Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Ukraine

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 12, 2019


Thank you Mr. President, and thank you to Assistant Secretary Generals Jenca and Müller and Ambassadors Abakan and Sajdik for your briefings and for your calls for full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Mr. President, we are coming to the fifth year anniversary of the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that has left more than 10,400 dead and 1.6 million displaced, as well as 3.5 million more in dire need of assistance.

Let’s be clear. It is Russia that must end this conflict. Withdrawing its military troops from eastern Ukraine and Crimea is the only acceptable outcome and the only one we should accept. The United States underscores our unequivocal position on Ukraine. We do not, and will not, recognize the Kremlin’s purported annexation of Crimea. We will never accept anything less than the full restoration of Ukraine’s control over its own territory, whether in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, including its territorial waters.

Our Donbas-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements. Our Crimea related sanctions will also continue until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukrainian control.

Mr. President, Russia called today’s meeting to discuss the Minsk agreements. This is ironic given that Russia has clearly failed to honor and implement the Minsk agreements. The Minsk agreements call for the sides to, among other things, implement a ceasefire, allow the OSCE to monitor that ceasefire, and to withdraw support for “all military armed formations.” Russia is clearly violating all three of these key elements. Russia continues to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside its proxy forces in eastern Ukraine, in direct contravention of its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including establishing an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. Russia has flouted its commitments from the very beginning from the establishment of the agreements, using the military forces under its control to capture new territory. While Russia has ignored or undermined the Minsk agreements, Ukraine, France, Germany and the United States remain committed to supporting their full implementation.

Mr. President, we welcome the Ukrainian government’s continued commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Ukraine has demonstrated this commitment through steps including by extending the law on the special status for Russia-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

For its part, instead of using the Minsk agreements as the path towards resolution of the conflict, Russia reverts to distracting attention from its unmistakable and unjustifiable central role in fomenting this conflict. Moscow disingenuously argues for a protection force that would use expensive international forces to cement the status quo and end up protecting Russia’s proxies.

In a serious escalation – and another violation of international law – Russia in November prevented Ukrainian vessels from passing through the Kerch strait, firing upon and seizing the vessels and personnel. We again call on Russia to release the detainees, return the Ukrainian ships, and end its restrictions on international shipping transiting to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

Mr. President, the United States stands with the European Union and its Member States, and many other countries against Russia for its unacceptable conduct in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and the Black Sea. We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine against Russian aggression.

In the name of international peace and security, which members of this Council are committed to uphold, we call on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.

I thank you for your attention.