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

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 16, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We are committed to working with the Ukrainian people to promote democracy and prosperity and root out corruption. President Trump underscored this message to President Zelenskyy following peaceful, competitive elections that reflected Ukraine’s vibrant democracy.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014 have led to approximately 13,000 conflict-related deaths, including more than 300 Ukrainian soldiers killed or wounded this year in the eastern Ukraine conflict that was stirred up by Russia. In the face of Russia’s aggression and efforts to undermine the country, Ukraine instead continues to grow more united, more cohesive, more resilient, and stronger.

Mr. President, we welcome the opportunity today to discuss issues that Ukraine’s minority groups face. Since 2014, Russian occupation forces have carried out a campaign of violence, including dozens of extrajudicial killings and forcible disappearances, imprisonment, and torture against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and others. We call on Russia to end its systemic abuse of Ukraine’s Crimean Tatar community and Ukrainian nationals in Crimea and the Donbas.

We note with concern Russia’s suppression of education in the languages of national minorities in Crimea. This year, only 249 schoolchildren are being educated in the Ukrainian language, down from 12,694 children in the school year before Russia’s occupation began, according to data gathered by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

In contrast, we commend President Zelenskyy’s support for the promotion of Ukrainian language efforts to promote national unity. While President Zelenskyy has promised to take steps to strengthen relations between Kyiv and Ukrainians living in eastern Ukraine, Russia perpetually undermines unity, exemplified recently by its decision to issue passports to Ukrainians residing in conflict areas.

Somberly, we note that five years ago tomorrow, 298 innocent civilians were killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17. The United States again extends our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims, and calls for justice on behalf of those who lost their lives.

As the findings of the Joint Investigative Team made clear, the BUK missile launcher used to bring down the passenger aircraft was owned by Russia and was assigned to Russia’s 53rd anti-aircraft brigade. The launcher was brought into sovereign Ukrainian territory, fired from territory controlled by Russia and Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine, and then returned to Russian territory.

We recall the UN Security Council’s demand that “those responsible … be held to account and that all States cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.” We call upon Russia to respect and adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 2166 and ensure that any indicted individuals currently in Russia face justice.

More recently, Russia escalated its aggressive activities when it blocked the lawful passage of Ukrainian navy vessels and attacked them near the Kerch Strait in November. The United States calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, including its territorial waters, and we reiterate our call to Russia to immediately release the detained Ukrainian crewmembers and naval vessels. This would be an important demonstration of Russia’s readiness to engage more constructively with Ukraine.

Mr. President, Russia must end its occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine and our sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements. As Secretary Pompeo stated in our Crimea Declaration last year, the United States rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.

Thank you, Mr. President.