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Remarks by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen during the General Assembly debate on the situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine - February 20, 2020

20.02.2020 - Speech

(check against delivery)

Mr President, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It has been six years since Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula. We cannot and will not accept this breach of international law by a permanent member of the UN Security Council! Germany stands firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Today the situation in eastern Ukraine and on the Crimean Peninsula remains among the most pressing security challenges on the European continent, and millions of civilians continue to suffer.

Germany is deeply concerned about the ongoing Russian militarization of the illegally occupied Crimean peninsula and the serious deterioration of the human rights situation. Germany condemns the construction of the Kerch strait bridge without the consent of Ukraine, which constitutes a further violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We call on Russia to ensure navigation in the Sea of Azov and passage through the Kerch Strait implementing mutually agreed arrangements.

The systematic restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion or belief and association and the right to peaceful assembly must stop immediately. We are especially concerned about the situation of and the attacks against the Tatar Crimean minority. It is crucial that the OSCE and UN Human Rights monitoring mechanisms as well as non-governmental organizations have full, free and unimpeded access to Crimea and Sevastopol.

Germany is equally concerned about the situation in eastern Ukraine. Five years after the Minsk agreements were signed, the ceasefire continues to be broken. What we now and urgently need is full  and comprehensive implementation of the ceasefire. Civilians in the Non-Government Controlled Areas and along both sides of the contact line continue to live under the constant threat of shelling, small arms fire, and the hazards posed by mines and unexploded ordnances.

The Minsk agreements remain the basis for a political solution of the conflict. The latest Summit of the Normandy Format in Paris on 9th December showed that progress is possible. We welcome the new dynamics in the Normandy Process under President Selenskyj and we welcome the new Foreign Minister to the General Assembly. Since the beginning of his tenure, we have seen positive developments such as the repair of the pedestrian bridge near Stanyzia Luhanska, the exchange of detainees and military disengagement in three areas. Germany also commends Ukraine for explicitly agreeing in writing to  the so called “Steinmeier Formula”, which should now be incorporated into Ukrainian legislation.

It is now crucial to follow up on this progress by pursuing in good faith the proposals for new disengagement areas, further exchanges of detainees, the search for missing persons and improved water and electricity supply, to name but a few areas we have to work on. Germany calls specifically on Russia to fully assume its responsibility and use its considerable influence on the separatists in eastern Ukraine in order to facilitate an agreement. It is high time for Russia to reciprocate the momentum Ukraine has brought into the process. I would like to commend Ukraine for implementing the Minsk agreements and its package despite the fact that Russia, already on the first day of the entry into force of the package, violated its substance by not observing the ceasefire.

The sides also need to agree on all the legal aspects of the Special Order of Local Self-Government of Certain Areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions and constructively discuss the political and security conditions, inter alia for the organization of the local elections.

New proposals are needed for new entry-exit points across the line of contact. International humanitarian organizations must get access to the non-government controlled areas in Luhansk and Donetsk. Furthermore, the ICRC’s full access to detainees in these areas must be ensured. We call on Russia to stop issuing Russian passports to residents of the areas in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. We are concerned about Russia’s promotion of separatism by its own citizens. It is appalling that a former vice-governor of the Irkutsk region has become acting prime-minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk Republic”. 

Germany remains concerned about the continuing restrictions that hamper the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s freedom of movement, particularly in non-government-controlled areas of southern Donetsk region and near the border with the Russian Federation. I’d like to pay tribute to the monitors who, under very difficult circumstances, do a fantastic job. The SMM plays an indispensable role in establishing facts on the security situation – its safe, secure, unconditional and unimpeded access to the entire territory of Ukraine is essential for fulfilling its mandate. We deplore any attempts to harass, intimidate or impede the work of SMM personnel and condemn the continued threats and access restrictions which are a violation of the Minsk agreements and the conclusions of the Paris N4-Summit. The SMM continues to operate in a highly volatile and unpredictable environment – it deserves our full support in carrying out its important mandate.

Germany, together with France, is determined to continue our efforts within the Normandy Format to achieve tangible progress and improve the situation of the most affected. We urge the sides to implement the commitments of the Minsk agreements, including those undertaken at the Normandy Four Summit on 9th December, in good faith.

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