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UN SC session on Ukraine ends with handshake by Russian envoy, Ukrainian FM

December 12, 2015, 6:09 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS
Vitaly Churkin wound up the debate. He invited Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin to reconsider attitudes and display the political will for the sake of the implementation of the Minsk Accords
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UNITED NATIONS, December 12. /TASS/. The UN Security Council on Friday held the first open session on Ukraine over the past five months to discuss the implementation of the Minsk Accords for settling the conflict, the humanitarian affairs and the human rights situation.

Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin wound up the debate. He invited Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin to reconsider attitudes and display the political will for the sake of the implementation of the Minsk Accords.

"The authorities in Kiev have more than once missed the opportunities for settling the Ukrainian crisis. Russia does its share of work in the Normandy format and in the Contact Group, and it is determined to take it to a successful ending. We hope that the Ukrainian leadership will at last display the political will crucial for the implementation of the Minsk Accords and the Security Council’s Resolution 2202. Mr. Minister, isn’t it the right moment for new approaches?" he asked Klimkin.

Debate ends with handshake

Although the exchange of opinion during the session was acute and dramatic, the Russian envoy and the Ukrainian foreign minister shook hands in the end. Also, Churkin had a quick word with Ukraine’s new permanent representative, Vladimir Yelchenko, who was present at the meeting and his predecessor Yuri Sergeyev, who had led the Ukrainian diplomatic mission at the UN for eight years.

All those who participated in the first open Security Council meeting on Ukraine over the past five months underscored the importance of implementing the Minsk Accords, but remained divided over who and what prevented their implementation. A number of countries, including Lithuania, the United States and the United Kingdom blamed Moscow and the militias in the east of Ukraine.

The Russian envoy said the authorities in Kiev were abusing the ceasefire in Donbass and fanning tensions by military provocations in order to "cover up the bankruptcy of their home policies." Churkin pointed to the grave economic situation and the continuing power struggle, which was "often reminiscent of mobsters" skirmishes," glaring corruption, human rights abuse by Ukrainian police and military and persecution of opposition activists.

Churkin said the legitimation of the authorities in Kiev would remain impossible "as long as the ideology of extremism, neo-Nazism and aggressive nationalism, which is deeply ingrained in part of Ukrainian society, continues to be regarded as a manifestation of the right to express opinion and even as a potential factor for the consolidation of the country and society."

Klimkin in his statement tried to put the blame for the stalled implementation of the Minsk Accords on Russia. Once again he accused Moscow of intervention in the conflict in Ukraine. "The sole chance of preventing a return to full-scale war is to comply with the terms of Minsk-2," Klimkin said. "This is the only way of ending the conflict. Ukraine is firmly committed to this. This is our bridge into the future, and we will not burn it."

Security Council’s session began after delay

The UN Security Council’s session began 80 minutes later than expected. As a diplomat from one of the Security Council’s western member-state told TASS, the Russian delegation was demanding the UN Secretary General’s assistant for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, be removed from the list of reporters.

The Russian envoy told the Security Council that Simonovic’s mission for the human rights situation in Ukraine did not have the UN mandate and the theme of his statement went beyond the bounds of Resolution 2202, which concerned the political settlement of the conflict. Churkin said that the return to the human rights situation in Ukraine was "nothing but an attempt to distract attention from the most important of the current tasks: that of implementing the package of measures to enforce the Minsk Accords."

UN points to violations on both sides

Simonovic eventually did address the Security Council to accuse the militias in the east of Ukraine of violating human rights and restricting democratic freedoms. Also, he mentioned the situation in Crimea, which joined Russia on the basis of a referendum in March 2014.

Kiev’s authorities were criticized for tightening the rules of crossing the engagement line, which had in fact resulted in a blockade of areas outside the Ukrainian authorities’ control. Simonovic said those measures remained one of the greatest challenges to the civilians who reside in the area of the conflict. Also, he drew attention to reports Ukrainian police and military kidnapped and tortured those suspected of supporting the militias and to the lack of progress in investigating the killings during mass unrest in Kiev in November 2013 - February 2014, and also in Odessa last May.

Simonovic mentioned the acts of sabotage against the high voltage power lines that caused massive blackouts. He avoided naming those responsible, though, confining himself to a remark that the disruptions followed Crimea’s trade blockade some leaders of the Crimea Tatar community initiated in September.

Other speakers at the UN Security Council session were the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Director of the Operational Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs John Ging, and chief monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Ertugul Apakan. All pointed to a lower level of violence in the east of Ukraine over the past months and urged the parties concerned to maintain a dialogue for the sake of achieving an early settlement.

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