Briefing the Security Council on recent developments in Ukraine, Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, called today for revival of the Minsk Accords and an immediate end to hostilities.
His call for a cessation of violence came with emphasis “particularly on the rebels” and he stressed the need for the trilateral contact group to reconvene to work towards a sustainable ceasefire and implementation of the Accords – an agreement signed under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to halt fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine –prioritizing protection of civilians and reaching those in need.
“Over 5,000 lives have already been lost in this conflict,” said Mr. Feltman.“We must find a way to stop it and must do so now.”
Full political commitment to a lasting solution was needed at the highest levels, he said, recognising the difficulties associated with diplomatic discussions for a peaceful resolution given entrenched positions.
“Nonetheless, efforts to find a political solution must urgently be redoubled,” he said.
Mr. Feltman's briefing came five days after his previous one and follows a period in which close to 50 civilians were killed and nearly 150 were seriously wounded.
At least 12 died when their trolleybus was hit by rockets in Donetsk, another 10 died on the same day in Horlivka, while a “barrage of attacks” by multi-launch rocket systems hit the city of Mariupol causing dozens of deaths.
“The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission reported, based on crater analysis, that the rockets originated from the territory controlled by the so-called 'Donetsk People's Republic,'” Mr. Feltman said, adding that Mariupol lay outside the immediate conflict zone and that therefore the rockets deliberately targeted a civilian population, constituting a violation of international humanitarian law.
“We must all send an unequivocal message: the perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to justice,” he said.
Noting that the leader of the so-called 'Donetsk People's Republic' had announced a boycott of further consultations with the Trilateral Contact Group, a unilateral withdrawal from the ceasefire and had threatened to seize further territory, he recalled the Secretary-General's statement of 24 January, which said such a move constituted violation of their commitment to the Minsk Accords and called on the rebels to immediately cease their provocative and violent actions, to abide by international law and to make good on their commitments.
“We also urge the leadership of the Russian Federation to use their influence to call on the rebels to cease hostilities immediately,” he said. “This will be a critical step in stopping the bloodshed.”
He noted the Ukrainian leadership's vocal commitment to the Minsk accords and assertions that they remained in a defensive position, while also noting the recent emergency measures adopted by the National Security and Defence Council, particularly
those relating to 'strengthening counter-terrorism measures' and appealed for the application of maximum restraint.
Mr. Feltman stressed the importance of guaranteeing humanitarian workers and goods full and unhindered access to those in need, urging the Government of Ukraine to ensure humanitarian operations were free from taxation.
“Bureaucratic hurdles on both sides of the conflict line are impeding humanitarian access and must be eased,” he said.