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Statement by Germany and France on the occasion of the meeting of OSCE participating States under the Vienna Document Article 16 on unusual military activities on the Ukrainian-Russian border at the invitation of Ukraine in Vienna on 18 February 2022

18.02.2022 - Pressemitteilung

Intervention by Ambassador Gesa Bräutigam, Permanent Representative of Germany to the OSCE

While aligning itself with the statement and questions made by the European Union on behalf of the Member States, Germany wishes to intervene, also on behalf of France, to underline the following points.

Mr Chair of the PC, Mr Chair of the FSC,

Dear Colleagues,

Our rules-based security architecture in Europe, which has been built over decades, is under serious threat today. For several weeks, we, alongside other OSCE partners, have been observing continued Russian movements of troops and military equipment in Russia and Belarus, close to the Ukrainian borders, as well as on the territory of the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

These unprecedented activities, which are unprovoked by Ukraine, are a cause for grave concern and threat perceptions, especially when elementary transparency and plausible explication are not provided.

It is exactly for such situations that the risk reduction mechanism of the Vienna Document was created. Ukraine was and is fully entitled to activate this mechanism in light of the Russian large-scale troops’ build-up and movements, and enjoys the full support of France and Germany in this endeavour.

Against this background, it is very disappointing that Russia has been boycotting this mechanism from the very beginning. Russia did not reply properly to the initial request of Ukraine, Russia contested the legitimacy of the procedure, Russia did not provide any information at all, Russia did not attend any meeting convened according to the rules, including today’s joint FSC/PC.

By completely lacking any engagement, Russia did not only not adhere to the rules and procedures of the Vienna Document as an important corner stone of our collective and comprehensive security in Europe it committed to. It also displayed a great deal of disrespect for the OSCE, participating States and the rules-based international order.

We continue to urge the Russian Federation to provide sufficient level of transparency on the size, scope, and purpose of its military activities near the border with Ukraine and in the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and contribute to dispel the justified concerns of Ukraine and other participating States.

There is no other possibility than pursuing the diplomatic path for de-escalation and peaceful settlement. An open and frank exchange on mutual security concerns is needed. The OSCE with its comprehensive understanding of security and unique instruments at its hands can serve as an inclusive platform in this process.

With well-established formats such as the FSC and the Structured Dialogue, a long and successful record of talks and negotiations on arms control and CSBM, as well as the informal Renewed European Security Dialogue set up by the Chairperson-in-Office last week, the organisation stands ready for this dialogue. It is up to Russia to seize this opportunity.

We therefore call upon Russia to reconsider its approach and commit in good faith to live up to its political-military commitments towards the OSCE and to work constructively and in the spirit of Helsinki with the OSCE participating States concerned.

Germany and France would like to reiterate their unwavering support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters. We take note of the announcement by Russian authorities that some of the Russian troops currently deployed at Ukraine’s borders and in the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula will be returning to their home bases. We will hold Russia to its word, as for the time being convincing action in that regard by Russia is still lacking. We will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground.

In the current situation, it is crucial to get impartial information about developments in the conflict zone. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission plays a key role in de-escalation efforts and as the eyes and ears of the international community. France and Germany will keep their seconded SMM personnel on the ground to keep the mission operable at this critical time. We reiterate the need to ensure free, safe, secure and unhindered access for the mission in the entire territory of Ukraine and call on Russia to ensure that the mission can carry out its mandate and have full access to non-government controlled areas.

We call for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, starting with the unconditional observance of the ceasefire, as last stated in the declaration of the political advisors of the Normandy format of 26 January 2022. Yesterday’s unusual intensity of shelling close to the line of contact, in particular in Stanitsya Luhanska, including targeting a kindergarten, is highly preoccupying and is unacceptable. All participants of the Normandy Format committed to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and to the corresponding negotiation formats: the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.

We welcome commitments by the Ukrainian authorities to provide proposals on outstanding legislation required by the Minsk agreements. Ukraine would thereby contribute constructively to moving forward. We call on Russia to engage constructively as well and fulfil all its commitments, including on humanitarian and security issues, in order to achieve progress in the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We express strong concern regarding the resolution of the Russian State Duma calling for the recognition by the President of the Russian Federation of the self-proclaimed „People’s Republics“ of Donetsk and Luhansk. We expect that the Russian government as a party to the Minsk agreements will refrain from any such measures that would constitute a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and directly contradict the spirit and the letter of the Minsk agreements.

Both our countries are keeping up their efforts, within the Normandy Format, and negotiations are continuing. Be assured that France and Germany’s commitment to find a lasting political solution to this conflict shall not falter.

To conclude, we support the OSCE Chairpersonship-in-office in its task to take into account all the participating States interventions today and reflecting them into a dedicated report. Germany and France reaffirm their readiness to continue consultations based on the upcoming report and within the relevant provisions of the Vienna Document.

I kindly request this statement be attached to the Journal of the meeting.

Thank you!

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