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Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Andriy Deschytsya, lashed out at his Soviet Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, today, ridiculing his proposal for a so-called "Ukraine support group." His statement came with news of a Russian assault on Ukraine's naval headquarters in Crimea.

"The world winced as it witnessed the real rebirth of Russian imperialism for which nothing is sacred: neither the established borders of a sovereign state, nor human rights and freedoms, nor international obligations.

Ukraine and the entire civilized world will never recognize the illegitimately declared independence of Crimea and its violent separation from our state’s territory.

Putin’s speech was based on outright lies and distortion of historical facts. Particularly cynical was his premise that the majority of Crimean Tatars supported Crimea’s union with Russia in the so-called “referendum.” It is well known that the Crimean Tatars openly, and on multiple occasions, stated that they consider the referendum illegal."

Foreign Minister Deschytsya also outlined the various initiatives Ukraine plans to use to resolve the conflict with Russia.

He confirmed  Ukraine’s intention to sign “the political section” of the EU Association Agreement on March 21, 2014 in Brussels during a meeting of the European Commission.

He also said that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had deployed a team of 30 officers with a three-month mission to monitor the human rights situation in Ukraine, particularly in the eastern and southern regions, including Crimea. Its purpose will be to document human rights violations, including those caused by the presence of Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory. It will also provide support for the investigation of the tragic events that took place during protest demonstrations between November 2013 and February 2014.  

Deschytsya raised another issue that hasn't been noticed before in the West. Ukraine reserves the right to lay claim to its legal share of former-Soviet Union's assets including gold and foreign exchange reserves, movable and immovable state property, the USSR diamond fund, and the return of bank deposits in Oshchadbank (Sberbank) and Zovnisheconombank (Vnesheconombank).

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, confirmed  the immediate deployment of a UN monitoring team throughout Ukraine including in Crimea.

Šimonovic just returned to New York from Ukraine. The local authorities there denied his access to Crimea saying that they couldn't guarantee his security.

About the situation in Crimea, Šimonovic said:

“There appears to be no rule of law at present, and therefore a drastic deterioration in the protection of human rights, as well as rampant fear and insecurity due to misinformation, blocking of information and total uncertainty about what is coming next."
Šimonovic cited:
  • Activists who are unaccounted for, including Andrey Shchekun, Anatoliy Koval'skiy and his son Sergey Koval'skiy, Mikhail Vdovchenko, and others.
  • Activists and journalists who were stopped at paramilitary check points, detained,  interrogated, beaten, robbed, harassed, humiliated and subject to mock executions.
  • The vulnerable situation of minorities and indigenous peoples in Crimea, particularly Crimean Tatars.

Šimonovic emphasized that the human rights of all minorities must be respected throughout Ukraine, including in Crimea, particularly the right of all to participate in public affairs and political life without discrimination.

In Brussels, the EU Council of Ministers was looking forward to Friday when Prime Minister Yatsenuk will sign the Affiliation Agreement. This is the first time that the EU will sign only the political portion of the agreement with an affiliating country. The remaining titles devoted to judicial matters, the economy, finance, and trade, will be signed at a later date. The political section is a priority at this time. Before anything else, Ukraine needs free and fair democratic elections, with equal access to the political system. And it needs stability and security.

"The Council considers the holding of the referendum illegal, and a clear breach of the Ukrainian constitution. Ministers took note of the draft opinion of the Venice Commission stating that the Crimea referendum was held with the visible presence of armed soldiers.  The EU does not and cannot recognise the outcome of a referendum organised under such circumstances."

"The Council is looking to establish an international presence on the ground and supports the deployment of an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine."

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