Reinsalu: Russia using coronavirus as cover for Ukraine destabilization

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says Russia had not taken any real steps towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and was using every opportunity destabilise that country, including taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The situation in the Donbas, where a large portion of the population is elderly and therefore more at risk when it comes to the coronavirus is extremely concerning," Reinsalu said, speaking via video link-up to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba Tuesday night.

"The ceasefire in the Donbas is not holding up. Using the virus pandemic as an excuse, separatists controlled by Russia are blocking access to the Donbas to observers from the OSCE mission, UN agencies and the Red Cross. There are also great difficulties for humanitarian aid reaching the region. All this blatantly contradicts the UN Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire and unlimited humanitarian access," Reinsalu went on, according to a foreign ministry press release.

Reinsalu said that in the current situation, Ukraine needed the unequivocal and clear support of the EU in particular.

"The sanctions on Russia must remain in place," he continued.

"The fact that we are all fighting the coronavirus together does not mean that we should close our eyes to blatant violations of international law. Yet another step by Russia aiming at undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine – building a rail link across the Kerch bridge – demands a concrete response from the EU," Reinsalu emphasised.

Reinsalu said that via Estonia's position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the country would keep the issue of Ukraine in focus, and as recently as last month Estonia organised an informal meeting on the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea, he said.

Estonia, which holds a seat on the UNSC for 2020 and 2021, will obtain the organization's rotating presidency in May, when it also plans to discuss security threats in Europe, the foreign ministry says.

Reinsalu praised Ukraine for its continued implementation of democratic processes, despite the coronavirus crisis that requires additional resources, the country.

"Ukraine has demonstrated that it is serious about its ambitious reform plans. The COVID-19 crisis shows all the more clearly that those reforms must continue. As a part of moving towards greater transparency and efficiency, we encourage Ukraine to continue with the development and uptake of e-services."

Ukraine's foreign minister provided the meeting with an overview of the situation in that country, and participants discussed ways for the EU to provide support.

The video conference was organised by Denmark, ahead of Wednesday's video-link meeting of EU foreign ministers, which will also focus on the situation in Ukraine.

The meeting agenda also includes Eastern Partnership (EaP), an EU initiative related to its relationship with  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova, as well as Ukraine.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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