The tremendous human cost of the Ukraine conflict must be first addressed through mutual respect of the Minsk ceasefire agreement and the fulfilment of its political, economic, social and humanitarian provisions, the top United Nations political official affirmed today as he briefed the Security Council on the situation in the conflict-torn Eastern European country.
“The full implementation of Minsk is sine qua non for leading eastern Ukraine and the country out of conflict,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the 15-member Council during his briefing earlier this morning. “The continued non-implementation of various provisions of the agreement entails dangerous limbo.”
Sadly, Mr. Feltman continued, since the signing of the Minsk package in February, 400 more casualties have been lost, pushing the death toll from the fighting to over 6,400 people.
“We are either looking at a return to a deepening, intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict,” he added. “We cannot afford either scenario.”
In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full-scale conflict in the east.
Nevertheless, despite a September 2014 cease-fire agreed in Minsk, the situation in Ukraine has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country's unity, territorial integrity and stability. In February 2015, the parties in Ukraine and the Trilateral Contact Group signed a “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”
According to conservative estimates put forward by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the hostilities have resulted in at least 6,417 people killed and 15,962 wounded.
At the same time, Mr. Feltman warned, the country’s humanitarian crisis also remained “dire” with Ukraine now ranking among the top ten countries in terms of internal displacement with over 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Over a year ago, the country had none, he added.
The UN’s Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently reported, in fact, that about 857,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum, residence permits or other forms of legal stay in neighbouring countries – an increase of about 23,000 people in the past two weeks.
Life in the crisis-torn provinces of eastern Ukraine is also precarious from a healthcare standpoint as services are increasingly curtailed due to lack of medicine and medical equipment.
“Of immediate concern is the now complete lack of humanitarian access across the contact line in either direction,” the UN official said. “This is preventing life-saving humanitarian assistance from reaching those most in need.”
Mr. Feltman similarly voiced concern about the current funding shortfall facing the UN’s 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan to assist the victims of the Ukrainian conflict which, he said, when fully funded, would “ensure that the capacity and resources are in place to reach those in desperate need.”
Against that backdrop, the Under-Secretary-General expressed some encouragement about movement on the political-diplomatic front, particularly regarding the “diligent efforts” of the Trilateral Contact Group and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s good offices role which saw the UN chief recently travel to Poland, Ukraine and Russia.
The Secretary-General, he explained, would continue his good offices role and remained “open” to considering how best to further support the political process.
“Although the road ahead would be long and arduous, full implementation of the Minsk agreements is possible if all concerned fulfil their obligations and engage in good faith,” Mr. Feltman concluded. “Neither Ukraine, nor the region nor the international community can afford to have this process fail.”