US, UK meddling in OSCE’s mandate in Ukraine – Russia's envoy to UN

Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (Reuters / Brendan McDermid)
The US and UK are attempting to change the OSCE’s existing mandate in Ukraine, according to Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitality Churkin. His comments came after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

During the meeting, Washington and London were trying to “re-write” the Minsk agreements and somehow “lecture the OSCE on what to do,” Churkin said, adding the ideas proposed were “out of scope of the existing mission mandate.”

One of the proposed ideas was for the OSCE to monitor the entire Russia-Ukraine border. “There are Minsk agreements in place, where the question of borders is explained. Why would this question be brought up at the UNSC? All of this is probably to add psychological pressure and divert attention,” Churkin said.

Another issue raised was the type of resources the OSCE might need, Churkin said. “...It is not the role of the UNSC to discuss the supply [of] those resources, the OSCE Permanent Council is charge of that.”

The UN envoy added that there have been calls for peace and adherence to the Minsk agreements, but they were largely overshadowed by out-of-scope suggestions.

READ MORE: ‘Little time for hardware withdrawal in E.Ukraine’ – Russia’s OSCE rep

Meanwhile, the special representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office in Ukraine, Heidi Tagliavini, told the UNSC during the meeting that both sides have taken steps in withdrawing heavy artillery from the demarcation line. However, she noted that even though the fighting has subsided, there is still a chance of military conflict.

The withdrawal of heavy weaponry is a mandatory step that was set out by the Minsk ceasefire agreements signed earlier this month. Under the deal, both sides must pull their heavy weapons back from the demarcation line to form a buffer zone of 50 to 140km, depending on the type of weapon. The process is expected to be complete by March 1.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US has prepared new sanctions against Russia and is ready to implement them, if it deems necessary. In response to Kerry’s statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry promised painful counter-measures if more sanctions are introduced, according to the country’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov.

We are leaving all of the options open, including those that have been used in the past. And, if necessary, fairly painful countermeasures will be used,” Rybakov said. “We are continuing to prepare for possible new sanctions, but at the same time we are not seeing the connection between the US sanctions and what is happening in the real world.” Moscow is not planning to announce its response ahead of time, he added.

READ MORE: OSCE ‘welcomes’ artillery withdrawal by both sides in E. Ukraine

Despite the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, there are still reports of shelling – for instance at the Donetsk airport. Both parties are blaming each other and various uncontrolled groups for the ceasefire violations.

Deputy chief monitor of the OSCE mission, Alexander Hug, told RT on Friday that the OSCE welcomes the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the demarcation line in eastern Ukraine by both sides, but added that the organization needs to know where the weapons are heading.

Hug also said the OSCE would like to see all the points of the Minsk agreements fulfilled.

“Once [both sides] comply with all 11 points that the Minsk arrangements lay out, we will be able to attest to that fact,” he said.