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OSCE Chief Observer Ambassador Varga’s Report: British Response

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Thank you, Chairman. Thanks to Ambassador Varga for sharing the report with the Standing Committee and providing detailed insights into the mission activities. We are very grateful for the important work you and your team of observers are doing to provide a fair and transparent reporting to the international community, especially when considering the additional challenges posed by COVID-19.

Unfortunately, monitoring functions continue to be severely limited. Your mission remains only at two checkpoints over 400 km on the Ukrainian-Russian border beyond the control of the Ukrainian government. This is far from the comprehensive border surveillance predicted in the Minsk Agreement.

The challenges your mission faces are further complicated by the unacceptable restrictions on your freedom of movement. Your report explains that these restrictions result in blind spots at both checkpoints and limit the ability to observe and evaluate trains at the old Kobo border crossings, those in military uniforms in vehicles, ambulances crossing the border at night, and old Kobo border crossings . Doesn’t go into Ukraine or mention a few issues. It is also still forbidden to use binoculars, cameras and other observation tools.

Despite these limitations, the mission continues to provide useful insights to the international community, including information on so-called humanitarian convoys. From its deployment in July 2014 to February 2 of this year, the Russian Mission reported 99 Russian convoys. During the reporting period, the mission observed three convoys of the Russian Federation passing through the Donetsk border checkpoint to Ukraine. The so-called humanitarian convoy crosses without permission from Ukraine, thus violating sovereignty. The UK again urges Russia to stop these practices as foreseen in the Minsk Agreement and promote the safe delivery of international aid based on an agreed international mechanism.

This is just one example of Russia’s blatant disrespect for the Ukrainian-Russian border. Between September 17 and December 31, 2020, SMM observed at least five vehicles twice in an area near the international border outside of government control in the Donetsk region without border facilities. One example was when two convoys met near the border near Manych on October 16, 2020. Twenty-two people were seen unloading cargo from their vehicles, after which one vehicle was seen driving towards a building in central Donetsk city and another exiting Ukraine. The SMM report has repeatedly pointed out that further violations would be revealed if the Observer mission could comprehensively monitor the entire Ukrainian-Russian border.

We will continue to support the work of this mission, including ending unnecessary restrictions on your operations and supporting longer mission extension periods. Together with our international partners, we again call for the expansion of our mission across uncontrolled areas of the border. If Russia has nothing to hide, there should be no objection to this.

Finally, Britain repeats our unwavering support for the preservation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territories within internationally recognized borders, including territorial waters.

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