VITALY CHURKIN said his delegation had initiated the meeting because events in Ukraine “evoked within us very deep concern”. The country’s takeover by radical extremists was breeding serious risks, and in Geneva Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had spoken in detail about the situation, reaffirming that any international crisis must be settled through dialogue, backed by all political parties, as well as ethnic and denominational groups, and undertaken with respect for constitutional processes and international obligations, including international humanitarian law. Extremists in Ukraine must be prevented from taking control of the situation through illegitimate methods, the use of violence and open terror, he emphasized. Those responsible for the crisis were well known, but some partners were disputing legitimate actions and authority, and instead supporting anti-Government statements. Kyiv had been taken over by extremists preaching anti-Russian and anti-Semitic slogans.
Recalling the 21 February agreement between the then President of Ukraine and the opposition, he said its authors were refusing to control the emergency situation, suggesting that the opposition was blameless, while illegal weapons proliferated and civilian buildings remained unprotected. Instead of fulfilling the promise to establish an interim Government of national unity, a “Government of national victims” was being formed, he said. The situation was limiting the rights of minorities, making it punishable for them to speak their own languages, and banning political parties that did not suit them. The victors wished to use the fruits of victory to trample the rights and freedoms of all other people. Millions of Russians lived in Crimea, and violence by ultra-nationalists jeopardized their interests and those of other Russian speakers.
There was new information about provocative actions in connection with the Russian Black Sea fleet, based in Crimea, he continued, noting that the Autonomous Republic had asked the President of the Russian Federation to restore order and end crime there. It was completely legitimate under national law to respond to threats against Russian citizens and the Black Sea fleet, so President Vladimir Putin had sought approval for the use of armed force until the political situation in Ukraine stabilized, he said, adding that the President had appealed for the means to “cut off” the radicals with a view to defending the rights of Russian citizens, including the right to life. The Russian Federation had received notice from the legitimately elected President of Ukraine that the situation in the latter country verged on civil war. The lives, security and rights of people in Crimea were being threatened under the influence of Western countries supporting acts of terror and violence.
The President of Ukraine had called for the use of Russian armed forces to re-establish legitimate peace, law and order and stability, and to defend the Ukrainian people, he said. Holding up a photocopy of that letter — dated 1 March — he said those trying to interpret his country’s actions “almost as aggression”, and who threatened the Russian Federation with boycotts were themselves consistently engaged in ultimatums, choosing to refrain from dialogue. Such geopolitical calculations would only serve to polarize Ukrainian society, he cautioned, calling for a sensitive approach that placed the interests of Ukraine’s people above all else. Constitutional reform supposed to have begun, to be followed by a national referendum and the establishment of an interim Government of national unity, which would consider the interests of all Ukrainian citizens. The Russian position remained consistent and open — all should refrain from turning Ukraine into “some geopolitical playground”, he said.
Later on, during the open debate, Mr.Churkin, taking the floor again, said his Ukrainian colleague, as well as the delegations of France and the United Kingdom, had said, among other things, that the Russian Federation was trying to pressure Ukrainian democracy. But did a forcible takeover constitute democracy?, he asked. They were saying that there must be a democratic process, but the Russian Federation was calling for democracy while others were re-defining it, he said.
Expressing condolences for the dramatic and tragic events of the past three months, he said that following the break-up of demonstrations in Ukraine, laws that existed in many other countries had been adopted, including one that stipulated that demonstrators could not cross the road during a political protest or wear masks on the streets. Why had colleagues decided that there was now a democratic Government in Ukraine? “Let’s not think violence led to democracy,” he emphasized, saying his country sought a real democratic victory with genuine democracy in Ukraine.
Recalling that his colleague from the United States had stressed the need to respect Ukraine’s Constitution, he reiterated that what was occurring in that country was neither democracy nor respect for the Constitution. There had been concerns in Crimea about a violent capture of the administration. Now that someone had come to power there, people were making it look as though the Russian armed forces were in Crimea, whereas the Ukrainian armed forces had sworn allegiance to the new Government.
As for the Black Sea fleet, 16,000 military forces were in Crimea, whereas the agreement stipulated that there could be up to 25,000 to protect their sites from extremists who also posed a threat to the lives of civilians. Maybe the representative of the United Kingdom believed that was excessive, but that was part of the agreement, he said, adding that he had been surprised to hear that all those concerns were fabricated. He said he had the impression that speakers were obtaining their information from United States television — everything in Ukraine was beautiful and a symbol of democracy. He added that he was sure the Russian media had reported the wave of violence that had ripped through Ukraine when an administration building had been “hit” and people taken from it tied to a pillar and mocked. Would that happen in Chicago?, he asked. Would people be dragged out like that? None of that was made up, he stressed. A group of armed people in eastern Ukraine had tried to remove the Government and had set up an illegitimate, undemocratic administration. Did the delegations present “really think Russia could allow a repeat of what happened” under Hitler in central and eastern Ukraine, where millions of Russians lived?
Recalling that the United States had justified its intervention in Grenada by saying it had gone in because of the 1,000 or so United States citizens living there, he said that his country was defending millions of Russian citizens in Ukraine. “You want an observer mission of the OSCE to go there to get rid of the radicals?”, he asked. The radicals would not listen and, besides, it would take months to prepare such a mission, “so who knows what will happen in that time?” The Russian delegation had called today’s meeting, not because it sought to give a fuller picture from its own viewpoint, but because the last two meetings had been “more spontaneous”, and it was very important that the wrong conclusions not be drawn by those controlling the situation in Ukraine. The Russian Federation must refuse the intent, or any plans to establish authority through violence, he said. Imposing authority, philosophy and the culture of another’s world view could “lead to very difficult consequences in Ukraine”. However, it continued to believe that Viktor Yanukovych was the President of Ukraine and that his fate must be resolved by that country’s people. Democratic parameters must be set for resolving the crisis in Ukraine; it must be a constitutional way out and not just a cobbling together of various laws, he added, emphasizing that the process must be regional and political.
Mr.Churkin later on said that Russia is not excluding the role of some international agencies or bodies. He said he had explained why it might not be enough to do so. He also urged his European colleagues not to engage in “high hyperbole”. Protesters had not only set the tone, but also played the instruments for the orchestra and sent provocations to the east and to Crimea. He also stressed that he supported Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson’s mission and that an OSCE mission in Ukraine “has to be discussed”.