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Ukraine Briefing

On Tuesday (29 May), the Security Council will hold a briefing on the situation in Ukraine, chaired by Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz. Ukraine and the Netherlands will be represented at the ministerial-level by Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Vice Foreign Minister Andre Haspels, respectively. Briefings are expected from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo; Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock; and Ertuğrul Apakan, the Chief Monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), who will participate via video-teleconference.

This will be the first formal meeting on Ukraine since February 2017 when Ukraine, then a non-permanent Council member, called for a meeting in order to draw the Council’s attention to the escalation of violence in the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiyivka. Since then, developments in the Ukraine have been raised during other Council sessions, such as the the annual briefings on the activities of the OSCE and on cooperation between the EU and the UN in maintaining international peace and security.

Tuesday’s briefing, which was initiated by Poland, comes at a time of increasing hostilities in eastern Ukraine. During his briefing, Apakan is likely to provide information on the security situation, given that SMM’s monitors on the ground keep detailed records of all ceasefire violations. Council members might be interested in hearing from Apakan about threats to critical civilian infrastructure. On 22 May, Martin Sajdik, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group, issued a statement warning that the surge of fighting along the contact line in eastern Ukraine has put at risk indispensable local infrastructure essential for hundreds of thousands of people. In April, the Donetsk Filtration Station, which supplies drinking water to some 350,000 people on both sides of the contact line, came under fire. It was partially damaged and five of its civilian employees were injured in the incident. The SMM continues to monitor activities related to the repairs of this and other damaged infrastructure.

DiCarlo is likely to reiterate support for the February 2015 Minsk Agreements and for diplomatic efforts within the Normandy format involving France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. The lack of implementation of the agreement, which was endorsed by resolution 2202, is an issue of ongoing concern for the Council and the broader international community. There seems to be no substantial progress on major points of the agreement, which mandates an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, and effective monitoring (which has been hindered due to the difficult security situation), among other elements.

During the meeting, some members may raise the possibility of establishing a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine. The prospect of peacekeepers was first raised by Ukraine in February 2015, and other Council members seem to have been receptive to the idea under the right conditions. In September 2017, Russia proposed a draft resolution on the deployment of UN peacekeepers solely along the line of contact to provide security to the SMM. The negotiations did not make progress due to diverging views between Russia and most other Council members regarding the scope and mandate of the mission. Some members wanted the potential mission to be deployed throughout eastern Ukraine and along the Ukraine-Russia border, while Russia objected to this.

In his briefing, Lowcock is likely to draw the Council’s attention to the dire humanitarian situation in the country. Four years into the conflict, 3.4 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to OCHA. The deteriorating security situation in eastern Ukraine in particular has had a profound effect on the civilian population, especially on the approximately 600,000 people who live in close proximity to the contact line. Lowcock may discuss the funding needs of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan. OCHA has estimated that $187 million is needed urgently to fund the plan. At the moment, the plan remains severely underfunded with just over $20 million secured.

Some members may raise the issue of accountability for the downing of flight MH17 in 2014. On 24 May, at a press conference in the Netherlands, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT)—whose members include Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine—presented its findings on the investigation of the incident. The JIT determined that the rocket system used to down flight MH17 originated from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Military Brigade. In a joint statement issued on 25 May, Australia and the Netherlands declared that they hold Russia responsible for the incident. They also called on Russia to enter into a dialogue on this issue and said that the next possible action would be to present the case to an international court or organisation for judgment. Russia has said that evidence does not exist to support the findings of the JIT.

Certain aspects of the situation in Ukraine were raised during the 17 May debate on "Upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security” (S/PV.8262). Polish President Andrzej Duda, who chaired the debate, maintained that the annexation of Crimea and the actions of separatists in eastern Ukraine present major challenges to the stability of Europe. The UK said that the annexation of Crimea "represents an egregious assault on international law". Russia maintained that the “way it [Crimea] became part of Russia was in full compliance with international law” in accordance with the “right of self-determination.” During Tuesday’s meeting, some members might express their views on Russia’s actions in Crimea.

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