Thursday, January 29, 2015
Will Russia Live Down Dishonor of War? –
Will the Free World Forget Its Epithets about Russia?
After more than 11 months of Russia’s war against Ukraine, it seems as if the world is getting tired of Moscow’s belligerence and defiance. Despite sanctions and condemnations, Russia is escalating its war with Ukraine, moving regular soldiers and mercenaries into the eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine, and spreading acts of wanton terrorism westward to Kyiv.
Global leaders’ commitment to support Ukraine and sanction Russia is waning and EU partners are breaking ranks and balking at intensifying sanctions against Moscow for its latest heinous attacks against civilian sites in Mariupol and Volnovakha.
Even Ukrainians in Ukraine are apparently belittling the Russian threat against their country and forsaking the military draft. These draft dodgers, many of them from western Ukraine, have families in the free world and are seeking their assistance with exit visas.
Ukraine is left to fend for itself, without adequate lethal military aid while the United States and other countries ponder how to subdue or destroy ISIS and other similar terrorist threats. The threat that Ukraine faces today at the hands of Russia is equal to the danger that ISIS poses. The difference being that ISIS is part of a movement that has for many decades inflicted death, pain and suffering while Russia, once a partner with the free world in defeating Nazi Germany, and recently a quasi-accepted global power worthy of a seat at the G-8 table, has only now shown its diabolic, imperial self. The free world was only caught off guard by this invasion but not the former captive nations who had been expecting this since the end of World War II.
Despite regional and global efforts to reach a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia and the adoption of the Minsk protocol, Russia continues to violate the truce agreements while blaming Ukraine for escalating the fighting. Russia has not lived up to even one of the subsequent ceasefire agreements, while continuously attacking, killing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, and sending numerous convoys filled with dubious cargo into Ukraine.
One day, Russia’s war in Ukraine will come to an end, like all wars do eventually, and the free world will begin lining up to shake Russian leaders’ hands, invite them to the table and otherwise partner with Moscow in a host of international initiatives. NATO has said that it wants to restore good relations with Russia even before the blood dries on its hands.
However, the record stands and the free world’s greater and lesser condemnations have been preserved for all generations to read or hear thanks to digital technology and the Internet. Future generations will be able to witness at a distance what Russia did in 2014 and beyond, who denounced it, and who stood by ambivalently.
The United Nations Security Council has been the forum for such discussions about Russian aggression and Russian Permanent Representative Igor Churkin’s ludicrous denials and equally absurd accusations that the war has been Ukraine’s fault. The UN was also the venue for passionate expressions of support for Ukraine by its allies and friends.
Here are a few excerpts of support for Ukraine:
Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, January 21:
It is almost a year when in February-March of 2014 the Russian Federation manipulated with the UN basic principles – the right for self-determination and the right to protect – in order to create a fake legal pretext to invade Ukraine.
As a result the Russian Federation occupied and then annexed a part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine - the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol.
Sooner or later the Russian Federation will be taken to justice for this particular crime of aggression against Ukraine.
As of today the Russian Federation continues its military aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine by sending military units to our territory, delivering heavy armaments to the local terrorist groupings, training, equipping and financing mercenaries, waging information war.
So-called “DNR” and “LNR” under direct supervision and control of the Russian Federation consciously and deliberately conduct terrorist attacks on the territory of Ukraine, aimed at the intimidation, manslaughter and severe injuries to the civil population, capture of hostages and state administrative buildings, fuelling of military conflict.
This joint Russia - “DNR”- “LNR” aggression against Ukraine is aimed at forcing my Government to change the constitutional and territorial order, undermining territorial integrity and political sovereignty of Ukraine.
Basically, this is exactly what the aggressor aspires to.
To stop the reforms.
To prevent Ukraine from transforming into a modern European democratic state.
Each day over the past year has been a trauma for the Ukrainian people. On the June 8, militants of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic tortured and killed 8 priests and parishioners of the Protestant Church in the Ukrainian city of Slovyansk. On July 17, a Russian missile brought down Malaysian MH17 flight aircraft in the sky over Donbas, killing 298 innocent people from 17 countries. On January 13, terrorists fired at a passenger bus near the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha despite the declared ceasefire, killing 13 and wounding 15 Ukrainian civilians.
Ongoing investigation of this tragic terrorist attack against civilians near Volnovakha and relevant conclusions of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission prove that the shelling was carried out from the north-north-eastern areas currently occupied by the illegal armed groups.
Let me express Ukraine’s appreciation of this Council’s strong condemnation of the terrorist act near Volnovakha.
My country wages a war against terrorism. It fights at the forefront for the universal values such as freedom, sovereignty and democracy.
Since signing of the Minsk agreements in September 2014 the Russian side has significantly mounted its military presence in Donbas (over 8,000 Russian regulars, 180 tanks, 570 APC, over 140 artillery systems, over 70 GRAD systems etc.) and filled the region with most sophisticated heavy weapons (including deadly TOS-1 Buratino systems).
What is this distinguished members of the Security Council if not an aggression?
We draw again the attention of the Security Council to the fact that the illegal armed groups intensify their attacks and shelling after receiving reinforcements from the territory of the Russian Federation, including in the form of the Russian so-called “humanitarian convoys”.
We denounce provocative statements by Russian officials, who tried to shift responsibility for violations onto Ukraine including those Russian delegation brought today to the Security Council.
Even despite intensification of foreign aggression Ukraine remains fully committed to peaceful settlement of the crisis, which should be based on the Minsk agreements and full respect of territorial integrity, sovereignty and political unity of Ukraine. We have twice initiated the ceasefire and unilaterally adhered to it.
Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev, January 23:
70 years ago the Auschwitz – a major site of the Nazi so called “Final Solution to the Jewish question” – was liberated. However recent incidents have highlighted the fact that the scourge of anti-Semitism is on the rise today. We must unite our efforts to put an end to the intolerance and hatred instilling fear among Jews and members of other minorities around the world.
Ukraine does not and will never tolerate anti-Semitism, xenophobia and intolerance on the basis of race, descent, national or ethnic origin. The Government is doing its utmost to combat discrimination and intolerance in all its forms and manifestations. Ukraine’s law enforcement authorities promptly and adequately react to any manifestation of anti-Semitism. In recent years, a number of important steps have been taken to foster our efforts in this sphere:
• the Security Service of Ukraine established a special Department for combating xenophobia and anti-Semitism; a similar unit was established at the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine;
• the Law of Ukraine on the Principles of Combating and Preventing Discrimination adopted in accordance with the international obligations of Ukraine is being fully implemented by the Government of Ukraine. The Law provides for legal instruments of preventing and combating any form of discrimination with a view to guaranteeing to the citizens of Ukraine equal terms for exercising their basic human rights and freedoms;
According to the recent statistics, the number of manifestations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine continues to decline. Occasional acts of violence toward Jews are very rare, thoroughly investigated and, as a rule, have no correlation with the ethnicity of individuals involved.
We are proud that Jews were standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainians during the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv in 2013-2014 defending their dignity, rights and freedoms.
Today Jews are widely represented in the Government of Ukraine and regional authorities.
I am proud that 2459 of my compatriots were recognized as the Righteous among the Nations for saving Jews during Holocaust. Many of them - posthumously. Among them are outstanding personalities of the Ukrainian Greek - Catholic Church: Climent and Andriy Sheptyskiy.
Permanent Representative of the United States, Ambassador Samantha Power, January 21:
While this is the Council’s first session on Ukraine in 2015, it is our 28th meeting on the crisis in the last 11 months, far more than on any other situation during the same period. We keep meeting on Ukraine because, despite countless commitments made to the international community to de-escalate – here in the Council, at Geneva, Minsk, Berlin, Normandy, and elsewhere – Russia continues to choose the path of escalation and obfuscation.
In addition to occupying Crimea, Russia continues to train, equip, and fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, Russia has so consistently broken its commitments and violated its obligations not to lop off part of another country, that some here may begin to accept Russia’s behavior as an unfortunate but inevitable reality – a new normal that would be dangerous for Ukraine and dangerous for international peace and security, because complacency would reward aggression and threaten the basic rules on which our collective security rests.
The current situation is dangerous. It is dangerous because Russia continues to train and equip separatists with heavy weapons and fight by their side, in flagrant violation of the September Minsk agreement, Ukrainian sovereignty, and international law. Even as we sit here today, the separatists – trained, supplied, and supported by Russia - are launching a full-scale attack on the strategic city of Debaltseve, inside Ukrainian-controlled territory, in blatant violation of the September 19th Minsk ceasefire lines, in an attempt to gain control of a significant rail juncture. The OSCE reported yesterday that at least 30 Grad rockets hit the city on January 19th, killing three civilians and wounding twelve. The OSCE confirmed that these rockets came from the direction of the separatist-controlled city of Horlivka. And yesterday, independent media reports that separatists blew up a rail-bridge connecting the port city of Mariupol to the rest of Ukraine. Thankfully there were no casualties, but now the city must rely on northern access via Donetsk, effectively isolating it and leaving it vulnerable to separatist attacks. These moves appear calculated and strategic in nature.
Since President Poroshenko announced the unilateral “silence regime” on December 9th that brought a brief respite from the violence, separatists and the Russians who back them have carried out more than 1,000 attacks against Ukrainian positions. Since late December, Russia has transferred at least a hundred additional pieces of Russian military equipment and material to separatists. These latest transfers come atop previous transfers of hundreds of pieces of Russian military equipment to separatists since September, including tanks, APCs, heavy artillery pieces, and other military vehicles.
The current situation is dangerous. It is dangerous because Russia continues to break commitments it has made to de-escalate. Ukraine and the international community have launched several serious efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to this conflict – including through the Trilateral Contact Group, the Minsk agreement, the Normandy group, and other negotiating fora. We continue to believe that there can be no military solution, and that political negotiations are key. Yet time and again, Russia’s words promise peace while Russia’s actions make war. Time and again, President Putin has extended an olive branch in one hand while passing out Grad missiles and tanks with the other.
The current situation is dangerous. It is dangerous because Russia’s actions are directly contributing to a humanitarian crisis. With each passing day, more civilians are killed and maimed.
For every attack on civilians that makes headlines, there are dozens more – no less deadly – that go unreported. Since the conflict began, more than 10,000 people have been injured in the conflict. Nearly 5,000 people have been killed; approximately 800 of them since November, when the Council last met to discuss the Ukraine crisis. One of the attacks that did not make news occurred on January 11th. According to the SMM, mortars struck two houses in the government-held town of Hran, wounding a girl. She died of her injuries before she reached the hospital. She was three years old.
These are some of the reasons why the Russians’ most recent efforts to blame Ukraine ring so hollow. On Thursday, President Putin issued a last-minute invitation to President Poroshenko to discuss a new Russian-conceived so-called “peace plan” – a plan that would free Russia from the commitment it made in Minsk to withdraw its fighters and return control over the international border to Ukraine. The plan would seek to legitimize territorial gains made by separatists since September, as well as Russian personnel and military equipment on the territory of Ukraine.
We need to implement the peace plans we already have, peace plans Russia has signed and broken. If Russia is serious about peace, it should follow through on Minsk, which it agreed to more than four months ago. If Russia wants to end this conflict, the steps they must take are the same as they were on September 5, 2014: remove all military equipment and personnel from Ukraine; stop backing the separatists; allow unimpeded OSCE monitoring and return control of Ukraine’s international border to the Ukrainian government; and release all hostages, including those being held in Russia, such as Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. We understand Ms. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike for nearly a month to protest her detention, and is suffering serious health problems. Yet Russia has taken none of the steps set out in Minsk.
In contrast to Russia, Ukraine has consistently taken steps to de-escalate the crisis, demonstrating measurable progress on several key commitments at Minsk and passing key reforms to reduce corruption and grant greater authority to its regions.
There is a broader reason it would be dangerous to accept Russia’s actions as the new normal. We have seen this playbook before. Before eastern Ukraine, we saw it in Crimea. And before Crimea, we saw it in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Before Georgia, in Transnistria. The endgame in all of these Moscow-manufactured crises has been identical: to gobble up parts of neighboring countries and to create frozen conflicts. And Russia is consistently working to put these frozen conflicts under a deeper freeze. In recent weeks, for example, at the same time as Russia was flouting its Minsk agreements, President Putin was putting the finishing touches on another set of agreements – the so-called “treaties of alliance” – with de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These treaties will compound years of violations to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
What is frozen in these conflicts? Instability is frozen. Violations of sovereignty are frozen. Militarization is frozen. In sum, all the problems that the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, were created to address, are frozen. If Russia succeeds in achieving its aims, if we allow this behavior to become the new normal, this will not be the last time Russia uses this well-worn playbook.
Permanent Representative of Lithuania, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė, January 21:
Mr. President, I believe no one in this room has any doubts that a country under attack would do its utmost to protect itself. In the face of aggression, it is the inherent right of each and every state to defend its soil and its people. It is exactly what Ukraine is doing: defending itself in the face of the ongoing attacks against its unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
In spite of the many calls by the international community to close its borders to the illegal flows of arms and foreign fighters, Russia’s borders remain wide open to the flow of deadly weaponry and soldiers of fortune.
Here’s a typical excerpt from the January 16 report by OSCE SMM: "The SMM saw three unmarked trucks towing three D-30 122mm Howitzers on the southern edge of Donetsk city travelling west past a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint. Two unmarked T-80 battle tanks were seen by the SMM travelling south - east in Makiyivka (5km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled). The SMM observed a convoy of 21 military-style Ural and KAMAZ trucks, also unmarked, heading south on a highway near Starobesheve (45km south of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled). Four of the trucks carried what appeared to be communication equipment, while the remaining trucks were covered.”
And where on earth - but for Russia’s continued support- can a rag tag bunch of militants get the millions needed to buy all that heavy weaponry and machinery? Especially in an area where local inhabitants are said to starve and local hospitals can't even buy bread for their patients?
So much for Russia’s claims it is not a party to this conflict. The war in eastern Ukraine is not a civil war - but a calculated and systematic attempt to destabilize Ukraine, a foreign-sponsored war.
Backed by sophisticated weaponry including Grads, artillery systems, modern tanks, armored personnel carriers, and an influx of foreign mercenaries, the militants continue their barrage of deadly attacks.
While every defensive move by Ukraine is blasted by the Russian propaganda as ceasefire violations, Russia has never even once condemned or disowned the illegal and lawless separatist militants.
On the contrary. Russia’s intentions to rewrite the Minsk agreements in a way that would legitimize and accept the territorial gains achieved by the militants speaks to Kremlin’s wholehearted support for those criminals.
Lithuania rejects all calls to renegotiate the terms of the ceasefire. The agreed parameters of the ceasefire already exist and must be respected. We urge all sides, in particular Russia, to engage and fully implement Minsk agreements in their entirety and without any further delay.
My delegation firmly supports Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. We urge the Minsk signatories to spare no effort in seeking a peaceful solution to this crisis. We urge Russia in particular to embrace the fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter and put an end to its destabilizing, expansionist and revanchist policies in the region, including Ukraine, Moldova, and South Caucasus, where, contrary to Russia's commitments under the 2008 August and September Agreements, it is pursuing the annexation of Georgia’s Abkhaz and Tskinvali regions under the guise of the so-called treaties on alliance and strategic partnership with.
Permanent Representative of Lithuania, Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė, January 26:
The bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Balkan wars is taking place even as we speak. Last Wednesday in this hall the Security Council members once again expressed concern and urged all parties to the conflict, including Russia, to return to the Minsk agreements and ensure their prompt and full implementation in order to prevent even more destruction and bloodshed.
Alas what we saw over the weekend was more deadly shelling, more destruction, more human tragedy caused by the Kremlin’s unbridled mercenaries, including the deadly attack against Mariupol which this Council failed to condemn because Russia put protecting the militants above condemning the perpetrators.
After 29 open briefings and no progress on the ground it is hard not to sound repetitive. More than five thousand dead, some 11000 injured and about 1.5 million displaced, - such is the cost of Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine. Almost 50 000 fled their homes since 14 January this year. At least 262 people were killed between 13 and 21 January alone. Last week again 75 to 115 shelling attacks against the Ukrainian positions took place every day.
The Donetsk airport which the Kremlin-sponsored militants captured last week, was pounded to rubble by months of attacks, causing destruction seen only in the worst of wars. 550 square kilometers of land have been captured by the illegal militants since the beginning of the ceasefire. Such are the realities of what we continue to call a ceasefire.
Just like the breaches of the 1991 Alma Ata Declaration, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the 1997 Agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the 1997 Treaty on friendship, good-neighborliness and cooperation between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the Geneva statement, and the Berlin joint declaration, the Minsk agreements are just another casualty of Russia’s aggression against neighboring Ukraine.
Last Saturday Ukraine suffered the second deadliest single incident on its soil since the downing of MH17 in July 2014. Some 30 people killed and about 90 wounded during the shelling of the city of Mariupol. In the preceding days, the self-proclaimed boss of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” Zahkarchenko had repeatedly stated his disdain for the ceasefire: "There is no ceasefire. We will fight. I promise." "There will be no more ceasefires and rotations, he said.
And yet, in spite of the obvious, Russia continues to blame Ukraine for ceasefire violations, including the Mariupol attack. Anti-Ukrainian rhetoric is not abating. Last week in this hall we heard the long debunked myths of "the junta", "the coup", "fascist Ukraine", and "oppression of Russian speakers" being once again resuscitated and put into use. For a year now, aggressive anti-Ukrainian propaganda has been used to brainwash, confuse, distract and obfuscate.
The international community should not, must not give in to these obfuscations. Therefore let me ask once again. How can a bunch of illegal militants expand their offensive, continue capturing territory, and threaten carrying out attacks on three fronts? How can a bunch of illegal militants without external trade ties, without income or budget, amass hundreds of armored combat vehicles, artillery systems, and rocket launchers, all those Tochka-Us, Grads, Uragans, and Buratinos? How can they afford modern tanks, each of which costs at least 4 million dollars? How can they claim their own air fleet? How can hundreds of Russian soldiers be dying on Ukraine's soil if they are not even there?
How come hundreds of Russian mothers receive the dead bodies of their sons in Cargo 200 from a conflict to which Russia claims it is not a party? How come that in spite of the devastating lawlessness and countless crimes committed by the separatist militants and registered in the reports by OHCHR, Russia has not even once, not even mildly condemned the perpetrators?
Life in eastern Ukraine may have been far from perfect due to long years of neglect by the successive governments. And yet the local inhabitants, many of them Russian speakers had homes to return to after work, had their daily lives and their daily bread. Thanks to the Kremlin's decision to "protect" them, they now have no homes, no jobs, no income, may have lost their dear ones- or may be dead themselves. Russia's war, Russia's proxies and the abysmal lawlessness they imposed that brought destruction, displacement, and deaths to the region.
The onus is on Russia to put an end to this senseless war by ending support to illegal armed groups operating in the east of Ukraine, accepting international monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border, withdrawing its troops and weaponry from eastern Ukraine, ensuring the release by the illegal militants of all illegally detained persons, including Nadia Savchenko, ending manipulations of humanitarian assistance, and reaffirming its respect for Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity. The international observers, including the UN and OSCE monitoring missions must be provided full and unconditional access to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea. Their reporting is indispensable to get the facts straight.
TC: Today the world knows the true image of Russia and its penchant for re-subjugating the former captive nations and perhaps the world because of its very visible war against Ukraine. The world knows but how long will it remember; when will it forget; and when will the first national leader shake his or her Russian counterpart’s hand.
After the Holocaust, Jews burned into their souls a commandment for future generations: “Never Forget; Never Forgive.” Russia deserves no less than Nazi Germany.