Council Consultations on Russian Humanitarian Convoy Entering Ukraine
This afternoon (22 August), the Security Council will be briefed in consultations on the situation in Ukraine by Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Lithuania called for the meeting after a number of trucks from a Russian humanitarian convoy entered the territory of Ukraine earlier today without the consent of Ukraine and without escort from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
According to the Observer Mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which monitoring and reporting on the Donetsk Border Crossing Point, a total of 134 trucks crossed the border into Ukraine without state consent or ICRC escort. It also said that only 34 of the trucks that crossed the border had been inspected by Ukraine.
After the convoy spent several days near the border awaiting assurances of safe passage under ICRC auspices, Russia decided to move in without permission from Ukraine. In a statement today Russia said that the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine has become intolerable and that it had met all the demands raised by Ukraine and the ICRC necessary for delivery of the aid. Russia has also claimed that it went ahead because Ukraine kept delaying granting formal consent for the passage of the convoy required by the ICRC.
Ukraine has accused Russia of violating its sovereignty with President Petro Poroshenko calling it an act of aggression by Russia. However, Valentin Nalyvaichenko, the head of the security service, stated that Ukraine will not be using force against the convoy. The humanitarian convoy, which was escorted by the pro-Russian separatist forces, reached the city of Lugansk a few hours ago.
NATO has termed Russia’s actions as a blatant breach of international commitments. It has also suggested that Russia has been using artillery against Ukrainian troops, both across the borders and within Ukraine. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (Russia) in a press conference today said he was not aware of any Russian troops in Ukraine.
Yesterday (21 August), while the convoy was still on the other side of the border, Russia proposed a draft statement which welcomed the agreements achieved on delivery of humanitarian aid shipments under the auspices of the ICRC while it also called for a ceasefire and assurances of safe passage for the humanitarian convoy. The draft statement was put under silence procedure yesterday afternoon. It seems both Lithuania and the US broke silence and proposed amendments, including acknowledging that there are a number of organisations and states providing aid as well as dropping the reference to a ceasefire. At press time no new draft text has been circulated.
Earlier this week on 18 August, following the meeting on the Middle East, Ukraine was discussed under any other business at the request of Russia, asking for an update from the Secretariat on the implementation of resolution 2166 on the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Resolution 2166 requests the Secretary-General “to identify possible options for UN support to the investigation and to report to the Security Council on relevant developments” but does not give a specific reporting timeline. Fernández-Taranco briefed Council members on the ongoing efforts regarding the investigation into the downing of flight MH17 and indicated that the detailed report will be presented to the Council by the end of August.
At today’s meeting, the majority of Council members are likely to condemn this cross-border incursion by Russia. Russia is expected to continue with its humanitarian aid narrative and argue that the convoy needed to go in to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. It seems that Russia had wanted to have a briefing from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs but others were of the view that today’s developments were essentially political actions and should be discussed under that optic.
While the complexity of the current situation in eastern Ukraine may make it difficult to categorise it neatly as either purely humanitarian or political, it appears that the humanitarian situation cannot be improved without a political decision. The need for a ceasefire is clear, but so far no Council member has raised the option of a Chapter VI draft resolution on the pacific settlement of the situation in Ukraine. A Chapter VI resolution would also allow for the use of Article 27(3), which states that in decisions under Chapter VI, “a party to the dispute shall abstain from voting”. While Russia may argue that it is not a party to this dispute, it would nevertheless have to face the preliminary debate into the question, a scenario the Council avoided when it allowed Russia to veto a draft resolution on the situation in Crimea on 15 March (S/2014/189).
Action from the Council would help strengthen ongoing high-level diplomatic efforts. On 17 August, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia met in Berlin where they focused their discussion on the details of a possible cease-fire and the humanitarian situation. The meeting did not result in any concrete proposals or agreements. Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs travelled to Kiev this week where he met with Poroshenko and other high-level government officials. Also, Valerie Amos, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator is in Ukraine this week. Both Feltman and Amos are likely to brief the Council on their visits upon their return. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to meet with Poroshenko in Kiev on 23 August, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko are scheduled to meet in Minsk on 26 August at a high level summit that also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and the EU.