Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two days ago, on the 30 June, the Presidents of Russia, France, Ukraine and the Chancellor of Germany held a long phone conference, during which they coordinated a range of principled approaches to the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. The respective Foreign Ministries were ordered to agree on a declaration based on their conversation. Unfortunately, we have lost two days – the cease-fire was not extended two days ago. In these days we have been convinced (if anybody still needed convincing) of the price of a no cease-fire, which is measured in human casualties, serious destruction of civil infrastructures, and loss of the life of another journalist. But better late than never. I am sincerely grateful to Frank-Walter Steinmeier for his initiative not to leave the situation unattended to, but to gather us together in Berlin. Today we were able to coordinate a Declaration according to the orders from the leaders of our countries. Now we can report that the order has been fulfilled.

The main thing in this document is the urgent coordination of the conditions of a sustainable and long-term peace. We propose to do this by convening a contact group as soon as possible, which, we hope, will conduct a meeting in the coming days and agree on peace conditions which will be satisfactory for everybody. Otherwise, it cannot be sustainable. I am convinced that everybody is interested in the convention of such a meeting and will do everything necessary to make it happen in safe conditions.

As you know, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, began a constructive initiative again, which is aimed at de-escalating the situation, reinforcing trust and removing unnecessary precarious accusations. For these purposes, it was announced that the Russian Federation agrees to President Petro Poroshenko’s request to deploy Ukrainian border guards in some border crossings and checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian border from the Russian side. Of course, this decision is in force for the period of the cease fire and will become possible only upon coordination of a cease-fire announcement. This is the second item, which is reflected in the Declaration we adopted today.

One more Russian step, which Vladimir Putin announced. We are ready to invite OSCE observers to these checkpoints under the same conditions – for the period of the cease-fire. As soon as a cease fire is established, we will submit a draft decision to the OSCE Permanent Council, which will authorise the deployment and sending of observers to Russian checkpoints. We are grateful to our colleagues at today’s meeting for their promise to support the adoption of such a decision by the OSCE Permanent Council as soon as possible.

We expect that when implementing these agreements, the exchange of information between Russian and Ukrainian border guards and OSCE observers, who will be sent to these checkpoints, will improve.

Of course, it is very important to resolve the problem of hostages, which is also disrupting trust and creates unnecessary friction and escalates tensions. Such an appeal is included in the agreed document. We will stimulate the parties in all possible ways, to help them, with the OSCE’s assistance, to coordinate specific conditions for the practical implementation of such an appeal as soon as possible.

I also wish to say that the cease fire and extra trust measures are very important. It is not a goal in itself. Primarily, it is necessary to save people and prevent the killing of other civilians, further destruction of civil infrastructures, as well as to create conditions for the beginning of serious negotiations with the participation of all the interested parties and Ukrainian regions to agree on how to live in the Ukrainian state. There is a clear landmark for that – the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, which was approved by the Russian and the Ukrainian foreign ministers, the US Secretary of State and the European Union High Representative. We are convinced that it is absolutely necessary to stick to the provisions of this statement.

I trust that our appeals to the parties regarding the need to hold a meeting of the contact group and to coordinate peace conditions as soon as possible will be heard, which will allow us to implement other steps, which are formulated in the Declaration we have adopted today.

I wish to emphasise again the role of the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to thank him and Germany for this initiative. I hope that all of us will continue to act in this friendly, collective way, primarily guided by the interests of establishing peace in Ukraine and in the interests of the Ukrainian people.

Question: Do you know any time frames for the completion of the counter-terrorism operation? Are there any guarantees that the separatists will not break peace again?

Sergey Lavrov (answers after Frank-Walter Steinmeier): The document, which we adopted today, envisages the cease fire, when it is agreed upon, will be supervised by the OSCE mission acting in Ukraine, which fully complies with its mandate. We hope that this mission will objectively observe the implementation of the cease-fire regime and register violations from both sides. Up to now, the previously announced cease-fires have been violated by both parties.

Question: Is there any link between the cease fire and the contact group? Should this group determine for how long the cease fire will last? Will it work on further extension of it?

Sergey Lavrov: The direct link between the contact group and the possibility of agreeing on a cease fire is evident. For the time being, the contact group is the only mechanism which represents both the Kiev authorities and the leaders of the insurgents with the participation of the OSCE and the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. It is clear that when we are talking about the need to agree on a cease fire, it can be done only in a format, where both confronting parties are represented. I hope that this format will allow us to achieve the result we all want and to which we all appeal. I would like to specifically underline that only on the basis of a dialogue between directly involved persons, primarily the Ukrainian authorities and representatives of the South-East of Ukraine, can a sustainable settlement of the crisis in general, the conditions of the announcement of peace, the consideration of the interests and expectations of all the Ukrainian nationals, no matter where they live, be agreed upon. This is the only way forward. I categorically do not accept if the cease fire is used by any of the parties exclusively to regroup forces and implement those parts of the Plan by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, which we seriously doubt, namely those which envisage that the insurgents either disarm or be eliminated. I think that such a path is harmful to our neighbour. We support the Plan’s orientation to stop the violence. We hope that our Ukrainian colleagues are ready to agree on other issues as well as a cease fire, with representatives of the South-East of the country. All the other issues should be resolved in a civilised way, through dialogue, as is accepted within the OSCE.

Question: What possibilities does Russia have to influence those whom you call “insurgents”? Is Russia ready to make a public appeal to them to support peace? Is there a guarantee that they will follow such an appeal?

Sergey Lavrov: Russia has certain possibilities to influence those who protect their homes, family, land and want their rights to be recognised and respected in the Ukrainian state. We have appealed in public many times and continue to appeal to all the participants of the confrontation to sit down at the negotiation table and resolve issues through dialogue. We are appealing for this again today in the Declaration, which we coordinated together with our Ukrainian, German and French colleagues. The representative of the insurgents, Alexander Borodai, announced today that, in response to the Russian and OSCE appeals, they are ready for consultations about the coordination of peace conditions.

We expect that respective signals will be sent to the Ukrainian leaders, taking into consideration the close ties of other large external players with the Kiev authorities.

We think that everybody should act in unison and stimulate those who are now confronting each other in Ukraine, to a dialogue in the interests of their people and state.