Statement by H.E. Mr. Lembit Uibo, Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia at the General Assembly on “The Situation in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine” , New York, 20 February 2019

Madame President,

Thank you very much for convening this highly relevant meeting. Estonia aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union, and wishes to provide the following remarks in its national capacity.

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, Estonia reconfirms its strong support to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol as well as certain territories of Donetsk and Luhansk region are and remain part of Ukraine. We urge the Russian Federation to stop its aggression and illegal occupation of Ukraine’s territory without delay.

Madame President,

Respect for territorial integrity and the prohibition of the use of force are fundamental principles of international law. These two principles are clearly stated in Article 2 paragraph 4 of the UN Charter and in the Helsinki Final Act. It was agreed among nations in these documents that no country can change another country’s borders by force. By forcibly separating territory belonging to Ukraine, by invading it and prohibiting Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty within its borders, Russia has been in violation of international law. Such actions do not only seriously infringe Ukraine’s right to freely choose the political, economic, social and cultural path for its country and cause suffering for its people, but also pose a threat for the sovereignty of all states and risks sending us back to the world of disorder. No country has the right to place itself above the law. International community must stand up and maintain pressure against those illegal and aggressive actions until Russia respects international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Estonia will never recognize the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation. Estonia remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy and supporting the application of restrictive measures and sanctions against Russia until Minsk agreements are fully implemented and Ukraine’s territorial integrity restored.

We are deeply concerned that during the last year, Russia`s ongoing disregard for Ukraine`s sovereignty and territorial integrity has extended to the Sea of Azov. Estonia strongly condemns Russia`s unjustified use of military force against and the illegal seizure of Ukrainian navy vessels and their crew members, which took place in international waters. The Ukrainian servicemen should be immediately released and the freedom of navigation in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov restored, in accordance with international law, in particular United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Moreover, we are worried about Russia’s continuous steps towards the complete militarization of Crimea peninsula, including of its industry and transportation. Large-scale military-drills in the Black Sea and a consistently growing arsenal of weaponry including anti-aircraft missile-systems are all provocations directly against the serenity of the global community – this cannot be tolerated.

We are also highly concerned about the systematic human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian Federation in the illegally annexed Crimea. According to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, these violations include unjustified restrictions on freedoms of opinion, expression and association, freedom of movement, violations of the right to maintain one’s identity, culture and tradition, and property rights. We call to stop the persecution of individuals, including Crimean Tatars, pro-Ukrainian activists and journalists who are critical of the Russian authorities, and immediately release all political prisoners that have been illegally detained by Russian authorities. Estonia condemns all attempts by the Russian Federation to legitimise or normalize its attempted annexation of Crimea, including automatic imposition of the Russian Federation citizenship and illegal election campaigns.

Estonia remains deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Eastern Ukraine and the plight of Ukrainian people. 3,4 million Ukrainians still need humanitarian assistance. Estonia has supported and continues to support the main humanitarian organizations in the field as well as Estonian humanitarian actors and their partners in Ukraine since the very beginning of the conflict. In order to improve the situation, we need to keep Ukraine high on the agenda and support attempts to increase the necessary funding. Estonia has decided to contribute to the newly established Ukraine Country Based Pool Fund that enables to address the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian people in a more efficient and flexible manner.

Madame President,

Five years have passed and the ongoing military conflict in Eastern Ukraine has shown no signs of improvement. It has killed almost 13 000 people and it claims new casualties every day. Estonia is steadfast in its support for the people of Ukraine. We call upon Russia to start fulfilling its Minsk commitments, stop hostilities and withdraw its armed formations and military equipment from Eastern Ukraine as well as ensure safe and unfettered access for established international human rights monitoring mechanisms to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and the city of Sevastopol and to the whole territory of Donbass.

I thank you.