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On Ukraine, Churkin Defends Aid Convoy, VOA on Rebel Babies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- After Russian trucks crossed the border into Ukraine after a week's delay at the border, Ukraine's acting ambassador Oleksandr Pavlichenko called it a “blatant violation of international law" - but then took only two questions.

  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin took many questions. Inner City Press asked about the draft press statement Russia proposed on August 21.

 Churkin said that the “indefatigable” Lithuanian delegation “sent in amendments” that dropped references to Russia and include reference to the European Union and dropped the reference to a ceasefire. Then, Churkin said, the US delegations send in amendments dropping the ceasefire and blaming the separatists.

  Inner City Press also asked about a report by CNN from Eastern Ukraine in which correspondent Diana Magney asked why Russia was sending salt if there are salt mines in Eastern Ukraine.

  Churkin said, "You can mine salt if you are not shelled.  If you are hiding in your cellars, mining salt is problematic."

   Later the Voice of America's correspondent asked about accusations that the convoy was only to support the rebels.

  "With baby food?" Churkin asked.

   "Rebels have babies too," the Voice of America correspondent said. The implication seemed to be that starving children based on the positions taken by their parents would be okay. We'll have more on this.

  There is a closed-door Security Council meeting set for later on August 21. Churkin said, “We were not the ones who called the meeting, it was called by the indefatigable delegation of Lithuania. They have a division of labor, the UK and US are not far behind.”

On August 5, then the UN Security Council held a meeting on Ukraine and the humanitarian situation, the UN's John Ging rattled off UN estimates of deaths (1367, both civilians and combatants) and those fleeing into Russia (168, 677 this year, according to the UN).

 This comes after many at the UN have been dismissive that there is a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Now that it is acknowledged, at least by Ging's OCHA, there is another strategy.

  France's representative, for example, said all of this is caused by the separatists. As to civilians, this smacks of blaming at the victim, and stands in stark contrast to statements on Syria, for example. These comparisons will continue.

Earlier, in the morning of August 5 as reported by Inner City Press, Churkin said there was "some resistance" from the UK Presidency of the Council, but that 5 pm should be doable.

  Inner City Press asked UK president of the Council for August Mark Lyall Grant about the "resistance." He said there had been no formal request but Ambasador Churkin had spoken to him; the question was whether there would be a UN briefer ready from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  There was: John Ging, recently heard from on Yemen and Gaza.

   Back on July 30 when Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev held a UN press conference on July 30, Inner City Press asked him about the Human Right Watch report his government is using Grad rockets, killing at least 16 civilians between July 12 and 21 near Donetsk.

  Sergeyev responded first about the UN's (or Ivan Simonovic's) report, then emphasized that Russian media is saying Ukraine is using ballistic missiles.

  Inner City Press repeated the question, emphasizing it concerns Human Rights Watch's report, not the UN's, and not Russian media.  Sergeyev provided essentially the same answer.

  Here is the HRW report, online.

  Inner City Press also asked about the status of the International Monetary Fund program, after the downing of MH17. Sergeyev said Ukraine has met with the IMF's Christine Lagarde and "will" get the next tranche of the program in late August.  But won't there be an Executive Board meeting?

After Russian foreign minister and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone on July 27, the US State Department issued two read-outs, or a readout in two stages.

  The second, an "additional point" by a Senior State Department Official, was that Kerry "underlined our support for a mutual cease fire verified by the OSCE and reaffirmed our strong support for the international investigation to show the facts of MH17."

  Inner City Press on July 30 asked Sergeyev for Ukraine's position on this. Sergeyev cited as "pre-conditions" the closing of the border with Russia, and the release of all hostages.

  Back on July 28 Inner City Press asked Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin about this read-out: does the US support a ceasefire?

I supposed he said they did,” Churkin replied. “What their message is in private to the Ukrainians is a different story... There was a phone converation between Vice President Biden and President Poroshenko [then] they went up another stage in escalating the conflict after that and immediately.”

  Procedurally, Ukraine set aside the first question at its press conference saying, "Pamela, traditionally you open our session." Using this UN Correspondents Association set-aside, Pam Falk of CBS asked about rebels mining the MH17 site. Her UNCA sidekick asked about "Russian propaganda."

   And so it went until, fifth, the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked about HRW's report. This is how it's working, with the UN's Censorship Alliance. In this context, the Free UN Coalition for Access is against the automatic setting-aside of questions.


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