Briefing on the Political Situation in Ukraine
Tomorrow morning (28 April), the Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine. Briefings are expected by Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) Ertugrul Apakan (via VTC). Martin Sajdik, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group will also participate. Ukraine requested the meeting in order to address the political situation, particularly the issues related to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
This will be the first time the Council will hold a formal meeting on the situation in Ukraine this year. However, although the last formal meeting was on 11 December 2015, Council members discussed the situation in Ukraine under “any other business” in January, during the annual briefing by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in February, and Ukraine organised an Arria formula meeting on the human rights situation in Crimea in March.
Issues relevant to the implementation of the Minsk agreement are expected to dominate the agenda at tomorrow’s meeting. The agreement, which the Council endorsed in resolution 2202 in February, is considered the main framework for a political solution of the crisis in Ukraine. However, there has been almost no progress on the implementation of the main measures mandated by the agreement. These include a ceasefire and a withdrawal of heavy weapons; the completion of local elections and greater autonomy for the rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Lugansk; and ultimately the restoration of the Ukrainian government’s control of the border with Russia.
Due to the UN’s limited role in the political process in Ukraine, Eliasson is not expected to provide more detailed information on this issue. He is likely to reiterate support for the Minsk agreement and diplomatic efforts within the Normandy format involving France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. He may also provide the Council with an update on the humanitarian situation, given that various UN agencies remain actively involved on that front in Ukraine. Some members might be interested in more details about the 1 April meeting between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C. At that meeting, Poroshenko raised the possibility of an international security mission in eastern Ukraine, and urged the appointment of a UN Rapporteur to investigate allegations of torture of Ukrainians held in Russia.
Poroshenko has been calling for the deployment of UN peacekeepers in Ukraine since February 2015. During the briefing on 11 December, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin called on the Council to “assume leadership in establishing such a mission”. So far, there has not been a serious discussion in the Council regarding this issue. Russia has been adamant in opposing this idea and has repeatedly stated that this would be contrary to the Minsk agreement which has specifically tasked the OSCE with monitoring responsibilities. It is possible that Ukraine may raise the issue of UN peacekeepers again at tomorrow’s meeting.
Given the leading role of the OSCE in monitoring the Minsk agreement, Council members will probably be interested in hearing more about the recent spike in ceasefire violations, especially in the Donetsk region. In addition, Apakan is likely to provide an update on the status of the withdrawal of heavy weapons, which remains incomplete according to the latest reporting by the SMM. Regarding certain aspects of the implemetnation of the Minsk agreements, Council members are likely to be interested in getting more information from Sajdik on the activities of the Trilateral Contact Group, composed of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE.
Local elections in rebel-held areas remain one of the most important aspects of the Minsk agreement that has yet to be implemented. Though initially planned for October 2015, the elections were postponed until 2016 because of security concerns. In this context, Poroshenko recently proposed that the OSCE deploy a police operation with enforcement powers to ensure that the elections are held in a secure environment. This would be a new and potentially complicated undertaking for the OSCE as it has never deployed an armed operation. Poroshenko has raised this issue within the Normandy format, and it may be discussed at the next meeting of the group. Ultimately, deployment of such a mission would have to be approved by consensus by the 57 participating states of the OSCE. Some Council members might be interested in hearing Apakan’s views on the possibility of an OSCE police operation. In light of its frequent calls for peacekeepers,, Ukraine, now a member of the Council, may initiate further discussion on this issue.
Other aspects of the conflict that might be brought up during tomorrow’s discussion include the human rights and humanitarian situation eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The latest report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, published in March, estimated that more than 9,000 people have been killed and 21,000 injured during the conflict. The report also highlighted a number of human rights abuses by both Ukrainian and rebel forces.