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In Mariupol Speeches, Feltman Quotes Donetsk Leader, Not Ukraine-ization

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 26 -- In the second Ukraine meeting of the UN Security Council since last November, UN official Jeffrey Feltman said “Mariupol lies outside the immediate conflict zone. The conclusion can thus be drawn that the entity which fired these rockets knowingly targeted a civilian population. This would constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.”

  Feltman also said that “on January 22, over a dozen civilians died when rockets hit their trolleybus in Donetsk City.” He did not say if this, too, might violate international law.

Quoting statements from Donetsk, Feltman on Monday said that “on January 23, the leader of the so-called 'Donetsk People's Republic' announced a boycott of future 'consultations' with the Trilateral Contact Group, a unilateral withdrawal from the cease-fire and threatened to seize further territory, with  a plan that includes pushing the front line all the way to the borders of Donetsk oblast.”

   Feltman said, “We also urge the leadership of the Russian Federation to use their influence to call on the rebels to cease hostilities immediately.”

  As Inner City Press reported on January 24, the Russian mission already issued a statement about the focus on the DPR leader's quote (report here.) Russia's Vitaly Churkin, speaking after Feltman on January 26, was more specific, asking where the condemnation was of Kiev statements about punching Donbas in the nose to "Ukrainize" it, and Poroshenko having announced a resumption of military operations.

 The meeting began at 1:30 pm, with the UN set to close down at 2:30 pm for an impending snow storm. And so it goes at the UN.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said that “at the same time as Russia was flouting its Minsk agreements, President Putin was putting the finishing touches on another set of agreements – the so-called 'treaties of alliance' – with de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

   In right of reply, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, “the representative of the United States went beyond the Ukrainian topic and made a number of inappropriate insinuations regarding Russia's policies. And that's the reason we're going to have to talk about the US policy.”

  The day after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, upbeat on foreign policy, Churkin on Wednesday said “wherever Washington looks - Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine - everywhere we see destabilization, blood, crisis. Maybe the United States thinks that Europe doesn't have enough problems and that in the east of the continent there is to be a long drawn out crisis. It would seem some European capitals have started to understand where things are going. But not all, hardly all, as demonstrated by today's discussion.”

  On Ukraine, Churkin said “over the whole of the Ukrainian crisis the United States has been playing a destructive role. But actually to call a spade a spade, they've been provocative. After every visit of high ranking US officials to Ukraine, the Kiev government has stepped up the confrontational nature of its activities. The current military escalation horrifically coincides with the visit of the commander of the American forces in Europe.”

  UN official Jeffrey Feltman didn't mention, but the IMF did, that Poroshenko also spoke with Christine Lagarde, who then announced that "the Ukrainian authorities have requested a multi-year arrangement with the Fund, supported by the Extended Fund Facility, to replace the existing Stand-By Arrangement."

   In US President Obama's State of the Union speech on January 20, he said the US is "opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.. Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength.  That's what I heard from some folks.  Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.  That’s how America leads -- not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve."

  Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, speaking in the Security Council on January 21, asked rhetorically "after about thirty times of discussing Ukraine here, the question arises, how much are these declarations in line with the situation in the country? Are they given just for eloquence's sake but can be thrown aside when political suitability takes precedent?”

  The January 21 session was going to be consultations, where members speak less formally (sometimes). But then it was public, just speeches. We'll have more on this.

  On the cut off of pensions, which we've covered since November, Churkin said "Kiev is doing everything so that in essence the South East is isolated. A decision has been made to move out state institutions from that, to stop budgetary expenditures including welfare and pensions.”

   Back on n November 12, UN Assistant Secretary General Jens Toyberg-Frandzen said, among other things, that "on November 5, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that pensions would be halted to areas under rebel control."

  Inner City Press, covering the meeting from just outside the Council chamber, spoke to a range of passing diplomats and was left with this question: isn't the halting of pensions to rebel held areas a form of collective punishment?

 Once posed, with the words "accrued pensions," two defenses of the practice came in. First, that pensions in Ukraine are not accrued but are based on taxes collected and none are being collected in Donbas. Second, that trucks with pension payments were being robbed.  The word "Western Union" was bandied around.

 While the UN spoke about the death of children on a playground on Donetsk on Novmeber 5, they didn't say who did it. Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative Pankin said it was Ukraine's army. Later he stated that an adviser to Poroshenko said on October 24 that "the ceasefire is going to work in our favor, tank factories working around the clock."

  Ukraine's Sergeyev mentioned this in his reply, neither confirming nor denying the quote. The meeting ended; Sergeyev headed up the escalator to be interviewed by scribes. And so it goes at the UN.

  Last month, Ukraine was scheduled to speak at the UN about its “Committee on Information” on October 21, but as UN speeches usually go longer than allowed, its turn was postponed until October 22.

That didn't stop the “UN Radio” Russian service from reporting on the speech on October 21 as if it had in fact been given that day. As translated, UN Radio on October 21 reported

The representative of Ukraine accused Russia of using the information strategy of the Cold War

One of the main prerequisites of violence in Ukraine became a propaganda information. This was stated by the representative of the Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaking at a meeting of the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly.”

  The UN's Fourth Committee did meet on October 21 - but Ukraine didn't speak. Instead it was the first speaker on the afternoon of October 22. Its speech, delivered in perfect French including the word “rigolo,” linked Russia to Joseph Goebbels.

  In reply, the Russian mission's spokesman brought up the recent Human Rights Watch report of the Ukrainian government using cluster bombs in and against Donetsk, and the lack of clarity on who called the snipers shots in Maidan Square.

  Later in the Fourth Committee meeting, Bolivia slammed “powers” who use information technology to intervene and violate privacy, bringing to mind USAID's “Cuban Twitter” and, of course, the NSA.

  Then Jordan said it was first among Arab nations to enact an Access to Information law, in 2007. The Free UN Coalition for Access has been pressing for a Freedom of Information Act at the UN, click here and here for that.

  FUNCA covers the Fourth Committee, including on Decolonization, and the Committee on Information, where at least theoretically the UN's descent into censorship could be raised and resolved. The old UN Correspondents Association, a part of this trend toward privatization of briefings and even censorship -- ordering Press articles off the Internet, getting leaked copies of their complaints to the UN's MALU banned from Google's search, here -- was nowhere to be seen. We'll have more on this.


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