Deputy Political Coordinator
New York, New York
May 5, 2021
Let us all be clear about why we are here today. Russia continues to misuse its Security Council seat by convening events on Ukraine as part of Russia’s broader disinformation campaign. Russia aims to weaponize history, distorting and obfuscating Russia’s role in both the origin and continuation of the failed so-called “Russian spring” of 2014, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and the dire situation in occupied Crimea.
We all know the playbook that Russia unleashes on its perceived enemies to undermine their democratic practices and economic prosperity. Its tools include the dissemination of propaganda and disinformation, the deployment of proxies and support to armed groups, economic manipulation, and direct action, including assassinations, coup attempts, and sabotage.
The events in Odesa on May 2 were a tragedy born of mass disorder and fire. They were aided and abetted by pro-Russian provocateurs set on violence. The context was a systemic effort, under the brands of “Novorossiya” and “Russian spring,” to spark the appearance of organic pro-Russian uprisings in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian intelligence operatives working in Odesa were taken into custody by Ukrainian authorities. Russia then forced Ukraine to return them in December 2019, as part of a prisoner exchange for Ukrainians captured in battle on the territory of Ukraine by Russian-led forces. As part of this exchange, Russia forced Ukraine to include detained Russian operatives behind the deadly February 2015 Kharkiv bombings, as well as the Berkut shooters who stood accused of killing the “Heavenly Hundred” on the Maidan in February 2014. This is the Russian way.
The United States condemns the Russian Federation’s deliberate and far-reaching campaign of aggression against Ukraine. This campaign of aggression counts amongst its victims thousands of civilians killed by Russia-led forces in eastern Ukraine, the million-plus Ukrainians forced to flee their homes in the Donbas and Crimea, and every resident cowering in fear of retribution from Russia’s brutal occupation regime in Crimea, and several million people now in need of humanitarian aid to stay alive.
Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea was a violation of international law, and undermined the shared principles that hold organizations like the UN together. Russia’s continued aggression in eastern Ukraine remains the greatest threat to European security. The United States stands with our allies and partners in calling on Russia to immediately cease its evolving military, economic, diplomatic, and disinformation efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
We strongly refute Russia’s false claims equating support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, culture, and traditions as support for neo-Nazi and fascist ideals, organizations, and activists. Such accusations constitute slander, and are designed to undermine Ukraine as a culturally, historically, and geopolitically distinct entity – including by depicting Ukrainians and Ukrainian society in a negative light.
As President Biden told President Putin on April 13, Russia needs to end its aggression against Ukraine. This is a message that Secretary Blinken is echoing at the G7 Ministerial and in Kyiv. Russia should de-escalate tensions by committing to a ceasefire, rescinding its actions to block parts of the Black Sea, and withdrawing the troops and equipment it unilaterally massed in occupied Crimea and around Ukraine’s borders. Russian must also cease its hybrid efforts attempting to destabilize Ukraine, including its ongoing campaign of disinformation, a part of which we have been subjected to today.
The United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity will never waver, and we commend the remarkable restraint Ukraine has shown in light of Russia’s actions. We will not cease our efforts to end Russia’s brutal occupation of Crimea. We look forward to working with our allies and partners at the August 23 Crimea Platform Summit, a timely and important initiative from the Government of Ukraine.