The European Union and its Member States welcome this Joint PC – FSC meeting, convened by the Polish and Azerbaijani Chairs at the request of the delegation of Ukraine. In view of the current heightened tensions and the blunt refusal by Russia to engage in a meaningful dialogue, such discussion in this special configuration as foreseen by Chapter III of the Vienna Document is urgently needed.
Distinguished Co-Chairs, Russia’s unprecedented and threatening massive military build-up and troop movements near the border with Ukraine as well as its unwillingness to provide sufficient transparency about the deployment of combat forces in, and joint drills with Belarus are of great concern. In addition, Russia’s increased military presence in the Black and Azov Seas and in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, as well as the closure of large parts of the Black Sea, add to the current escalation and the threat of the use of force also in the maritime sphere. To this date, we have not seen any signs of de-escalation near the Ukrainian borders. No credible and verifiable information has been provided on these unusual military activities. Neither have we witnessed a sign of willingness by the Russian Federation to engage in a much needed dialogue in order to dispel the justified and serious concerns by Ukraine as well as those of numerous other participating States.
We are also concerned about increasingly aggressive rhetoric and recent false allegations against Ukraine. Against this background, and taking into account the recent experience of Ukraine, we express our full understanding and support for Ukraine’s decision to invoke the risk reduction mechanism as foreseen in paragraph 16 of the Vienna Document. Voicing concerns about unusual military activities and the threatening posture of a neighbouring participating State is not a provocation but a legitimate right.
Regretfully, Russia is again not present here today to answer the pertinent questions posed by Ukraine and other interested participating States. We underline that responding in good faith to our common consultation mechanism as foreseen in Chapter III of the Vienna Document, a confidence- and security-building measure, is key to reducing risks and dispel concerns. Failing to comply with this commitment, refusing a meaningful dialogue, undermines the goals and the spirit of the Vienna Document and is disrespectful to the Organisation and all participating States.
This week, another risk reduction mechanism process was activated by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with regard to unusual military activities in the Republic of Belarus. Although we appreciate that Belarus, in contrast to Russia, engaged in a dialogue, we regret that our Belarusian colleagues did not provide the necessary level of transparency on the numbers, size and scope of the military activities in the context of the exercise “Union Resolve 2022” and unspecified “border security measures” in the vicinity of the state border between Belarus and Ukraine. The latter is also a cause of serious concern which Russia could dispel if it participated in a constructive attitude in the meeting today.
At the meeting on 15 February, organised in accordance with paragraph 16.2 of the VD, which Russia did not attend, we posed a series of concrete questions in relation to Russia’s ongoing military build-up. Unanswered, these questions remain also valid today. We urge Russia to acknowledge these questions, which were also distributed for information to all pS, and to provide substantial, verifiable answers to dispel our concerns.
We recall our principled position that the full implementation of the Minsk agreements is the only way forward. We underline Russia’s responsibility in this regard as a party to the conflict. We strongly support the efforts of both the Normandy Format and the Trilateral Contact Group to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict, in full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. The work of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine is of crucial importance and we call on Russia to ensure that the Mission can fully implement its mandate and has full freedom of movement and access to the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
We recall our unwavering support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders and call upon Russia to do likewise. We strongly condemn the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia since February 2014 and the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation, which we will not recognise. Any further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe cost, including a wide array of sectoral, financial and individual restrictive measures.
As regards measures for clarifying the situation as well as halting activities that give rise to concern, the European Union and its Member States recommend to use all relevant provisions under the Vienna Document and other CSBMs to the fullest, and in particular:
- to Russia
- to provide, in accordance with its commitments under the Vienna Document, full transparency on its military activities in the region, in particular about the total number of troops, major weapons and equipment systems involved in these activities, the units and formations these Russian military forces belong to, and the exact return date of Russian units and formations back to their peacetime locations;
- to host a visit to the areas, which are the cause of concern, including the exercise and training areas on the Russian-Ukrainian and Belarusian- Ukrainian borders, in accordance with paragraph 18 of the Vienna Document to dispel concerns about the unusual military activities in question, as well as open its territory for inspection visits where the specified area could be inspected for any potentially notifiable military activity;
- to take significant and verifiable steps to de-escalate the situation and to engage in a meaningful dialogue and constructive consultations;
- to provide information on the reported redeployment of Russian units from the locations of military exercises in the vicinity of Ukraine’s borders and in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula and provide full transparency on these movements if confirmed, including the number of troops and equipment concerned by this redeployment and schedule for return of all remaining troops;
- to participating States to use the verification mechanism as stipulated in Chapters IX and X of the Vienna Document 2011;
- to the participating States involved to regularly brief the FSC, in particular on military activities in border areas.
Mr. Chair, I kindly request that these recommendations and our statement today be attached to the Journal of the Day.
The Candidate Countries the REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENE-GRO* and ALBANIA* and the EFTA countries ICELAND, LIECHTENSTEIN and NORWAY, members of the European Economic Area, as well as UKRAINE, the RE-PUBLIC OF MOLDOVA and GEORGIA align themselves with this statement.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.