8409th Security Council Meeting: Maintenance of International Peace and Security

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26-Nov-2018 00:19:04
Top political official urges restraint from Ukraine, Russian Federation in emergency Security Council meeting on seized Ukrainian vessels at 8409th and 8410th meetings.

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In an emergency Security Council meeting today requested by Ukraine following the seizure of three its naval vessels by Russian Federation warships in a waterway near Crimea, the United Nations top political official urged restraint from both sides to prevent dangerous escalation.

“The United Nations is deeply concerned about this escalation of tensions, which is taking place in the broader context of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea,” Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in a briefing that followed the first meeting on the issue which had been called by the Russian Federation under the provisional agenda item titled “Violation of the borders of the Russian Federation”.

That first agenda item was rejected by a procedural vote of 7 against (France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States) to 4 in favour (Bolivia, China, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Peru).

The Under-Secretary-General said that although the United Nations could not independently verify the circumstances, reports indicated that a number of Ukrainian sailors were injured when at least one Russian Federation vessel seized control of three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait off of Crimea.

Recalling the rise in tensions around the Sea of Azov since the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, she noted the proceedings instituted by Ukraine under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning rights in the waters of the area as well as rejections by the Russian Federation on the competency of the tribunal in the case.

She highlighted the United Nations calls for restraint from any unilateral steps that could hinder implementation of the Minsk agreements that aim to find a peaceful settlement to the situation in eastern Ukraine. In that context, she urged renewed and constructive action by all concerned to overcome the apparent impasse in diplomatic negotiations. As well, she underlined the need to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The Russian representative, speaking before and after the procedural vote, said responsibility for the incident is borne by those who gave an illegal command to the Ukrainian crew. It was a provocation, pre-planned with western States in order to generate hatred for his country ahead of Ukrainian elections in which the current President is facing low ratings. The regime in Kyiv does not want peace or dialogue, nor does it embrace European values as it claims; it only wants to hold onto power and justify its failings, he stressed.

The representative of Ukraine, calling Moscow’s actions an open military aggression meant to establish Russian Federation maritime control in the area, said that his countrymen had acted strictly in line with international law and the bilateral agreement on the Kerch Strait, which was, in any case, part of Ukrainian territorial waters. Requests by the Ukrainian vessels for passage were made to the Russian Federation maritime authorities. However, those requests were not answered until one of the Ukrainian vessels was rammed. In addition, Ukrainian navy ships that came to offer assistance were pursued by Russian vessels that were given clear orders to shoot to kill. He urged everyone to consult the video and audio recordings of the incident that have been posted online.

Underlining what he called Ukraine’s restraint and its full adherence to the Minsk agreements, he warned that further escalation by Moscow cannot be ruled out. In that context, he described his Government’s proposal to declare martial law for a period of 60 days — to be lifted at any time — and for the situation to be resolved diplomatically. He also demanded the immediate release of the 23 detained soldiers and three seized ships, and called for pressure and a new set of sanctions against the Russian Federation to de-escalate tensions and allow free crossing in the Kerch-Yenikale canal.

During the meeting, most Council members seconded the Under-Secretary-General’s call for restraint and her warning of the dangers posed by escalation of the conflict. Many called for a return to dialogue and negotiations under the Minsk agreements, while some stressed the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Delegations, such as those of Bolivia and China, also emphasized that the international community act in a neutral and non-partisan manner in encouraging dialogue between the parties.

However, others, beginning with the United States and the United Kingdom, condemned what they called Russian Federation aggression — as exemplified by the incident - and called on Moscow to de-escalate the tensions it created, with the United States emphasizing that Washington, D.C., will maintain the sanctions currently imposed against that country.

Similarly, France’s representative said that the Russian Federation must respect the right to free passage in the Kerch Strait and pledged further work by the European Union to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, stressing that adherence to the Minsk agreements are the only way forward towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Poland’s representative urged the United Nations to give proper attention to this active, armed conflict. A blind eye cannot be turned to the situation because one of the permanent members of the Council is part of the conflict, he stressed.

Responding, the representative of the Russian Federation said that no one in the meeting addressed the reason why Ukraine authorities decided to risk the lives of those sailors by this provocative act. He also asked whether all concerned had read the Minsk agreements which did not mention Crimea. Support for Ukraine’s provocation has already resulted in encouraging violence in eastern Ukraine, he added.

The status of Crimea has been settled through a referendum among its inhabitants, he pointed out and he called for protection for Russian Federation diplomatic premises and personnel, given protests in Kyiv. What Ukraine has been doing is fraught with dangerous consequences, as his country will repel any incursions on Russian Federation territory, he warned.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Sweden, Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Peru, Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and the Netherlands.

The meetings, including the first on the procedural vote, began at 11:12 a.m. and ended at 12:52 p.m.

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