Statement by the Minister for European Affairs, Paschal Donohoe TD on Topical Issues in the Dáil on Ukraine

5th March, 2014

I welcome this opportunity to speak on events in Ukraine.

What is happening in Crimea is the worst crisis which Europe has faced since the end of the Cold War.

Both the EU and the Government have strongly condemned Russia’s actions over the weekend and call on it to immediately withdraw troops to their barracks.

Russia’s actions are in clear breach of international law and of their obligations to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Yesterday the Tánaiste had a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to Ireland in which he expressed Ireland’s condemnation of Russia’s actions in Crimea, and requested that the Ambassador convey our deep concern to his government.

On Monday the Foreign Affairs Council held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the unfolding events in Ukraine. A comprehensive set of conclusions was adopted.

The EU wants to see a peaceful solution and stands ready to engage in talks with all parties to resolve this crisis.

We will work with the United Nations and the OSCE to facilitate a peaceful resolution of this dangerous situation.

However, at Monday’s emergency Council, the EU sent a very strong message to Russia. If the Russian authorities do not de-escalate this crisis, the EU will take consequential action, including suspending talks on visa liberalisation and on a new economic agreement, both of which are priorities for the Russian Government.

Foreign Ministers will continue to monitor this situation very closely and we stand ready to implement further targeted measures as necessary. To underline the seriousness of the situation he European Council will meet tomorrow to consider the matter further.
It is worth recalling that it was the announcement on 21 November last year by Ukraine’s President Yanukovych, of his decision to postpone preparations for the signature of the Association Agreement at November’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius that triggered major protests in Ukraine.

The initial protests were overwhelmingly peaceful yet were met just over a week later by heavy handed police action which only served to inflame the situation.

The issue has featured prominently in the agendas and conclusions of successive Foreign Affairs Councils this year including at emergency Council sessions devoted to Ukraine on 20 February and again earlier this week.

I believe that it was right for the Council to convene in extraordinary sessions given last month’s violent clashes between protestors and security forces, which resulted in so many deaths, coupled with the deeply disturbing developments in Crimea since last weekend.

The situation remains extremely dangerous though thankfully there are no reports of armed clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces thus far.

As the Tánaiste made clear to the Russian Ambassador yesterday, there is an urgent need for Moscow to de-escalate the situation.

The Conclusions adopted at Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council strongly condemning the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by the Russian armed forces as well as the authorisation given by the Federation Council of Russia on 1 March for the use of the armed forces on the territory of Ukraine.

We agreed that these actions are in clear breach of the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act, as well as of Russia’s specific commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the bilateral Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership of 1997.

We called on Russia to immediately withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing, in accordance with the Agreement on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet stationing on the territory of Ukraine of 1997.

We also commended the government in Kiev for the measured response demonstrated so far in the face of this provocation.

As we have made clear from the beginning, the EU stands ready to facilitate a political settlement in Ukraine that is democratic, lasting and fulfils the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people.

However, it is, ultimately, a matter for the people of Ukraine to decide on their own future and they should be enabled to do so without external pressure.

The organisation of democratic elections in May which are transparent, free and fair will provide them with an opportunity to make that decision.