Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 14, 2022
Thank you Mr. President. Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo, thank you for your briefing today. Foreign Minister Rau, thank you as well for your briefing to the Council. Your engagement with the Council comes at a critical juncture – as many of my colleagues have said – a critical juncture for European and international security following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. You have demonstrated extraordinary leadership at the OSCE during this crisis and the United States thanks you.
The United States was a strong supporter of your attempt to avert this crisis through the launch of a reinvigorated European Security Dialogue at the OSCE, and we support your efforts to increase the OSCE’s ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis through the OSCE’s tool box. We look forward to working with you on these important issues in your capacity as Chairperson-in-Office.
I’d like to begin by expressing our outrage over the death of journalist Brent Renaud, who was killed by Russian forces while covering refugees leaving a checkpoint at Irpin yesterday. According to his colleagues, Mr. Renaud was in the area because he understood the critical role independent media has played in providing objective coverage of Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine. His death shows that Russia will go to any extent to silence narratives that challenge its propaganda, and it underscores the importance of upholding the safety of journalists as they undertake their important work.
Last year at this meeting on cooperation between the UN and the OSCE, the United States recalled that we had just passed the seventh anniversary of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, and the launch of its aggression in eastern Ukraine. We noted that in those seven years, the Russian-fueled conflict in eastern Ukraine had killed more than 13,000 people and wounded tens of thousands more. And we warned that Russia’s aggression was far from over.
It has been less than three weeks since Russia launched a major invasion against the rest of Ukraine. During these three weeks, Russia unleashed horrific devastation against another UN Member State resulting in the death of thousands and the displacement of over 2.5 million people. Russia must immediately cease all hostilities, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and take the path of diplomacy, in keeping with the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.
Mr. President, Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine is an unprecedented challenge – a challenge to the post World War II European security order, and to cooperation between all of us. Cooperation between the UN and OSCE now remains as essential as ever. Unfortunately, two OSCE participating States, the Russian Federation and Belarus, continue to violate the foundational principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Russia, with Belarus’s support, has shown utter contempt for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states, as well as for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its own people.
We have seen Russia try to spread disinformation and distract this Council from its aggression. But no amount of Russian disinformation can distract from this fact: the Kremlin is waging a brutal, premeditated, unprovoked war of choice against Ukraine. This is a war carried out with the support and the facilitation of the Lukashenka regime. Russia does not want its people to learn the appalling truth about the senseless death and destruction it is causing in Ukraine. This is why the Kremlin has forced domestic and foreign independent media outlets to suspend their operations in Russia or to close permanently. This is why it has blocked access to independent news sites and social networks.
The United States reaffirms its strong and unwavering commitment to the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, which has been forced to temporarily suspend its work in Ukraine. Despite Russia’s efforts to impede its operations, the Special Monitoring Mission’s impartial reporting has proven invaluable to the international community’s understanding of the security situation on the ground. We join others in expressing our heartfelt condolences for the loss of staff member Maryna Fenina, who on March 1 was killed by Russia’s shelling in Kharkiv while trying to get supplies for her family.
The United States was proud to join 44 other countries in launching the OSCE Moscow Mechanism to establish an Expert Mission. The Mission will document human rights violations and abuses, breaches of international humanitarian law, and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia’s forces in Ukraine’s territory. The Mission will meticulously compile the facts and create a written report that can be presented to relevant accountability mechanisms. We also welcome the UN Human Rights Council’s immediate launch of a Commission of Inquiry to pursue similar aims. The Commission of Inquiry and the OSCE Expert Mission will complement one another in bringing the truth to light.
Under the OSCE Vienna Document, all participating States committed to respond in good faith to the concerns that other States raise regarding unusual military activities as part of our collective efforts to reduce the risk of miscalculation, lower tensions, and build confidence. Russia’s blatant and unfounded dismissal of Ukraine’s legitimate invocation of the Vienna Document risk reduction mechanism for unusual military activities illustrated once again Russia’s disregard of its international commitments. Belarus’s refusal to substantively respond to the Baltic states invoking the Vienna Document risk reduction mechanism showed the Lukashenka regime’s disregard as well.
Mr. President, in addition to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, as others have mentioned, we must also not forget the other important priorities of the OSCE. We must not forget that Russia continues to occupy parts of Georgia. It also maintains its forces in Moldova without host government consent.
We welcome the continued commitment of the OSCE to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia, including by co-chairing the Geneva International Discussion. We regret that Russia has not fulfilled its obligation and its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including withdrawal of troops to pre-conflict positions. The United States urges all Geneva International Discussion participants to ensure residents of conflict-affected areas are able to visit their relatives, engage in peaceful economic activities, and to move freely without fear of detention or arbitrary punishment, and with access to documentation that will allow them to return to their homes.
The United States remains committed to promoting a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous future for the South Caucasus region. As a Minsk Group Co-Chair, we join others in urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to continue and intensify their diplomatic engagement to find comprehensive solutions to all outstanding issues related to or resulting from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In conclusion Mr. President, the United States appreciates the longstanding partnership between the UN and the OSCE. UN presentations at OSCE Permanent Council meetings and UN participation in annual OSCE events, as well as the close coordination between OSCE field operations and UN agencies on the ground, have only strengthened this partnership.
In the face of Russian aggression, the UN and OSCE must continue working together to advance peace, security, development, and human rights, which will contribute to international peace and stability.
Thank you very much.