posted on Mon 11 Feb 2019 9:17 PM
Ukraine Briefing

Tomorrow afternoon (12 February), the Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine. On 8 February (Friday), Russia requested the meeting to mark the anniversary of the “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements”, also known as the Minsk II agreement, adopted on 12 February 2015. Resolution 2202 of 17 February 2015 subsequently endorsed the agreement. The Council is expected to receive briefings from Assistant Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Miroslav Jenča and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller. Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) Ertuğrul Apakan and Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Martin Sajdik are also expected to brief via video-teleconference.

It appears that some members initially questioned Russia’s motivation for requesting the meeting at relatively short notice. Although the SMM observed an increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine in late January, these members felt that the situation on the ground had not changed significantly enough to warrant the Council’s immediate attention. They have indicated an openness to holding the meeting, however, and discussing all aspects of the conflict. Although Russia seemed to have requested a briefing only from DPPA, other members proposed the inclusion of additional briefers from OCHA and OSCE.

The Council last met on Ukraine on 26 November 2018, in an emergency meeting focused on the incident in the Kerch Strait (Sea of Azov) when Russia captured three Ukrainian vessels and their crews. The US and the EU members of the Council strongly condemned Russia for escalating tensions and accused it of violating international law. Russia, for its part, accused Ukraine of provoking the incident for political reasons.

In his briefing, Jenča is likely to emphasise the continued lack of progress towards achieving a permanent ceasefire and ending hostilities in eastern Ukraine. He is expected to call on the parties to uphold their commitments under the Minsk agreements and avoid any actions that could undermine its implementation and endanger civilians.

Five years into the conflict, Ukraine faces serious humanitarian challenges. Mueller is expected to describe the difficult humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine. According to OCHA, as of 31 December 2018, 3.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, while around 1.5 million are internally displaced. Mueller may give more details on OCHA’s recently-launched humanitarian response plan for Ukraine, which provides a framework for the UN and national and international organisations to provide aid to civilians in 2019. In this regard, she may emphasise the importance of supporting the $162 million plan, which is four percent funded at present.

During his 1 February address to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Apakan called for a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the contact line. Tomorrow, in line with his previous briefings to the Security Council, Apakan is likely to present information on ceasefire violations and on the situation on the ground more broadly, as observed by the SMM. He will probably also emphasise the need to protect civilians affected by the conflict. Some members are expected to reiterate calls for free and unhindered access by SMM observers to all areas in eastern Ukraine.

Some members might be interested to hear more from Sajdik about the details of a peace proposal for Ukraine that he described to the media at the end of January. The plan envisions the deployment of UN peacekeepers, in addition to the OSCE monitors. The idea of deploying UN peacekeepers was proposed by Ukraine in 2015 but failed to gain traction given disagreement among Council members.

Council dynamics on Ukraine continue to be defined by divisions among members. Russia dismisses accusations by some members, including the P3, that it is meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine, denying, for example, that it is supporting armed groups in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons.