Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen in the Security Council VTC Meeting on Ukraine, February 11, 2021

11.02.2021 - Speech

Check Against Delivery


Today Germany speaks to the Council as part of the so-called Normandy format. Before I start, I would like to align myself to what my colleague and friend Nicolas [de Rievière, French Ambassador] has said earlier.

The Russian Ambassador Vasily [Nebenzya] already alluded to Germany and to our role in the Security Council. I would like to start my intervention by actually going back to one of his predecessors on the Security Council. On December 19, 1994, the then Russian Permanent Representative, Sergei Lawrow, asked the President of the Security Council to register the so-called Budapest Memorandum as a document of the Security Council.

The first paragraph reads: “The Russian Federation reaffirms its commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” Ukraine at the time trusted the Russian commitment and gave up its nuclear arsenal that was stationed on its soil. 20 years later, Ukraine had to pay a very high price for the good faith it had in the Budapest Memorandum and in Russia: Russia invaded Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. It was staged by Russia as an internal uprising. But we know from President Putin himself, who decorated the Russian soldiers who participated in the assault, that these indeed were Russians who invaded Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. This is something we missed in Vasily's [Nebenzya, Russian Ambassador] presentation today.

I also would like to recall the saddest moment in the Russian assault of Ukraine: July 17, 2014: the downing of flight MH17 when 300 people died. At the time, the Russian military commander on the field, Mr. Igor Girkin, went public and rejoiced about the downing of the plane, which he thought was a Ukrainian plane. Mr. Girkin still lives in freedom in Russia instead of standing trial in The Hague, where the families of the victims are asking for accountability for this horrible attack on flight MH17. I also missed that in Vasily's [Nabenzya, Russian Ambassador] statement.

Vasily [Nebenzya, Russian Ambassador] mentioned the Minsk package and quoted a number of paragraphs, but he didn't quote any of the first and most important paragraphs. The first paragraph is on the ceasefire. I was in Minsk. After long negotiations the ceasefire was set for zero hours on February 15, six years ago. At that time, however, the attack of Russian soldiers in Ukraine didn't stop, because the Russian militia were not able to conquer a very important logistical hub, the city of Debalzewe. Hence they continued to fight for more than two days until the Russian armed forces were able to do just that.

The second paragraph is about the withdrawing of heavy weapons. Until today, the Russian heavy weapons have not been withdrawn from the line of command and control in violation of the  Minsk agreements.

The third paragraph is about effective monitoring. This task was given to the OSCE. And we heard again, that until today the SMM [Special Monitoring Mission] cannot do its job. The SMM does not have free access, cannot effectively monitor what is happening on the ground, and in particular, cannot observe the Russian Ukrainian border in the area, which is not controlled by the Ukrainian government. Therefore Russia can, day after day, ship soldiers and armament into Luhansk and Donetsk. In the latest SMM report, we heard that 94 percent of all incidents affecting the operationality of the SMM are the responsibility of the separatists. I would like to take this opportunity, also in the presence of Mr. Cevik, to thank the SMM for their important work on a very difficult job.

Let's go back to the Minsk package. Paragraph seven is on the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance. We heard today about the difficulties that also the humanitarian organizations encounter when attempting to deliver support to the occupied territories. We heard a lot about the difficult circumstances of the people living in these areas.

Paragraph ten is on the withdrawal of foreign armed formations. Until today, they are Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. They may not have the official stamp of the Russian army, but the Russians continue to be there, and without Russia, Luhansk and Donetsk could not survive.

When listening today – and I listened very carefully to Vasily [Nebenzya, Russian Ambassador] –, I always have the impression it was Ukraine that invaded Russia and not the other way around: that Russia in fact invaded Ukraine.

Yes, there are problems in the Ukranian Government, have been from the very beginning. I went to Kiev, I talked to members of the Rada. There is not a lot of trust in Russian commitment and one understands why. There are doubts when you look back to the non-implementation of the Budapest Memorandum. Therefore, it is not easy that the Rada approves all the laws and regulations that are brought forward by the government. The Rada is not the Duma where basically government decisions are rubber-stamped. This is democracy.

On another occasion we heard Vasily [Nebenzya, Russian Ambassador] lamenting about the fact that only Belarus and China participated in their December Arria formula meeting on Eastern Ukraine, but nobody else wanted to listen to the separatists. We were reminded again today by the former Ukrainian President that the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group – which is there to solve the issue and to implement Minsk – is Russia, Ukraine, OSCE. Instead of trying to give legitimacy to those puppet regimes in Luhansk and Donetsk, they should concentrate on doing their job. They should finally open Zolote and Shchastya instead of telling fantasy stories. They should stop the restrictions of movements of the SMM on a daily basis and stop willfully damaging SMM property. And Russia should stop to issue Russian passports in large numbers to Ukrainian nationals. This clearly contradicts the spirit of the Minsk agreements, but is also a violation of international law.

Unfortunately, the way that Russia behaves in Ukraine is part of a pattern that we regularly see here in the Security Council, the disrespect for international law and international humanitarian law. We see this in Syria with the backing of the murderous Assad regime, the undermining of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the bombing of hospitals, the militias that are stationed in Libya, and we have seen the poisoning of Mr. Skripal and Mr. Navalny.

Let me end with a recent quote by Chancellor Merkel on the latest Russian move. She said: “We are witnessing another facet of Russia's detachment from the rule of law.”

I hope that one day we will see a reversal of this trend.

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