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Three Days Into Ukraine Ceasefire, UNSC Press Statement Then Resolution

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 -- Three days into the stated ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, anda half an hour before a vote on Russian-drafted resoultion, the UN Security Council issued this Press Statement:

"The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the continued fighting in and around Debaltseve, Ukraine, which has resulted in numerous civilian casualties.
The members of the Security Council regretted that, despite the announcement of a ceasefire on 15 February, violence has continued in recent days in some parts of eastern Ukraine.
The members of the Security Council called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and abide by commitments agreed in Minsk, including facilitating access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to monitor and verify compliance with the Minsk Agreements.  
The members of the Security Council further called on all parties to treat detained individuals humanely."

  When Security Council president Liu Jieyi of China read the statement out, Inner City Press asked him if it is linked to votes on the resolution. He replied he expected that to be unanimous; Lyall Grant of the UK said he would be voting for it (he asked if the Press Statement had been read out). A new technique?

  Moments later the Russian-drafted resolution was adopted 15-0.

On February 16 the US State Department on President's Day said

"The United States is gravely concerned by the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine.  The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission confirms that attacks continue in this area as well as other locations, including Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk, and Donetsk city.  The Government of Ukraine reports that its forces have been fired on 129 times in the last 24 hours by Russia-backed separatists, killing 5 and wounding 25, including attacks on a convoy evacuating the wounded from Debaltseve.  The separatists have publicly declared that they refuse to observe the ceasefire in Debaltseve, and OSCE monitors have not been provided security guarantees for access."

On this last, the OSCE also said that "The SMM encountered two restrictions to their freedom of movement on 15 February in Donetsk region: on the outskirts of Debaltseve by members of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and near Vynohradne (101km south-south-west of Donetsk) by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel."

  So what of this second denial of access? And what of the pending draft UN Security Council resolution? On February 15 Malaysia's Ambassador said he has requested an amendment about MH17; some said the response would come on February 16.

 But by 5 pm, the UN was quiet but for a North Korea press conference, here. Watch this site.

  Back when the midnight ceasefire deadline approached, Ukraine's President Poroshenko broadcast from Kiev, and CNN from Mariupol, praising the Azov Battalion.

  Some in the media seems disappointed the ceasefire wasn't immediately broken. Al Jazeera put on an analyst from the Rand Corporation prediction Russia would break it.

   Twenty two hours later -- with the UN Security Council yet to act on a draft resolution about the deal in Minsk, see below -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out this statement:

"The Secretary-General welcomes the start of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine as agreed on 12 February under the package of measures for implementation of the Minsk accords.
"He notes that the cease-fire appears to be largely holding, giving a desperately needed respite to civilians trapped in the area and contributing to a swift and peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, the Secretary-General is seriously concerned over reports of continued instances of hostilities including in Debaltseve and reiterates his call for all parties to abide by the cease-fire without exception.
"The Secretary-General reminds all of the significance of the cease-fire, which forms the basis for the broader implementation of the Minsk accords and to restore peace and stability to Ukraine."

  At the UN Security Council on Sunday, February 15, there was a vote on Yemen, here, but not on Ukraine. Why not? Malaysia's Permanent Representative told the Press that he had proposed adding language about downed flight MH17 and was waiting for a response from Moscow. Some said this would come on Monday - also a holiday -- at 10 am. We'll see.

  Late on February 14, a Senior US State Department Official provided this read-out:

"In a conversation with FM Lavrov today, the Secretary [Kerry] underscored the importance of full implementation of the Minsk agreements, beginning with a full ceasefire at midnight tonight local time. He also expressed concern about the fierce fighting around Debaltseve, and efforts by Russia and the separatists to cut off the town in advance of the ceasefire. They also discussed negotiations in New York on a draft UNSCR welcoming  the Minsk agreements, as well as Syria."

  The Russian proposed resolution on the "Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements" is "in blue," and could be voted on Sunday, February 15 at 10 am in New York, as Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access reported on Friday, here. There is also a (GCC drafted) resolution on Yemen.

On February 13, Inner City Press asked Ukraine's Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev about the IMF deal and the border, video here.

Back on January 23 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke, belatedly, on pension and travel restrictions imposed by the authorities in Kiev.

  On January 30, Inner City Press asked Ukrainian Permanent Representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev about the OHCHR and UN High Commissioner for Refugees' criticisms, about Kiev's requests to the International Monetary Fund and its relationship with the Syriza party in Greece.

  Sergeyev started with this last, saying he understands Syriza has changed its position and will be visiting Kiev. Sergeyev referred to maintaining EU "solidarity." On the IMF, he said Ukraine's new Finance Minister has predicted the country will receive a new tranche from the IMF by the end of February.

  On pensions, Sergeyev said they were cut off because money cannot be delivered into zones not under government control; he said pensioners can receive their money if they leave the zone. But aren't there restrictions?

 On January 23 the OHCHR on pension and benefit payments, on which Inner City Press has reported on since November, said

"the impact on civilians of the recent decision by the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine to restrict movement in and out of the areas controlled by armed groups. As of 21 January, people traveling to and from these areas need to obtain special passes and provide documents to justify the need to travel. These limitations are worrying, especially in light of the escalating hostilities. It adds to concerns created by the Government decision in November 2014 to discontinue providing State services in the territories controlled by armed groups. The introduction of such restrictions will likely have a severe effect on the most vulnerable groups, such as older people, mothers with children and people with disabilities who may depend heavily on social benefits. We urge Ukrainian authorities to take immediate steps to redress this situation."

  But will they? UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, added on January 23 that

  “New security clearance procedures are put in place and specific documentation is now required to pass through checkpoints in the east of Ukraine. These new procedures apply to Ukrainian nationals, the United Nations, NGOs, national and some other international humanitarian organizations.

   “These restrictions on movements within Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east of the country further complicates an already difficult situation for those forcibly displaced and made worse by the intensified fighting we have seen in recent days,” the UNHCR briefing notes said. “These practices restrict access to non-government controlled areas and limit the delivery of needed humanitarian assistance into the conflict zones. The Ukrainian government has reportedly adopted this resolution which entered into force yesterday (Thursday 22 January) limiting all movements in and out of the conflict zones."

   Christine Lagarde has 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."

   Back on 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.

And so it goes at the UN.

  Last October, 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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