UN political affairs chief warns against ‘backsliding’ in Ukraine

Although a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine has led to a significant decrease in civilian casualties, the overall situation remains fragile unless progress is made on the security and political fronts, the UN’s political affairs chief told the Security Council on Thursday. Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed ambassadors who met virtually to mark the fifth anniversary of a deal to end fighting between Ukraine Government forces and mostly pro-Russian separatists, known as the Minsk II agreement.

The ceasefire that came into force last July resulted from a summit held in December 2019 between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, and was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General who had earlier appealed for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Ms. DiCarlo described the truce as a welcome development, together with the release and exchange of detainees, but said challenges remain, including in delivering aid amid the pandemic.

While violations have reduced since the ceasefire, adherence has weakened over time, according to Halit Cevik of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has a Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. The parties had also agreed to open two new checkpoints along the contact line by last November. The move would have facilitated aid delivery to people who had been relatively isolated, said Heidi Grau, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in- Office.

Humanitarian access remains a significant challenge in Eastern Ukraine, where more than 3.4 million civilians, mainly women and elderly persons, still require sustained assistance. The pandemic has only worsened the situation, with freedom of movement across the contact line further restricted. Ms. DiCarlo stressed the need for action on both sides.

Source: The UN

Author: Tuula Pohjola