‘50 shades of black’: UN partners forge biased, gloomy picture of Ukraine crisis – Churkin

An apartment building in Debaltsevo destroyed by shelling (Reuters / John Trast)
Despite a challengingly-devised ceasefire, many US Security Council members have once more painted a grim picture of Ukraine, blaming Moscow for virtually all its misfortunes, said Russia’s envoy, regretting that appeals for objectivity have been in vain.

“The last three speakers spoke using 50 shades of black. We would like to call for more objectivity, which is necessary in the interest of conflict solving. But in this case we understand that such appeals are useless,” Russia's envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin told the council, following the blame games from Western ambassadors.

The attack once again focused on Russia’s alleged arms supplies to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, as well as accusations of Russia fighting alongside them and basically controlling what militia forces do there. US ambassador Samantha Power led the charge, directly, calling Ukrainian nationals from eastern Ukraine “Russian separatists.”

“Violations started on day one. And violations continued in a number of places,” Power said. “Unfortunately, although the violence has decreased there has been only partial compliance with the Minsk implementation package,” Power told UNSC.

Power went on to blame the self-professed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics for not allowing OSCE international observers to carry out their monitoring mission. She also claimed that while Kiev force have been hindering the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s work only in “occasional instance[s]”, violations on behalf of breakaway regions are “wide spread.”

The latest OSCE SMM report from March 5, however, listed five cases of Ukrainian troops preventing SMM from monitoring, and only two of such violations by the anti-government forces. The day before there were six and one violation respectively.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN Yuri Segeev told the Security Council that he “does not trust” Russian statements, because the rebels continue to attack Kiev’s positions. Sergeev claimed that following February’s ceasefire, separatist DPR and LPR forces carried out more than 750 assaults. Power echoed Ukraine’s position.

Churkin’s reply was simple, as he refereed his Ukrainian counterpart and other members of the UNSC to thoroughly read objective OSCE reports, pointing out that breakaway regions have withdrawn their heavy weapons while Kiev is lagging behind.

“One side of the conflict – the DPR and LPR – have already finished the [withdrawal] process. We hope that Kiev will also follow and finally withdraw all its military vehicles from the line of contact. We count on it that this will help to create a climate of trust, and the armed provocations, coming as a result of singular violations of the ceasefire, will end,” Churkin said.

But the US ambassador did not stop her rhetoric and even used the humanitarian aid provided by Russia to the war-torn regions as another pretext to attack Moscow.

“Two days ago Russia sent its 17th so-called convoy in Ukraine, once again denying International observers and the border guards to conduct a full and complete inspection of its contents,” Power said, echoing the general anti-Russian sentiment presided over by the Ukrainian delegation

In rebuttal Churkin wondered where his American colleague got a hold of such “cheap misinformation.”

“The last convoy as well as the previous ones have been thoroughly checked by Ukrainian customs and border control officers at a [Russian] Donetsk checkpoint. Ambassador Power I would like to ask you what the American embassies are doing in Moscow and Kiev and why they continue to provide you with cheap disinformation?” Churkin asked.

He reminded the UNSC members that Russian aid convoys allowed for the provision of some 50,000 people with food, as Kiev’s measures to “chokehold the south-east (of Ukraine) have developed into a real blockade.”

“The food supply...cannot reach Donetsk and Lugansk. Obstacles are kept to prevent humanitarian aid from delivery, a fact that was recognised by the international organisations,” Churkin said, adding that that social payments and loans to Donbass from Kiev had also been stopped.

On a bright note, Churkin said that overall Russia is “pleased with the positive development of the situation on the ground. The ceasefire in general has held.”

The Minsk agreement, signed on February 12, has held in the vast majority of the war-torn country with the number of ceasefire violations that have plagued the pact dropping, according to OSCE.

Since Kiev sent its military to suppress the regions in April 2014 after people there refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital, at least 6,000 people have been killed in southeastern Ukraine according to UN Human Rights Office estimates.