Response to the Russian Federation on the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk

As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to the Permanent Council, Vienna | October 9, 2014

I just wanted to respond to a couple of points made by the distinguished representative of the Russian Federation.

First, he said that the observation mission’s report verified that there were no mercenaries coming from the Russian Federation to Ukraine. I actually heard in the report that there were people in military dress who acknowledged that they were going to receive training. I don’t think that conclusively proves that they are “mercenaries” – but certainly there were fighters coming from Russia into Ukraine. And there is a training facility, apparently, on the other side of the border. So I certainly don’t think we can say that the observer mission’s report “proves” that there were no mercenaries.

I think we also need to recall that the observer mission has access to approximately one kilometer of the border. There is approximately 300 kilometers of border that is not under Ukrainian control on the Ukrainian side.  So this is a very small fraction of the border. To be frank, the observer mission is able to see only what the Russian Federation wants the observer mission to see, in that one kilometer. Now, what they’re able to see is still interesting, and frankly it underscores the need for effective monitoring of the entire border, but we need to keep in context just how modest this is. I was gratified to hear the Russian Federation’s ambassador say that “urgent measures are needed to make the ceasefire stable.” These urgent measures are laid out in the Minsk Protocol, and they need to be implemented. So I would expect that if the Russian Federation’s understands that urgent measures are needed, that chief among those urgent measures would be securing the international border and stopping the flow of fighters and weapons.

This is not a menu from which one can pick and choose

There needs to be monitoring, and a weapons-free zone on both sides of the international border. The Russian Federation calls the Observer Mission a ‘goodwill gesture’. Securing the border isn’t a goodwill gesture; this is something that the Russian Federation signed up to on September 5th. (They called it a ‘goodwill gesture’ – and I disputed that at the time – before there was a ceasefire, but surely after there’s a ceasefire to which the Russian Federation has signed up, this is no longer something that anyone can consider a “goodwill gesture”.) This is simply a question of whether the Russian Federation, in a year in which it has violated so many of the commitments and promises it has made, is again going to violate a commitment that it made a little over a month ago. The test for the Russian Federation right now is whether they will implement in good faith all of the points of Minsk, several of which were just cited by the Russian Federation’s ambassador. This is not a menu from which one can pick and choose which pieces one wants to implement. The ceasefire is dependent on all of the pieces of Minsk being implemented, and we should move urgently to support the SMM’s work on the Ukrainian side of the border, in collaboration with the Ukrainian border guard service, and we should move urgently to support the expansion and extension for the Russian side of the border in order to, in good faith, implement the various components of the ceasefire.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.