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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its 28 Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union recalls its unwavering support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
In line with UN General Assembly resolution no 68/262 (2014) the EU does not recognise and continues to condemn the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia which remains a clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all States. We reconfirm our condemnation of this violation of international law and remain committed to fully implement our non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures. We call again on United Nations Member States to consider similar non-recognition measures in line with the UNGA Resolution 68/262.
The EU expresses concern about the ongoing militarisation of the Crimean peninsula and the Black and Azov seas. Since the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation, the human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula has severely deteriorated. Residents of the peninsula face systematic restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion or belief and association and the right to peaceful assembly. The rights of the Crimean Tatars have been gravely violated through the shutting down of Crimean Tatar media outlets, the banning of the activities of the Mejlis, their self-governing body, and the persecution of its leaders and members of their community. Further violating international humanitarian law, hundreds of men from Crimean peninsula have been conscripted into the Russian Armed Forces. Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and all ethnic and religious communities in the peninsula must be ensured the possibility to maintain and develop their culture, traditions, education and identity.
The European Union calls for full compliance with international human rights standards in the peninsula. All pending cases of human rights violations and abuses, such as enforced disappearances, torture and killings should be thoroughly investigated. The European Union calls for the release of the approximately 70 political prisoners being held in Crimean peninsula and Russia, in particular Pavlo Hryb and Edem Berkirov, who both require urgent medical assistance. The European Union fully supports the work and reports of the OHCHR Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and stresses that all international human rights observers and monitoring mechanisms should be granted full, free and unrestricted access to the entire sovereign territory of Ukraine, particularly including Crimean peninsula as laid out in these resolutions 71/205, 72/190 and 73/263 on the "Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)".
The EU calls for full implementation of these resolutions, including the Russian Federation's obligations under applicable international humanitarian law. The EU further calls for the full and immediate compliance with the order of the International Court of Justice of the 19th of April 2017 in the case concerning the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The situation in the Azov Sea remains high on our agenda. The EU expressed its utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait and Russia's violations of international law which has led to the seizure of Ukrainian vessels and their crews by Russia and shots being fired at them, wounding several Ukrainian servicemen. There is no justification for the use of military force by Russia. Russia’s aggressive actions also affect the security situation in the entire Black Sea region.
The EU requests the immediate and unconditional release of all detained Ukrainian servicemen as well as the return of the seized vessels. The EU also expects Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage through the Kerch strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.
We will continue to follow closely the situation and we are determined to act appropriately, in close coordination with its international partners. Preparatory work is ongoing to strengthen our support in favour of the affected areas of Ukraine.
The EU remains firm in its call on all sides to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk agreements and honor their commitments in full in order to achieve a sustainable political solution to the conflict in line with OSCE principles and commitments. We call on Russia to fully assume its responsibility in this regard and to use its considerable influence over the armed formations it backs to meet the Minsk commitments in full. Respect for these principles and commitments must be restored.
The European Union fully supports the efforts of the Normandy format, the OSCE, and the Trilateral Contact Group. A sustainable ceasefire is urgently needed. Regrettably, the security situation remains highly volatile and a genuine ceasefire has not been reached yet. The sides should withdraw heavy weapons, disengage and undertake comprehensive demining. In violation of their commitments the sides continue to shoot and fortify their military positions along the line of contact inside the disengagement areas, which we condemn.
We call on Russia to immediately stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations, and we remain deeply concerned about information on the presence of Russian military equipment and personnel in areas currently not under the control of the Government of Ukraine. The EU condemns the continuous deterioration of human rights situation in the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, too.
The duration of the EU’s economic sanctions against Russia is linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We strongly condemn the continued threats and restrictions to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), which occur predominantly in areas currently not under the control of the Government of Ukraine. This hampers the SMM from fulfilling its mandate. The SMM must have safe, secure, unconditional and unimpeded access throughout Ukraine. This includes the Crimean peninsula, coastal line east of Mariupol and along the Ukraine-Russia state border to which the SMM is systematically denied access. We express our concern that the ability to target SMM assets without serious consequences contributes to creating an atmosphere of impunity which negatively impacts the SMMs effectiveness and the safety and security of SMM staff and assets. Those responsible for any wilful damage, destruction or loss of SMM UAVs and other assets should be held accountable.
Civilians are the ones paying the price when the sides do not adhere to the ceasefire, when they do not withdraw heavy weapons and when they do not remove mines, but instead are laying new ones. It is of deep concern that the freedom of movement of civilians remains severely restricted throughout eastern Ukraine with only five Entry Exit Checkpoints open. Civilians suffer in harsh weather conditions waiting for hours to cross at these points in order to meet their basic human needs such as seeing family members, collect medicine and food. At times people lose their lives while waiting.
Humanitarian assistance to all people in need is paramount and we call on the sides to guarantee unhindered and sustained access for humanitarian actors. After five years of conflict, the deteriorating security situation in eastern Ukraine has an increasing impact on the civilian population, in particular the most vulnerable living in the Non-Government Controlled Areas and along both sides of the contact line, where people are under continuous threat of shelling. We share a profound concern for their sufferings. Humanitarian needs in these areas have increased as a result of the prolonged conflict. Adequate social benefits and pensions to all Internal Displaced Persons, regardless of their place of residence and in accordance with the Ukrainian Constitution should be provided. Protection of the supply of water, energy and other utilities across the Line of Contact and mitigation of environmental risks are key to avoiding a worsening of the situation.
To conclude, Mr. President, let me recall a few statistics,
UN considers that 5.2 million Ukrainians continue to be exposed to the consequences of the protracted crisis, directly or indirectly. The United Nations multi-year 2019-2020 Humanitarian Response Plan appeals for donor funding. According to the UN, for 2019, USD 162 million are needed to reach the 2.3 million most vulnerable men, women and children with humanitarian assistance and protection in Ukraine. We recall that the previous response plan for 2018 was valued at USD 187 million, but was regrettably funded only by about 37%.
The decreasing level of humanitarian funding is rapidly reducing the ability to deliver humanitarian assistance. This may, together with the restrictions on access of humanitarian assistance to the affected regions, result in eroding the standard of living of the most affected people and create new humanitarian needs.
The European Union, together with its 28 Member States is the biggest donor of humanitarian and early recovery/development assistance to Ukraine. It has provided over EUR 681.1 million since the beginning of the conflict of which approximately half for humanitarian aid.
We can confirm today our pledge to do our utmost in this field to diminish the suffering of Ukrainian population.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.