Honorable President Poroshenko,
Thank you for convening this first debate under the new agenda item “The situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”, which Latvia fully supported.
Latvia associates itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union and its member states.
Madam President, distinguished colleagues,
Five years have passed since the Russian Federation illegally annexed Crimea. This gross violation of international law must not become a silent reality. Nor should Russia’s covert and overt actions in the East of Ukraine become “business as usual”. The international rules-based system was created with the aim to protect every country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity from the attempts of illegal annexation or occupation by other country. The principles of the United Nations Charter apply to all Member States.
Latvia condemns the continued illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. The international community has clearly demonstrated the non-recognition policy of the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by adopting the General Assembly resolution 68/262 in 2014. The UN and its specialized agencies also have to maintain unequivocal non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea.
We remain deeply concerned about the worsening social, economic and human rights situation on the ground.
We appreciate the continued efforts of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to monitor the human rights situation in Ukraine, including the situation in Crimea, despite access to the peninsula being denied. All OHCHR reports and numerous observations by other organizations emphasize the continuous deterioration of the human rights situation in Crimea. We are extremely concerned about the intimidation, incarceration and politically motivated persecution, as well as restrictions of basic rights and fundamental freedoms, mainly affecting ethnic Ukrainians and persons belonging to minorities.
Those Crimean people who are affected by Russia’s repressive policies have to be supported, and they need to hear that the international community has not forgotten Crimea.
The most vulnerable and affected group in Crimea continues to be the Crimean Tatars, whose history is fraught with suffering and persecution.
We are very alarmed by all reports on torture, enforced disappearances and suspected killings, as well as continuous violations of the freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion or belief, and media freedom. Latvia strongly condemns discrimination against Crimean Tatars, and we will continue to raise this issue at the international level. We will also continue calling for full and unhindered access to Crimea to international monitors, including human rights observers.
We call on the authorities of the Russian Federation, as the occupying power in Crimea, to end all human rights violations. All reported cases of persecution, arrests, ill-treatment and torture should be thoroughly investigated.
Latvia also calls on Russia to release all illegally detained Ukrainian political prisoners, including Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and journalist Roman Sushchenko.
Despite all calls for Russia to abide by the international treaties, principles and commitments, and despite the Minsk Agreements and all regional efforts, there is no progress towards resolution of the conflict in Ukraine. In contrary, the security and humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine worsens as the ceasefire regime continues to be violated. The conflict has cost the lives of thousands and led to the suffering of millions of innocent civilians. Territories of conflict are inaccessible to international monitoring mechanisms. Illegal “elections” in the so called “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics” undermine international and Ukrainian law, as well as the Minsk Agreements.
In the events that took place on 25 November 2018 in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait, Russia once again showed in a cynical way a total disrespect to the norms of international law, by openly and directly attacking Ukrainian navy with military force. Unfortunately, we do not see it as separate incident, but as continuation of the aggressive attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty.
We call on Russia to release, as soon as possible and unconditionally, the detained Ukrainian servicemen and the seized navy vessels. We also emphasize the need to respect international and bilateral commitments, and allow freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov.
We must return to the rules-based security order in Europe. The peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine that respects Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity must be a priority. Latvia strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, and we support its chosen path of democratic reforms.
Latvia once again reiterates that full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all parties remains the benchmark to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine. Most immediately, the daily violations of the ceasefire must come to an end. Russia must stop all forms of support to separatists and use its influence to make them adhere to the provisions of the Minsk Agreements. We continue to support the diplomatic efforts within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union as regional organizations have a natural role in resolving conflicts in Europe. We expect these organizations together with the UN to actively engage in the Ukraine conflict resolution.
Latvia will continue to support strongly the OSCE Special Monitoring mission in observing and assessing the implementation progress of the Minsk Agreements. The monitors must be granted full, safe and unrestricted access to all conflict-affected areas, including the disengagement zones, heavy armaments storage sites and the Russian-Ukrainian border. Any discussion on the possible UN peacekeeping mission in the Eastern Ukraine must fully involve the views of the Ukrainian side.
Latvia also appreciates the work of the UN agencies and other humanitarian actors in order to respond to serious humanitarian challenges in eastern Ukraine. Latvia has contributed financially to the UN Humanitarian Agency for assistance to Ukraine, and we will continue to provide bilateral humanitarian, medical and psychological assistance to Ukrainian civilians and military personnel. Since 2014, Latvia has provided medical treatment and rehabilitation of Ukrainian soldiers injured in the hostilities in Ukraine.
Latvia will continue supporting the reform process implemented by the Ukrainian government in order to strengthen democracy, economy and good governance, including through our bilateral development cooperation programme.
The conflict in Ukraine remains a challenge to international security. Until the aggression ceases and until Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored, its peaceful settlement must remain a high priority on the international agenda. Latvia will remain vocal in our indisputable non-recognition policy of the illegal annexation of Crimea.