Delegate Calls Russian Federation ‘Serial Violator’ of Rules-Based World Order
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the global community have a moral obligation to support the people of Ukraine and not to stand silent in the face of the ongoing Russian aggression against them, the Head of that regional group told the Security Council today, warning that “we will be judged by the way we respond to these horrors”.
Zbigniew Rau, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland and the current Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, made the remarks during the 15-member Council’s annual meeting on the OSCE’s work across Europe — which includes support to States in counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, good governance and human rights monitoring — and on its growing cooperation with the United Nations system.
“Such a close cooperation is even more needed today, when the basic principles of the United Nations Charter and international law are being flagrantly violated in the very heart of Europe,” he said, calling for every effort to stop the Russian aggression. Recalling that the “worst-case scenario became reality” on the morning of 24 February, when Moscow first launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he said the invading forces soon began targeting civilian targets in an effort to break the will of the Ukrainian population, striking schools, hospitals and kindergartens with internationally banned weapons.
Responding to comments by some Russian officials that have accused him of lacking impartiality in the days and weeks since, he stressed: “Impartiality ends where blatant violation of international humanitarian law starts.” OSCE has an obligation to maintain its decency and integrity, and the international community cannot remain silent. Noting that the door to diplomacy is still open, he called on the Russian Federation to engage in dialogue to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis, stressing that the ongoing aggression poses a threat to the very existence of the rules-based international order.
Calling on all sides to abide by humanitarian law and refrain from activities directed against civilian populations and infrastructure, he said OSCE stands ready to cooperate with United Nations humanitarian agencies — including in support of effective evacuation routes out of Ukraine. In that context, he welcomed a 3 March decision by the OSCE Permanent Council to invoke its Moscow Mechanism, thereby creating a group of independent experts to investigate the reported violations of humanitarian law in the context of the hostilities in Ukraine.
Also briefing was Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, who spotlighted the growing partnership between the United Nations and OSCE since the establishment of the Framework for Cooperation and Coordination in 1993. Pursuant to Council resolution 2202 (2015) on the Minsk agreements, the United Nations has consistently supported the work of OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, as well as its role in the Trilateral Contact Group, which also includes Ukraine and the Russian Federation. She described the war in Ukraine as the “most severe test” OSCE has faced since its creation in 1975, adding that the Russian invasion has “shaken the foundations of the European security architecture to its core”.
Council members also took the floor, with many expressing strong support for OSCE’s role in Ukraine — including the 2014 deployment of its impartial Special Monitoring Mission, in response to a request by the Government of Ukraine, which has now been suspended due to the ongoing hostilities — and its engagement in the Trilateral Contact Group. While delegates expressed diverging views on the crisis itself, most roundly demanded an end to the fighting and emphasized the need to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Council is meeting as one OSCE signatory is “tearing up the rulebook” and inflicting a war against another. “This war is a threat to us all,” she warned, pointing out that people across Africa, Asia and elsewhere rely on agricultural, energy and commodity supply chains that have already been disrupted by Moscow’s invasion. Noting that the Russian Federation now stands accused of the gravest war crimes, she welcomed action taken under the Moscow Mechanism to hold it to account.
Albania’s delegate echoed support for that mechanism, while also spotlighting the Council’s failure to prevent an unprovoked and unjustified act of aggression by a “serial violator” of the rules and norms of the international order. Voicing his hope that the effects of unprecedented sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation will wake its citizens up “to see reality […] and not the distorted mirror of propaganda” presented by the State, he emphasized that the international community must refuse “a world according to Russia” and instead preserve the rules-based order.
The representative of India said the manifold challenges facing OSCE include ethnic tensions, violent separatism within States and the proliferation of weapons, terrorism and cyberattacks. Reiterating the importance of global counter-terrorism efforts, also noted its important role in facilitating the implementation of the package of measures across both sides of the contact line in eastern Ukraine. India remains in close touch with both Moscow and Kyiv, he said, adding that it supports the OSCE Minsk Group’s continued efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
China’s delegate, expressing his country’s strong support for strong relationships between the United Nations and such regional organizations as OSCE, said a solution to the crisis in Ukraine must take the security concerns of all interested countries seriously. A balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture is urgently needed. Stressing that the world does not need a new cold war, he said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States must be respected and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations observed.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret that United Nations officials have veered away from impartiality on the situation in Ukraine, while pointing out that OSCE has long turned a blind eye to instances of neo-Nazism, shelling and other aggressions against Russian-speaking populations in the Donbas region. Stressing that OSCE has a responsibility to employ “status-neutral approaches” and embrace the role of an honest broker in its attempts to facilitate dialogue, he said the Polish chairmanship has failed in such a role. Meanwhile, Western colleagues continue to prioritize the security of some countries over that of others and the Kyiv authorities are arming gangs who roam the streets of Ukrainian cities, firing upon civilians.
Ukraine’s representative, sounding alarm over continued war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in his country by Russian troops, welcomed the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism in order to explore such violations. Noting that the Russian Federation is intensifying its propaganda and disinformation campaign, he said the OSCE should pay close attention to Moscow’s false narratives. “What is happening now is not only about Ukraine’s survival […] it is about the survival of both the United Nations and the OSCE,” he said, urging the latter to play a special role in supporting a post-Putin Russian Federation on the path back to the democratic family of nations.
Also speaking were the representatives of Norway, Ghana, France, Brazil, United States, Mexico, Kenya, Gabon, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:41 p.m.