On March 3, 2014, the UN Security Council met again on Ukraine to hear further from Russia on its involvement in Crimea. Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, explained afterwards in a statement to the media that Russia “called for this emergency meeting of the Security Council to explain, as fully as possible, our position on the current situation in Ukraine.”
During the meeting, Russia presented a letter to the Security Council said to have been written by Viktor Yanukovych and submitted by President Putin, in which Yanukovych, who Russia claims is still the “legal President” of Ukraine, seeks assistance from Russian Armed Forces to restore law and order in the country. Ambassador Churkin provided the following translation to the media after the session:
“Statement by the President of Ukraine.
As the lawfully elected President of Ukraine, I state the following. Developments under Maidan, illegal seizure of power in Kyiv, have pushed Ukraine to the brink of civil war. The country has plunged into chaos and anarchy. Lives, safety and rights of people, particularly in the southeast and the Crimea, are at risk. The country is in the grip of outright terror and violence driven by the West. People are persecuted on political and language grounds. In this context, I appeal to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to re-establish the rule of law, peace, order [and] stability and to protect the people of Ukraine.
Viktor Yanukovych, March 1, 2014”
Asked by a representative of the media whether Russia believes that this letter makes its military intervention in Crimea legal, Ambassador Churkin stated: “We believe that the President of the Russian Federation has a legal mandate from the Federation Council … But I think it’s important to realize that the person who we believe legally is the President of Ukraine also shares our concerns – shares the concerns of large segments of the Ukrainian population – about what is going on, and is appealing to Russia to use our Armed Forces in order to change the situation and to prevent the situation from further deteriorating.”
The Ambassador was also asked, during the media briefing, what proof Russia has on the situation in Ukraine. “The proof is what happened in the West and central regions of the country and in Kyiv: violent attacks on administrative buildings and all the violence directed towards people who represented authority,” the Russian Ambassador replied. “And the proof is that there have been some attempts to do the same in [other] parts, particularly in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, including the administration of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. So for the people who actually live there, they need no proof to be concerned. And we need no further proof to say that we are not able – we are not able – to allow the same sort of things to happen in eastern and southern Ukraine while some international structures are discussing what they can and cannot do in order to control the situation.”
The representative of the Russian Federation disputed the suggestion that the Security Council discussion had, in fact, been an overwhelming condemnation of Russia’s actions: “First of all, I don’t see the overall discussion which has taken place in the Security Council [this way]. Even though there were some strong words, I would not describe the tenure of the entire discussion as a condemnation. And the purpose of having an open meeting is to appeal to a broader community, so I hope that, as a result of what was said today and in previous meetings of the Security Council, … the international community will better understand where we’re coming from, especially if you report the results of today’s discussions objectively.”
As to what should be done, Ambassador Churkin offered the following:“I indicated in the Chamber [of the Security Council] that, first of all, it must be clear and it must not simply be declared, but we must see the effects on the ground. [T]hose who found themselves [among] the powers that be in Kyiv and those who support them – and those who engineered this coup d’etat in Kyiv, essentially taking power in Kyiv by force – should stop any attempts to transmit this kind of a trend, this wave of violence, which we saw coming from Kyiv and then spreading to central and western regions of Ukraine … to other regions of Ukraine. And then, of course, if that happens, our recipe is that we must [turn] to the … February 21 agreement, even though some say that Mr. Yanukovych is not there already, and of course, he’s not there. But the other important elements are there: the need to have a constitutional process, which will produce a constitution satisfactory to all regions political segments of Ukraine, the goal of establishing a government of national unity, etc., etc. So this is our recipe for what needs to be done.”
The Ambassador declined to comment on any other scenarios pertaining to areas of Ukraine outside Crimea, referring instead to Russia’s concern: “I don’t want to discuss any scenarios, but we have said repeatedly that our concern – the concern of people there – is that the people in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine are very worried with the current trends.”
Asked, too, if he thought there was a light at the end of tunnel, the Russian representative said that he did: “I do. I do …I think there are two elements. Just drop this policy of intimidation. And drop this idea that you simply can impose some revolutionary rule on other regions in Ukraine. And of course you need to return [to the February 21, 2014 agreement]. I think that February 21 is an excellent basis on which a political process can be organized.”
The full recording of Ambassador Churkin’s statement to the media following the March 3, 2014 meeting of UN Security Council session is available at the UN site (webtv.un.org).
By Lesia Stangret