Question: Minsk proposed an area for the negotiations between the Ukrainian parties. How do you assess this proposition? Can such negotiations be effective?
Sergey Lavrov: We are always for negotiations, welcome any possibility, which is provided for that. In this context we appreciate the proposition by the Republic of Belarus. I would like to note that despite our attitude to what our western partners undertook with regard to this country, attempting to introduce sanctions against it, remove it from the Council of Europe and so on, when there was the “moment of truth”, Minsk became quite acceptable for everybody as the arena for the negotiations between the Ukrainian parties. This is a proof of Belarus’ reputation on the international stage and the fact that fair politics is finally recognized even by those, who dislike the state or its leaders. We will welcome any contacts and than our Belorussian colleagues for their help to Ukrainians to sit at the negotiation table, which we wanted to achieve long ago. One meeting will not suffice for that. We expect that a negotiation process will be launched as requested by the Statement by Russia, US, Ukraine and the EU of the 17 April. Now the main task is – and the mentioned Statement brings it to the fore right – to stop using force, and as an absolute priority – stop of any military actions in the area of the wreckage of the Malaysian Boeing, as requested by the UNSC resolution 2166 of the 21 July.
We remember how the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, announced that he ordered to stop military actions in the radius of 40 km from the plane crash area, then the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine announced that military actions will be stopped, when the Ukrainian armed forced push the militia out of the crash region. In other words, the address by Petro Poroshenko was disavowed. We attempt to appeal to everybody that resolution 2166 should be implemented. Yesterday in the UNSC, taking into consideration the continuing military actions by the Ukrainian army in this region, we proposed to adopt a short statement requesting to respect resolution 2166 and to stop these actions, but it was blocked by US, UK and Lithuanian delegations. I do not want to hide my disappointment that in a few days after adopting a consensus resolutions the UNSC could not confirm its key provision.
Yesterday, we heard again that Kiev is ready to announce truce in the radius of 20 km from the Boeing crash. These were 40 km first, now they are only 20 km. I do not know what it is related to, but we know what their promises are. We will not trust their words any more, we will trust only actions. Unfortunately, their actions say the opposite. They shoot at Donetsk, Lugansk and populated areas there using Grad, artillery and tanks. Yesterday, CNN reported that according to their data ballistic missile of the Tochka-U system. This is worrying and takes place against the backdrop of affirmations that Russia and the militia allegedly prevent access of inspectors to the disaster area.
I saw interview with the OSCE representatives, including the Dutch, who attempted to get to the crash area accompanied by the militia, who ensured their security, could not do that, because the Ukrainian army was acting there – in gross violation of the UN Security Council resolution. Therefore, when seeing these evident facts we still hear appeal to Russia to ensure access of international experts to the crash area, there is only one reaction left – to propose the UNSC to adopt a resolution (if they are convinced that only Russia can do this), which invites the Russian Federation to deploy its peacekeeping forces there and to secure the perimeter of the crash area. Because we can do nothing else with the Kiev authorities. This proposition is, of course, based on the absurdity of the current situation, but any absurdity must have its limits.
Another thing, which I consider to be very important. Yesterday I had a phone conversation with the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Our conversations are always quite constructive, we say the truth to each other. In our conversation yesterday, I devoted particular attention, firstly, to the need to stop actions by the Ukrainian army in the crash area immediately, what they do in violation of the resolution by the UN Security Council. John Kerry promised that he would send a respective signal. We will see how perceptive Kiev will be to this signal.
Secondly, we devoted special attention to the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, which we were developing with him, the High EU Representative, Catherine Ashton, and that time Foreign Minister of Ukraine (Andrii Deshchytsia) during 8 hours and which our western partners later refused to support in the UNSC and the OSCE. The US Secretary of State agreed to me that this statement is the best basis for further work. Let me remind that it envisages an immediate stop of the use of force and an immediate start of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive (with participation of all the Ukrainian parties), accountable and ensure the involvement of all the Ukrainian regions into the constitutional reform. This has not been done, and no steps are being undertaken right now in this direction – no stop to the use of force and, I emphasise this, no immediate start of the constitutional process. The word “immediate” was used on the 17 April.
Nobody knows what is happening with the draft constitutional reform. John Kerry agreed to me that we need to return to the sources, on a firm ground of the consensus, which was reached between Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the European Union on the 17 April, and this work should be started. We agreed that we need to aim the scheduled meeting in Minsk at the development of agreements for the implementation of the Geneva Statement and, probably, the “roadmap”, which was proposed by the Current OSCE President, Swiss President, Didier Burkhalter, to develop the Geneva document.
I have another question regarding the ability to negotiate – in an hour after my phone conversation with John Kerry, he made a speech at his joint press conference with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, when he announced that Ukraine is finally ready for a cease fire (probably this is a big achievement – almost a week has passed after the UNSC request such a cease fire), to a dialogue and that all the components for such a dialogue with the militia are included into the “peace plan by Petro Poroshenko”. Not into the Geneva Statement – John Kerry did not mention that document on public yesterday, which he agreed to revive in his phone conversation with me, he referred to the “peace plan by Petro Poroshenko”, which envisages that the militia should lay down weapons, otherwise they will be eliminated. You probably understand the difference between this ultimatum and an appeal to an immediate and equal dialogue, which was formulated by Russia, the United States, Ukraine and the European Union in the Geneva Statement. I am worried about that.
And the last thing I want to say, if we are talking about Ukraine. The humanitarian disaster is evident. People are running from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, primarily to Russia, and only in other Ukrainian regions. Those, who come to Russia, tell about the horrors, which they experienced, how children, elderly people and women are suffering. They receive necessary aid in the territory of the Russian Federation. To be noted, we also help the Ukrainian military persons, who received wounds and ask for help in our territory. We are doing this. I do not know, where they go after that – return to the army, National Guard units or return to peaceful life. But all the Ukrainians, who come to us as civilians, as refugees, receive necessary aid, all possible aid. Their numbers are growing in the Rostov Region and other regions of the Russian Federation. You can see their stories in TV reports that some of people cannot leave Donetsk and Lugansk, because there are children in hospitals there, who need urgent specialised medical aid, which they cannot receive, because it is hard to remove them from those hospitals in special ambulance, when there is shooting. Some of them have nowhere to go – they have no relatives, many of them are afraid to leave their homes.
For quite a long time we are bringing issues to international organisations – the UN, which has offices for refugees, for humanitarian issues, to the OSCE, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – issues that medical aid and food is urgently required in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, so that the people, who are physically unable to leave were not just left to their fate.
We sent many official notes by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Ukraine asking them to allow supplying humanitarian aid using the Russian Emergencies Ministry vehicle convoy. They refused in a rough manner and without any motives. They stated cynically that “there is no humanitarian crisis in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, there is a humanitarian crisis in Crimea, so send your food and medications to Crimea”. I think that for this audience there is no need to explain what such comparisons are worth and how appropriate they are in the current situation.
In the near future, we will formulate specific propositions for the UN, OSCE, ICRC, the International Organization for Migration asking them to form a humanitarian mission for the South-East of Ukraine. National structures, in our case the Russian Emergencies Ministry, could make money and physical contributions to the implementation of this mission. I am convinced that other countries have mechanisms and agencies, which can help here. I believe that it would be a crime to turn a blind eye to the events there, to the purely humanitarian nature of the needs of these people. We will act, we will request from the international community a specific reaction to these events.