8575th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Ukraine

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16-Jul-2019 02:04:16
Briefing Security Council on Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General expresses concern over language law, ceasefire violations at 8575th meeting.

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The United Nations hopes that after Parliamentary elections and the formation of a new Government in Ukraine, recent encouraging statements by its new President, Voldodymyr Zelensky, will be followed by concrete actions to bring a positive dynamic to implement the Minsk Protocol agreements, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told the Security Council today.

Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the 15-member organ as legislation on the use of Ukrainian as the sole State language in a large sphere of Government functions and services came into force, and on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

Emphasizing that the opportunity to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine is also a chance for greater peace and security in Europe that should not be missed, she welcomed efforts at dialogue at all levels, including bilaterally between Heads of State.

On the language law, which Ukraine views as consistent with its Constitution, she said that while many controversial points have been addressed, it still raises concerns, and that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended that the Government elaborate legislation “without delay” that would ensure a fair correlation between the protection of the rights of minorities and the preservation of the State language.

Political transition in Ukraine is taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Donbas and a persistent failure to agree on a ceasefire under the Minsk agreements that the Council endorsed through resolution 2202 (2015). The human cost of the conflict is growing, she said, with the High Commissioner’s Office recording 13 conflict-related deaths and 78 injuries in the first six months of 2019, water facilities attacked more than 60 times and schools, 17 times.

Focusing on the language law, Lamberto Zannier, High Commissioner on National Minorities for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said Ukraine has every right to strengthen the role of the State language to enhance a shared sense of belonging. Such measures, however, should be balanced with efforts to accommodate ethnic and linguistic diversity. Input from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and other institutions should be sought to ensure that language-related legislation is in line with international standards.

As it currently stands, he continued, Ukraine’s language law lacks sufficient legal clarity or guarantees for the protection of the linguistic rights of national minorities. He recommended that Ukraine’s language policy be supplemented with the modernization of the overall legal framework for safeguarding the rights of national minorities, including in the linguistic sphere, through the introduction of a comprehensive law.

In the ensuing debate, the representative of the Russian Federation, which requested today’s meeting, agreed that States have an obligation to promote national languages, adding, however, that Ukraine is employing medieval and grim methods that run counter to all conventions on the protection of national minorities. Stating that the signing of the language law by the former President of Ukraine runs counter to the Minsk agreements, he said he hoped Council members will resist the temptation of protecting Kyiv from warranted criticism. Language and culture are at the heart of the situation in Ukraine since the 2014 coup, he said, warning that limits and punitive measures on the Russian language risk stoking divisions and social confrontation.

Poland’s delegate stated that Russian aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a direct threat to international peace and security. The adoption of a law by Kyiv’s legitimate authorities, however, is not. The international community should neither accept nor recognize the Russian Federation’s cascade of disregard for the fundamental principles of international law, but rather respond accordingly to its unacceptable and illegal behaviour.

In the same vein, the representative of the United Kingdom expressed surprise that his Russian counterpart did not raise other issues — such as the Russian Federation’s arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine and non-implementation of the Minsk agreements — that warrant ongoing Council discussion. Rejecting the tenuous link between the language law and the Minsk agreements, he said Ukrainians continue to suffer from a Russian-fuelled conflict that has claimed 13,000 lives.

Agreeing that the language law posed no threat to international peace and security, the representative of France said the granting of Russian citizenship to those living in Lugansk and Donetsk undermines the Minsk agreements. He also joined others in calling for the release of 24 Ukrainian sailors detained by the Russian Federation since an incident in the Kerch Strait (Sea of Azov) in November 2018, as per a ruling by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

Taking the floor at the end of the debate, Ukraine’s representative said his country’s language law is an internal issue that has no relation to international peace and security. By raising the issue ahead of the Parliamentary elections, Moscow is trying to give political support to pro-Russian parties while distracting attention away from the non-implementation of the Minsk agreements and the fifth anniversary of Flight MH17. While the new President has taken concrete steps in search of resolving the conflict, Russian forces and their proxies have almost doubled their ceasefire violations, he said, adding that the situation on the ground remains bleak. He suggested a “very short list” of measures that the Russian Federation could put into place, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons, access to detainees and the release of the detained Ukrainian military personnel.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, China, Kuwait, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa, Germany and Peru.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:07 p.m.

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