German statement at UN General Assembly on the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, delivered by Minister of State Tobias Lindner, 23 February 2022

23.02.2022 - Speech

We meet today in a time of challenge. A couple of days ago, the President of a member state of this organization put into question the statehood of another distinguished member of this organization. He said – and I quote: “Ukraine actually never had stable traditions of statehood”.

We must take this sentence very seriously. Some important questions arise. What does it mean for this organization if one state construes the existence of another state as a regrettable accident of history, thereby questioning its right to exist? What does it mean for our common objective of promoting peace and development if more countries tried to roll back history in a similar way? What does it mean for the multilateral rules-based order if states think they can, due to their view on history, domineer over other states and put them under tutelage?

We still do not have answers to all of these questions. What is clear already now: Russia’s decision to recognize the self-proclaimed so-called “peoples’ republics of Donetsk and Luhansk” could be a deadly blow for the international rules based order, for the way this organization has functioned over the last decades.

Russia is violating the core principles of the UN Charter. We need to close ranks and strongly reject such action. If not, then what has hit Ukraine today could happen to other UN member states tomorrow. Everybody in this Assembly should be aware of this.

It is therefore with utmost gratitude that we took note of the Secretary General’s words. He said: “The principles of the UN Charter are not an a la carte menu. They cannot be applied selectively. Member States have accepted them all and they must apply them all.” There is nothing to add to these crystal clear words.

Russia’s irresponsible and provocative action comes at a time of a massive military build-up alongside Ukraine’s borders. We have seen a concerning flare-up of ceasefire violations along the line of contact. We have witnessed a disturbing flow of disinformation and “false flag operations” meant to create pretexts for a military incursion.

This time of increased tensions where peoples’ lives are at risk would have been the time to go for de-escalation, to heed the Security Council’s repeated calls for diplomatic efforts. Instead, Russia chose to again attack Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – eight years after Russia had illegally seized and annexed Crimea. The General Assembly condemned this UN Charter violation – and it should do so again.

I commend Ukraine’s continued restraint in the face of this aggression, President Selensky’s commitment to finding a peaceful, diplomatic way out.

Since 2014 France and Germany have done their utmost to work towards a political solution of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk Agreements. Russia’s signature is under these agreements! Over the last weeks, Chancellor Scholz and my Foreign Minister Baerbock have left no stone unturned to engage with Russia diplomatically, in close co-ordination with our French partners. We are willing to chart a way forward, strengthening trust, stability and security in Europe. We have the framework established to do this: In the NATO-Russia Council, within the OSCE and in the Normandy format.

The ceasefire in the Donbas must be observed immediately. We condemn the use of heavy weaponry and indiscriminate shelling of civilian infrastructure, which constitutes a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements. This must stop.

We commend the OSCE Special Representative for trying to convene an extraordinary session of the Trilateral Contact Group. France, Ukraine and my country stand ready for another meeting in the Normandy format or for the summit that Ukraine has proposed.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is vital for monitoring the situation in Eastern Ukraine. This is why Germany’s seconded staff remains on the ground. The SMM must be allowed to carry out its mandate in full.

We want to resolve this crisis by diplomacy. To this end, Russia must immediately change its course of action:

First, I urge Russia to de-escalate now, to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, in particular from the self-proclaimed entities and the Crimean peninsula, as well as from Ukraine’s borders.

Second, Russia must refrain from any action which would further fuel the risk of a full-fledged military conflict with Ukraine.

Third, I urge Russia to immediately repeal its decision to recognize the separatist entities.

Do we respect the territorial integrity and sovereign equality of UN member states? Do we stand by the UN Charter? I call on all UN member states to reaffirm our commitment to these principles – over Ukraine and beyond. With our allies and partners, Germany will spare no effort to find a diplomatic way forward. We will be steadfast in our support for Ukraine, in support of the UN Charter. It is our common duty to remain committed to a rules-based order, to trustful co-operation, to bringing forward our common goal of lasting peace and stability. We invite every member of this organization to join these efforts.

Now is the moment to speak up and defend the international order of the UN Charter against unilateral aggression – jointly and decisively.

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