week. I spoke about this at the meeting in Minsk. I said that the surrounded troops would try to break out of the encirclement and there would be attempts from the outside too to break through, and the militia, who had got the Ukrainian troops surrounded, would resist these attempts and try to keep the encirclement in place, and this would inevitably lead to further clashes. Another attempt to break through was made this morning, I don’t know what the media have been saying, I have not managed to follow all of the news, but I know that at ten o’clock this morning the Ukrainian armed forces made another attempt to break open the encirclement. It was unsuccessful in the end.
I hope very much that the people responsible in the Ukrainian government will not prevent Ukrainian servicemen from laying down their arms. If they cannot or will not take this important decision and give this order, they should at least not prosecute those who are ready to lay down their arms in order to save their own and others’ lives. At the same time, I hope that militia representatives and the authorities in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic will not detain these people and will not prevent them from freely leaving the conflict zone and encirclement and returning to their families.
QUESTION (translated from Russian): Mr President, from your words I understand that when the Minsk agreement was signed, and when you took part in the talks, you knew that the ceasefire would not take effect from exactly the moment planned. In other words, it was to be expected that some clashes would continue.
Do you think these clashes will end soon? Are you optimistic about the chances for a lasting ceasefire, or are you a pessimist, because if military clashes do intensify there, the United States could start supplying arms to Ukraine. How you would respond to this, what would Russia do?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Concerning possible arms supplies to Ukraine, for a start, according to our information, arms supplies are already taking place. There is nothing so unusual about this situation.
Second, I firmly believe that no matter who and which type of weapons are involved, it is never a good thing to supply arms to a conflict zone, but in this particular case, no matter who sends them and what kind of arms are involved, the number of victims might rise of course, but the result would be the same as what we see today.
This would be inevitable because I believe that the vast majority of Ukrainian servicemen do not want to take part in a fratricidal war, even more so far from their own homes, and the Donbass militia has strong motivation to fight for and protect their families.
After all, let me remind you once again that what is happening now is linked to one thing only, namely, to the fact that the government in Kiev decided for a third time to resume military action and use the armed forces. This decision was first taken by Mr Turchinov, who issued the order to carry out what he called an antiterrorist operation. President Poroshenko then decided to resume the military operations, and now this is happening for the third time.
There will be no end to this if the people making the decisions do not realise that there is no hope of resolving the problem through military means. It can be settled only through peaceful means, only through reaching an agreement with this part of their country and guaranteeing these people’s lawful rights and interests.
Let me say that the agreement reached in Minsk offers an opportunity for this to happen. In this respect, I want to note the big role that the French President and the German Federal Chancellor played in reaching a compromise. I think that a compromise solution has been found and could be cemented by a resolution from the UN Security Council. Russia, as you know, has already put forward this initiative. If this happens, the Minsk Agreement would gain the status of international law. If not, it is already a good enough document that should be implemented in full. I am more of an optimist than a pessimist.
Let me say again that the situation is relatively quiet along the whole battle line now. We need to settle the problem of the group that has been surrounded. Our common task is to save the lives of the people trapped in this encirclement and ensure that this issue does not worsen relations between the authorities in Kiev and the Donbass militia.
It is never easy to lose of course and is always a misfortune for the losing side, especially when you lose to people who were yesterday working down in the mines or driving tractors. But life is life and it has to continue. I don’t think we should get too obsessed about these things.
As I said, we need to concentrate on resolving the main task, which is to save the lives of the people there now and enable them to return to their families, and we need to implement in full the plan agreed to in Minsk. I am sure that this is possible. There is no other road to take." (…)
Statement by the President on the situation in Debaltseve (18.02.2015)
"I can inform now that this morning the Armed Forces of Ukraine together with the National Guard completed the operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of a part of units from Debaltseve. We can say that 80% of troops have been already withdrawn. We are waiting for two more columns. Warriors of the 128th brigade, parts of units of the 30th brigade, the rest of the 25th and the 40th battalions, Special Forces, the National Guard and the police have already left the area.
We can assert that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have fulfilled their tasks completely. This position and success were urgently necessary for us in the course of the Minsk negotiations and after them. We managed to show to the whole world the true face of bandits-separatists backed by Russia, which acted as guarantor and direct participant of the Minsk negotiations.
We were asserting and proved: Debaltseve was under our control, there was no encirclement, and our troops left the area in a planned and organized manner with all the heavy weaponry: tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery and vehicles. (…)
I would like to say that Russia, which yesterday required the Ukrainian warriors to lay down arms, raise the white flag and surrender, was put to shame by the given actions. Ukrainian warriors honorably approved the high rank of the Ukrainian Defender of the Homeland. As I promised, they repelled those who tried to encircle them and left Debaltseve pursuant to my command, which I gave yesterday, when Russian servicemen forbade the OSCE representatives to come to Debaltseve to reaffirm our readiness to begin the withdrawal of heavy weaponry and demonstrate the absence of encirclement. They knew it was not true. We demonstrated and proved that with our operation.
We are holding the new defense lines. In the course of my negotiations with leaders of the United States and the EU, I demanded a firm reaction from the world to Russia’s brutal violation of the Minsk agreements, the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. We will prepare organized and coordinated actions together." (…)