Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Russia must end the unlawful detention of our OSCE colleagues in Ukraine: UK statement to OSCE [May 2024]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 9 May 2024.

Ambassador Holland calls on Russia to release members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission who have been unlawfully detained in Ukraine for more than two years.

Thank you, Madam Chair. It is with regret that we feel compelled, once again, to raise the cases of Vadym Golda, Maxim Petrov, and Dmytro Shabanov. All three are members of the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) and have been unlawfully deprived of their liberty for more than two years by the Russian Federation and its proxies in Ukraine.

The SMM was established in 2014 through a decision of this body. Its mandate was agreed by all participating States, including Russia. For eight years the SMM, through its monitoring and reporting, acted as the eyes and ears of the international community, giving us much needed insight on the security situation in Ukraine.

In the years leading to Russia’s illegal full-scale invasion, independent and objective reporting of the SMM – which was provided equally to all participating States – was of significant value. It observed that an overwhelming majority of ceasefire violations took place in non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine. It observed advanced weaponry in these areas, weaponry that we know could only have been supplied by Russia. And it observed no unusual military build-up on the Ukrainian government-controlled side of the Line of Contact, demonstrating that Russia’s claims of a Ukrainian threat to the Donbas region were a fabricated pretext for Russia’s aggression.

So, you can see why Russia feared the impartial and fact-based reporting of the SMM.  The truth was an inconvenience.

So, over several years, Russia picked away at the ability of the SMM to operate; critically undermining the Mission’s freedom of movement and levelling unjustified criticisms.  Ultimately Russia was able to close down the SMM by blocking consensus on the extension of their mandate in the same way that it had closed down the Border Observation Mission.

Madam Chair, my government has previously put on record our sincere gratitude to the brave women and men of the SMM in Ukraine. They performed their OSCE-mandated roles with integrity and professionalism. They did so despite the risks to their safety, a risk underlined by the tragic loss of our two late colleagues:  Joseph Stone and Marina Fenina.  We should all be proud of them.

What none of us imagined was that our colleagues faced the risk of unlawful detention by the very people who asked them to do this difficult and dangerous job. Russia signed the SMM mandate, contributed to its operating costs and then betrayed their – and our – colleagues. It is truly shocking. The suffering that they and their loved ones are enduring remains a constant concern to us.

Russia’s actions fit a pattern, one that was set out very clearly in the report by the latest Moscow Mechanism expert mission. This found that: Russia had detained thousands of Ukrainian civilians, cutting them off from access to, or communication with, their loved ones; detainees were often subjected to torture and other ill treatment; and, the Russian authorities were restricting access to lawyers and denying fair trials.

As the expert mission noted “The continued detention of staff members of the OSCE SMM is incompatible with OSCE commitments”.

Madam Chair, we continue to call on Russia to end its unlawful detention of our colleagues and all Ukrainian citizens it has illegally detained. Thank you.