Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 18, 2020
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to the briefers for your presentations. In 2014, Russia occupied Crimea and fueled the conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people, displaced millions, and precipitated an alarming humanitarian crisis. Russia’s ongoing aggressive actions are an affront to international norms and a threat to our common security.
The United States’ position is clear: we continue to support the Minsk agreements as the way forward in eastern Ukraine. We fully back the Normandy Format process. The resolution to this conflict must be a diplomatic one, and we will continue to engage with allies and partners to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Through its actions, Ukraine has made clear its commitment to achieving a peaceful resolution of the conflict. President Zelenskyy has energized conflict diplomacy through outreach to Ukrainian citizens in eastern Ukraine, enabled improvements to humanitarian conditions on both sides of the line of contact, negotiated two prisoner exchanges, and established a dialogue with President Putin that yielded the first Normandy Summit meeting since 2016.
Unfortunately, Russia has not shown a similar willingness to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements. It continues to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside its proxy forces in eastern Ukraine. This stands in direct contravention of Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, including to establish an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. In this regard, today’s attack by Russian-led forces near Zolote – which resulted in Ukrainian casualties – comes on the five-year anniversary of Russian-led forces taking the key rail hub of Debaltseve in direct contravention of the terms of the Minsk agreements reached just a week earlier. Then, as now, Russian-led forces continue to contravene commitments made by President Putin and Russian officials, and to kill Ukrainians on Ukrainian territory. Instead of engaging constructively, Russia stalls and disseminates disinformation to distract attention from its central, unmistakable, and unjustifiable role in fomenting this conflict. Russia also continues its hybrid activities against Ukraine, wielding economic and political leverage.
Russia must end this conflict by withdrawing its forces from eastern Ukraine and Crimea. And we call on Russia to immediately implement its security commitments under the Minsk agreements, as the parties can only move forward with the Minsk political measures when there is security on the ground. We also call on Russia to follow-through with the measures outlined at the recent Normandy Leader’s Summit in Paris to immediately stabilize the situation in the conflict area, which includes the opening of new civilian crossing points, disengaging military forces in areas with the greatest humanitarian significance, and implementing ceasefire support measures.
Madam President, the United States underscores our unequivocal position on Ukraine. We do not, and will not, recognize the Kremlin’s purported annexation of Crimea. Our sanctions against Russia will remain in place until Ukraine regains control over its territory. In the name of international peace and security, we call on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. We condemn the abuses taking place under Russia’s repressive occupation and call on Russia to release the more than 80 Ukrainian political prisoners it is holding, and to end its campaign of intimidation against Crimean Tatars and opponents of the occupation. We will accept, we will never accept anything less than the full restoration of Ukraine’s control over its own territory, whether in eastern Ukraine, Crimea, or its territorial waters.