What's In Blue

Posted Tue 4 May 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on the Situation in Ukraine via VTC

Tomorrow morning (5 May), Russia will host an Arria-formula meeting via videoconference on the situation in Ukraine entitled “Odessa seven years after: Neo-nazism and violent nationalism as drivers of conflict in Ukraine”. The expected briefers are Dmitry Fuchedzhi, former deputy Chief of Odessa’s Regional Interior Ministry; Alexey Albu, a former member of the Odessa Regional Council; Anna Tuv, resident of Gorlovka township in the Donbas region; Sergey Kirichuk, a participant in the 2 May 2014 events in the Odessa Trade Union building; and Rostislav Ishchenko, a political expert and analyst. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) is expected to provide opening and closing remarks at the meeting.

According to the concept note prepared by Russia, tomorrow’s meeting will focus on the 2 May 2014 events in the Ukrainian port city Odessa. Street clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian demonstrators resulted in 48 deaths and scores of injured. According to media reports, most of the casualties were pro-Russian protestors who were trapped in a fire that engulfed the Odessa Trade Union building, while six people reportedly died from firearm injuries. In the concept note, Russia argues that there has been a lack of conclusive investigations into the 2014 events in Odessa and that the perpetrators of violence have not been brought to justice. The concept note says that tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the role of violent nationalism as a dividing factor in Ukraine in the events leading up to and during the Maidan protests in 2013 and 2014. The concept note suggests that understanding the root causes of a conflict is crucial for efforts to assist in its sustainable resolution.

Council members discussed the 2014 events in Odessa in a 2 May 2014 open meeting, in which then Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed on the situation in Ukraine. That meeting took place as developments were still unfolding on the ground and details of the events in Odessa were still unclear. As such, Council members condemned the violence and urged restraint by the parties but did not elaborate on their positions on the events. While the Council has held numerous meetings on Ukraine since 2014, the discussions have generally centred on the situation in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Tomorrow’s meeting—which will be the third Arria-formula meeting on Ukraine since the beginning of 2021—will be the first Arria-formula meeting on the May 2014 events in Odessa.  Earlier this year, Council members Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US organised a high-level Arria-formula meeting on Crimea on 12 March and Russia convened a follow-up Arria-formula meeting on 17 March.

It appears that Council members are united overall in their condemnation of violence during the May 2014 events in Odessa and their call for accountability. In the aftermath of the Odessa events, then-EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the tragic loss of life and called for an independent investigation to bring those responsible to justice. In April 2014, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe established an International Advisory Panel to oversee investigations by Ukrainian authorities into violent incidents that took place in Ukraine from 30 November 2013 onwards and evaluate if these investigations met all the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. A 2015 report issued by the Panel found that the investigations by Ukrainian authorities into the 2014 events in Odessa had failed to satisfy the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Council members are likely to present opposing narratives on responsibility for the May 2014 Odessa events, their significance in the wider context of the conflict in Ukraine, and on the root causes of conflict in Ukraine. Russia has accused western countries of supporting what it perceives as a coup d’état against the government in Ukraine in 2014. Russia continues to blame Ukraine for the lack of implementation of the 2014 Minsk agreements, which are the main framework for the resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, permanent members France, the UK and the US, together with European members of the Council, claim that the root causes of the conflict stem from Russia’s interference in Ukraine’s affairs.  Council members are likely to reiterate their well-established positions on the conflict in Ukraine at tomorrow’s meeting.