posted on Thu 4 Jun 2015 4:12 PM
Briefing on the Violations of the Ceasefire in Ukraine

Tomorrow morning (5 June), the Security Council will hold a briefing on Ukraine at Lithuania’s request. The Council will be briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM), who will be briefing via video teleconference from Ukraine. The Council last discussed Ukraine on 6 March (S/PV.7400) when it was briefed on the political, human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. Tomorrow’s meeting was prompted by an increase in violence and violations of the ceasefire agreed to in the 12 February Minsk agreement. Though there have been sporadic violations since the ceasefire came into effect in February, the last two months saw a significant decrease in violence. However, on 3 June, intense fighting, including the use of heavy artillery, erupted in the Donetsk region, with most violent clashes taking place in the government controlled town of Marinka. Both the Ukrainian government and the rebels have reported casualties, though the exact numbers could not be verified at press time.

In its 3 June report, the OSCE SMM observed the use of heavy weapons around the town of Marinka, as well as the movement of several armoured vehicles and tanks moving from rebel controlled areas towards the frontline. The OSCE SMM report also noted that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense had informed the OSCE that the Ukrainian army would place its heavy weapons on the front line in order to deal with the “real threat” posed by the fighting in Marinka.

The EU and NATO have reacted strongly today to the upsurge in fighting this week. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, described the recent fighting in Marinka as “the most serious violation of the Minsk agreements.” Mogherini called on both sides to uphold their commitments to the Minsk agreements and allow unhindered access to OSCE monitors. The EU will hold a summit at the end of June, where it will decide whether to extend the sanctions on Russia over its role in Ukraine. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia in particular bears the responsibility to end the conflict in Ukraine because it has forces in Ukraine and continues to supply military weapons to the rebels.

The 12 February Minsk agreement called for a complete ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line. Both of these provisions have been violated in the past several days. As the OSCE is the primary organisation tasked with the monitoring and implementation of the Minsk agreement, Council members will be particularly interested in the briefing by Hug, who is expected to provide additional details on the latest developments on the ground and the state of the implementation of the agreement.

While the Council was able to adopt resolution 2202 on 17 February, which “endorses the package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements” and called on all parties to implement these measures, it is unlikely that the Council will have a unified position on the violation of the ceasefire at tomorrow’s meeting. Russia is expected to blame Ukraine for the current crisis and accuse it of starting the attack on rebel controlled areas, with the aim provoking further conflict. On the other hand, the P3, European members and New Zealand are more likely to stress that Russia needs to adhere to the provisions of the Minsk agreement and end its military support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

While Feltman is unlikely to provide any additional information on recent developments in Ukraine beyond what has already been reported in the media, Council members will be interested in more details about the visit of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Kiev and Moscow on 8 and 9 May, respectively. They are likely to be especially keen to hear more about the possibility of the establishment of a UN peace support office in Ukraine. During his phone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on 11 May, the Secretary-General said that he would be consulting with the members of the Council on this issue.

Although the main focus tomorrow will be deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine, some Council members could chose to highlight findings from the most recent report on human rights in Ukraine, covering the period 16 February to 15 May, and published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office on 1 June. The report notes that there has been a significant decrease in indiscriminate shelling since the signing of the Minsk agreement, but that sporadic fighting has continued. The report also states that since the beginning of the hostilities in mid-April 2014 until 15 May 2015, at least 6,362 people (including at least 625 women and girls) were documented as killed, with the actual numbers presumed to be much higher. Other serious human rights violations—including executions, torture, a lack of justice and accountability, and the deprivation of economic and social rights—are still occurring in eastern Ukraine.

In light of the recent escalation of violence, Council members are likely to keep a close watch on developments in eastern Ukraine in June and the upcoming months. Some Council members might be interested in holding a meeting specifically on the human rights situation in Ukraine, now that the latest human rights report on Ukraine has been published. Council members will also be paying attention to the investigation by the Dutch Safety Board on the downing of MH17. The final report on the incident is expected in July.