Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko demanded action from the United Nations in his General Assembly speech today, accusing Russia of “open and unprovoked” aggression against his country.
“This time, the aggressor is Russia – neighboring country, former strategic partner that legally pledged to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders of Ukraine,” declared Poroshenko, adding:
This country used to be a guarantor of Ukraine’s security under the Budapest memorandum, whereby security guarantees were provided to my country in exchange for a voluntary renunciation of the world’s third nuclear arsenal. Moreover, this state is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which is entrusted by the UN Charter with maintaining international peace and security. In February 2014, Russia conducted an open and unprovoked aggression against my country, having occupied and annexed the Crimea. Bluntly and brutally violating international law and shocking the whole world community.
The Russian delegation to the United Nations walked out during Poroshenko’s speech. They also boycotted Poroshenko’s speech on Sunday in front of the UN summit on sustainable development. The Ukrainian delegation walked out during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech on Monday. Ukrainians returned to the room with a tattered flag from the bloody Ilovaysk battle.
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) September 29, 2015
Poroshenko also asked Russia how they can ask the UN for a global coalition against terrorists when they finance and support the pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine. He also mentioned how Russia fanned the flames of separatism in non-recognized areas like Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria and Georgia’s South Ossetia.
“Over the last few days we have heard conciliatory statements from the Russian side in which, in particular, it called for the establishment of an anti-terrorist coalition or warned of fire danger to flirt with terrorists,” he said. “Cool story, but really hard to believe!”
He then criticized Russia for abusing their veto privilege as a member of the UN Security Council. Poroshenko noted the first time was blocking the condemnation of the Crimean annexation. The second was the “veto on the draft resolution on establishment of the International Tribunal to investigate and bring to justice all responsible for Malaysian MH17 plane crash.” He said this trype of abuse, “its usage as a ‘license to kill’ is unacceptable.”
MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board. Evidence points to Russia, but their vetoes on the council have stalled investigations to find out “who organized this crime and from which country the mentioned arms had been transported.”
“I think everyone in this Hall clearly understands [the] real motives of Russia’s veto on MH17 Tribunal,” he said.
The invasion and annexation of Crimea has caused major human rights concerns to arise in the region. A recent report from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found that “[F]undamental freedoms of assembly, association, expression and movement have all been restricted by the de facto authorities in Crimea.” The main targets are ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars who refused Russian citizenship. The officials closed many Tatar media outlets and sent others, like Dzhemilev, into exile.
Along with those in Crimea, Poroshenko felt the need “to mention the names of Nadya Savchenko, Oleg Sentsov, Olexandr Kolchenko and many other Ukrainians” who are political prisoners in Russia.
“The full-scale information war and propaganda campaign have become a particular destructive form of non-military aggression,” he continued. “Fake news, blatant lies spread to justify aggression, propaganda of intolerance and violence are phenomena of the same range, which undermine the principles of freedom of expression and poison human souls and mind.”
In March 2014, Russia shut down any media outlet that questioned or criticized Putin’s moves in Ukraine while journalists resigned over censorship. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted Russian propaganda worked.
“The question asked earlier about … how they present things and the lies about their presence in Ukraine and the training, I mean, you know, it’s stunning but it has an impact in places where it isn’t countered,” he said. “Propaganda works.”
Overall, the war in Ukraine affected at least 8,000 Ukrainians. Poroshenko said 6,000 people are dead because of the invasion.