Article by: Serhiy Drachuk
Inviting Russia to the border OSCE mission at two points at the Ukrainian border was a gesture of good will, therefore the claims that Moscow is blocking something are out-of-place, stated permanent Russian representative in the OSCE Andrey Kelin after he blocked the proposal to increase this mission’s mandate.
AS the Russian MFA’s press service reported on Thursday, Kelin, when speaking at the permanent OSCE council, claimed that the ‘Minsk Protocol’ in its fourth points regards observation only on the Ukrainian side of the border. And this, says he, has to be accorded not with Russia but the ‘rebels,’ which is what Moscow calls the pro-Russian armed separatists in Ukraine.
The decisions in the OSCE Permanent Council depend on the consensus of all 57 member countries. As such, without Russia’s agreement, the OSCE was only able to renew the current mandate of the observer mission at two Russian checkpoints at the Ukrainian border, Gukovo and Donetsk in Rostov oblast, for another month this Wednesday.
Russia also refused to extend the mission to other checkpoints, as proposed by Switzerland, which is currently presiding over the organization. Besides, Russia vetoed the petition to increase the number of observers somewhat to decreased the workload every person carries.
Russia sees the opposite to what is written in the ‘Minsk Protocol’
When speaking in the OSCE, the Russian representative belied the ‘Minsk Accords,’ which were signed with the involvement of the OSCE and which are well-known in this organization, saying that Moscow did not oblige itself to ensure control over the Ukrainian border.
The peace protocol for some parts of Donbas, signed on September 5 in Minsk, directly prescribes to “ensure constant monitoring at the Ukraine-Russia state border and verification on part of the OSCE with the creation of a security zone in the borderline regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”
The world has emphasized numerous times that while Ukraine is doing a lot to execute this protocol and the further memorandum, also signed in Minsk on September 16, Russia does not comply with its obligations according to the ‘Minsk Agreements.’
The U.S. defends the ‘Minsk Accords’ from Russian interpretation
This time, it was reminded of this by the U.S., as reported by their mission in the OSCE.
Permanent U.S. representative in the OSCE Daniel Bear expressed concern over Russia’s step. According to him, such constant obstruction on Russia’s part is yet another wasted opportunity for it to augment its words with actions and invest in deescalation.
The U.S. mission emphasized that the observers are working at two checkpoints on one kilometer out of the hundreds of kilometers of the Ukraine-Russia border which is out of Kyiv’s control. Its head noted that in reality point four of the ‘Minsk Protocol,’ signed September 5, determines the OSCE’s clear role in monitoring and verification on both sides of the Ukraine-Russia international border and the creation of a security zone in the borderline zones of Ukraine and Russia.
He also asked Russia to execute this and other points of the ‘Minsk Accords,’ in particular to remove its servicemen and heavy weaponry from Ukraine and release all the hostages.
U.S. OSCE mission advisor Jennifer Bosworth emphasized that the ungrounded limitations on the mission’s work on Russia’s part are a reason for concern: as the mission will be unable to see how much Russia participates in the creation of the flow of illegal weaponry, other supplies and soldiers to support the separatists in the East of Ukraine. The mission will also be unable to confirm that Russia has employed means to stop this flow, she added.
Having refused to extend the mandate to other checkpoints and border areas between them, Russia evokes serious doubt in its assertiveness in executing this critical point of the ‘Minsk Protocol,’ emphasized the U.S. representative.
Kyiv: Russia is lonesome in its vetoing
Kyiv also condemned the fact that the only country which blocked the extension of the mandate and increase of the mission was Russia.
This position is a testament to Russia’s unreadiness and unwillingness to make practical steps towards the execution of the ‘Minsk Accords,’ in particular, to ensure effective control at the border to stop the flow of military equipment, weaponry and personnel to support the actions of illegal armed formations in Ukraine from Russian territory, says the statement of the Ukrainian MFA.
Russia still speaks of ‘good will’
This is not the first time Russia blocks an initiative to increase observation at its border with Ukraine in locations which are currently under the control of separatists. The same happened three months ago, on July 24, which they approved the current three-month mandate for the border mission.
Back then, the Permanent U.S. representative in the OSCE also expressed deep disappointment that Russia, despite all petitions to increase the geographical scope of the mission, only made minimal steps: it agreed to accept observers only at two points on its border. As such, Russia limited the field of observation to several hundred meters with the overall length of this border with Ukraine being almost two thousand kilometers. All the while, Russia continued to send weapons across the border, emphasized Daniel Baer.
The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry stated back then that the majority of OSCE members shared Kyiv’s stance on the necessity to monitor the entire border, and not just two checkpoints, which was proven by the discussion at the Permanent Council of the OSCE.
Russia also only spoke of its ‘good will.’ In reality, the Russian MFA accused Ukraine, the U.S., as well as Canada, of “interfering with reaching consensus, tried to add irrelevant elements to the decision…, distorting the essence of the Russian initiative.”
Ukraine lost control over most of its border with Russia in the beginning of summer, as its line was taken by armed separatists from the Ukrainian side. The Cabinet of Minister declared that the checkpoints on the occupied territories were closed. According to the international agreements, Russia was supposed to close these checkpoints on its side. However, the Russian side continues the illegal activities of its checkpoints all this time.