Norway is aligned with the statement made by the EU and stands fully behind its content, but allow me some remarks in my national capacity.
As we again meet to confer about Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful attack on Ukraine, we should remind ourselves that this war of choice did not start on 24 February, but rather more than eight years ago. It started when the Russian Federation temporarily annexed Crimea and sent forces and weapons to Donetsk and Luhansk to assist the sham separatist movements allegedly existing in the eastern parts of these oblasts. The war has been going on since then, thoroughly fueled by the Russian Federation, and then dramatically escalated to a full scale attack on the whole country two months ago.
As a response to these actions by Russia, we recall that the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine – SMM – was deployed in March 2014, mandated to observe the agreed ceasefire, contribute to reducing tensions and help foster peace in Ukraine.
However, the saga about the SMM has regrettably taken an unfortunate turn lately. Russia was not willing to extend the mandate of the SMM. Furthermore, we are hearing disconcerting reports about an increasing number of detentions and persecution of national staff of the SMM who are currently residing in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk.
We join the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and the OSCE Secretary General in their call for the immediate release of these national SMM employees. We also join in their condemnation of the deplorable acts of intimidation, harassment, and hostile public rhetoric against the SMM and mission staff in areas of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.
We, including Russia, gave the SMM its mandate. We, including Russia, employed the observers. The fact that a participating State to the OSCE is behind the detention and harassment of people it has consented to employ is totally unacceptable. We must be mindful that such behaviour from a participating State puts the security and safety of the SMM national personnel at risk and undermine the field missions in general. To put it mildly, this is a most unfortunate precedent.
We continue to admire the professionalism, dedication, and courage with which the SMM staff have carried out their mandated tasks until their relocation and beyond. Their work has been important in many areas. Not only the reporting on ceasefire violations, but also the outreach and contact with relevant stakeholders and civil society, and the facilitation of localized ceasefires for vital infrastructure repairs. Through their activities the observers have made a difference to the local population by helping to alleviate human suffering.
We concur with Secretary General Schmid that all national mission members remain OSCE officials and should be afforded functional immunity, including during this period when the mandate has lapsed.
I ask that this statement be attached to the Journal of the Day.