The report before the Council is damning for two reasons. First, it describes in the harshest terms the sorry tale of years of corruption and abuse on the part of former President Yanukovych and his predatory and criminal team. Is it any wonder that the Ukrainian population, exasperated by years of incompetence and corruption, rose up in protest? There was no foreign involvement there. The report also describes how the regime responded to legitimate, peaceful demonstrations with the use of force.
The titanic task of restoring trust of all Ukrainians in their institutions lies with the new Ukrainian Adminstration. The report underscores that since the very first measures were undertaken by the new Administration, calm has returned to Kyiv. On the issue of languages and regional status, we encourage the Kyiv authorities to pursue their efforts to promote a return to reason, launch constructive and inclusive dialogue, and reassure the people regarding their place in Ukraine. The acting President has refused to repeal the law on official languages. This symbolic decision demonstrates the will of the Ukrainian authorities to strive for the country’s reconciliation. Ukraine can preserve the diversity that constitutes its richness and uniqueness.
To that end, Ukraine needs our support. The first stage — the holding of the presidential election on 25 May — is key. We must support the Ukrainian authorities in order for the election to be held in the best possible conditions and ensure the representation of all. We must move towards a free and transparent election, guaranteed by the presence of international observers. It would be unacceptable for the activities of violent groups to threaten the holding of that democratic step, which is essential to the country’s future. We will not accept the result of that vote, the harbinger of great hope for the entire country, being disputed as result of any event devised from outside.
I now come to my second point. The report draws a bleak picture of the impact of Russia’s actions on the situation inside Ukraine. It describes the chain of events that led to the annexation of Crimea. It once again underscores that there was no threat to the Russian-speaking population of Crimea, a defence that is nevertheless upheld by Russia to justify its intervention. Quite the opposite, the report underscores that the risk of human rights violations now threatens the Ukrainian and Tartar populations. The United Nations must continue to take note of the human rights situation in Crimea, which is an integral part of Ukraine, as the General Assembly recalled by an overwhelming majority.
The report also underscores that the deteriorating conditions and human rights violations that preceded the holding of the referendum in Crimea on 16 March were the result of deliberate acts. The presence of soldiers in uniform without insignia, the seizure of public buildings, intimidation of the civilian population, journalists and human rights activists, the presence of foreign voters and the violent propaganda against Kyiv broadcast on Russian television channels were all coordinated and orchestrated acts. They served as a prelude to an annexation unprecedented in the twenty-first century. Today, we are seeing a similar scenario in eastern Ukraine.
In that regard, I believe that all Council members and all my colleagues here in the Chamber read the excellent article in this morning’s New York Times, which describes how Russia has established its own virtual reality, which bears no relation to the real situation. My Russian friend’s statement today shows, I believe, just how accurate and how true to the reality that article is. Let us recall the past. Participants will perhaps recall being told of 600,000 refugees fleeing the Ukrainian terror, who seem to have disappeared from one day to the next. We were told that there were no Russian soldiers in Crimea, while on YouTube we could see lorries with Russian army number plates.
Today, the same disinformation continues. We are told of peaceful protesters, while again on the Internet one can see that they are heavily armed militia. We are told that there is no Russian intervention, while again on the Internet one can see soldiers without insignia, flaunting weapons with which only the Russian army is equipped. We are told that a fascist terror prevails in Kyiv, while we know very well that if we were to go to Kyiv we would see that calm prevails. We are told that Jews in Ukraine are threatened, while the two Ukrainian Jewish organizations themselves say that they are not threatened. I could mention many more examples, but never was a statement clearly so far from the reality that, thanks to the Internet, we all can see on the computer.
Ukraine is cornered and under attack. On Sunday, right here, it was ordered not to react. One cannot imagine that it would suffer without reacting to the aggression to which it was first subjected a month ago, condemned by the General Assembly in resolution 68/262, and which it is again experiencing in the east of the country. We welcome the restraint of the Ukrainian security forces, who seek to respond in a proportional way to the unprecedented destabilizing actions against them, organized from abroad.
We call on Russia to commit to de-escalation and to condemning, together with the rest of the Council, the attempts at destabilization in eastern Ukraine. Furthermore, we call on Russia to stop trapping itself in a spiral to extremes that can lead only to tragedy. It must withdraw its troops from the border. It must cease its destabilizing activities. It must stop shouting about an imminent civil war. No one is deceived by the scenario of the arsonist firefighter — an unsubtle picture and not even a real semblance of credibility.
The situation is now extremely serious. A meeting that will bring together Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine will be held in Geneva tomorrow. That event is crucial, and we call on parties to remain calm and to exercise restraint. In the case of failure or if Russia were to seek to avoid that meeting, new sanctions would be inevitable. That is not our preferred path. We will be firm. Fully legitimate authorities must be established in Kyiv. Elections must be held on 25 May, and we will not allow Russia either to prevent them from taking place or to discredit them.
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