Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Mr. Ging, for your briefing.
Mr. President, as a result of ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians have had to flee their homes. Many have been subjected to harassment, arbitrary detentions and killing at the hands of Russia-supported separatists. The general environment of insecurity and instability has contributed to a growing number of internally displaced persons inside Ukraine, and those seeking refuge outside of Ukraine.
To address this serious situation, the government and people of Ukraine have undertaken important steps to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons throughout the country. We commend the quick response of the Ukrainian government in the areas recently liberated from separatists’ control. Electricity and water services are coming back on, pensions are being paid again, and rebuilding has already begun.
For those who have not yet been able to return home, a rapid, coordinated effort by Ukraine and the international humanitarian community is essential to identify and respond to the urgent needs of the most vulnerable. To that end, we encourage Ukraine to coordinate quickly a comprehensive IDP registration system, ensure the harmonization of assistance efforts, and assist in disseminating information on registration procedures and services.
Doing so will allow for the targeted delivery of assistance, to which international donors can more effectively respond. It will also pave the way for a calibrated response to the unique needs of IDPs. We commend the United Nations for mobilizing so quickly to support the government of Ukraine’s efforts. Regarding Russia’s call for a humanitarian mission in Ukraine, UN agencies and NGOs are already on the ground carrying out assessment missions and are providing assistance to vulnerable, conflict-affected persons, particularly those in liberated areas. These organizations are standing by and are ready to provide more assistance to conflict areas if permitted greater access and security guarantees by Russia-backed separatists.
Mr. President, when addressing the humanitarian situation, we cannot lose sight of one underlying fact: Russia can stop all of this. The surest way to end the violence is for Russia to stop the flow of fighters, weapons and money from Russia into eastern Ukraine. Russia has the ability to get the separatists it supports to lay down their arms, sit at the negotiating table, and work to implement President Poroshenko’s peace plan. Russia must also respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and end its occupation of Crimea.
Yet instead of positive steps, Russia has nearly doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border. Equally troubling is Russia’s plan to conduct a large military exercise near the Ukrainian border, which can only serve to escalate tensions. We again demand that Russia halt any and all destabilizing actions.
We understand that Russia has expressed its concern over the plight of displaced persons and refugees. Therefore, we call on Russia to allow an independent assessment of humanitarian needs within Russia and along the Ukrainian border so that the international community can better understand the scale of the issue and so that assistance can be made available. Otherwise, there is no way to verify the scale of the outflow to Russia.
Finally, Mr. President, I want to note that nearly a month has passed since this body agreed to support in every way, a full, thorough, and independent investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
We commend the government of Ukraine for its cooperation with the OSCE, ICAO, the Netherlands, Australia, and Malaysia to coordinate the investigation and to allow Dutch, Australian and Malaysian police to secure the crash site. We also hold all sides accountable for the commitment they made on July 31 to protecting the integrity of the site and securing safe access for international investigators. Bodies remain unaccounted for and there are personal effects that still need to be retrieved.
Finally, Mr. President, we appreciate the ability of the Secretariat to arrange emergency briefings on short notice. There are times when such urgency is merited. We question whether the situation we’re discussing today meets the standard of urgency, especially as we will be discussing the overall situation in Ukraine on Friday.
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