Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Ukraine Conflict and Implementation of the Minsk Agreements (via VTC)

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 11, 2021

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Madame President. Can you hear me now? Great, thank you. And thank you, as well, to the briefers for your presentations today. The United States is deeply grateful for the work of regional multilateral institutions, this Council, and our partners and allies to bring peace, prosperity, and stability to Ukraine.

Madam President, in 2014, Russia occupied Crimea and instigated a conflict in the Donbas region. Russia has blocked meaningful progress in diplomatic negotiations while arming, training, funding, and leading its proxy forces and supporting the self-proclaimed “authorities” on the ground.

Since 2014, Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine have led to the deaths of more than 13,000 people. Its actions have displaced 1.5 million Ukrainians and left an additional 3.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Russia has stepped up its efforts to destabilize Ukraine and undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty over the past year. Russia continues to deny that it controls the conflict in eastern Ukraine and falsely presents itself as a mediator to this conflict, even though it is, in fact, the instigator.

We have witnessed Russia act disingenuously toward negotiations as well. President Putin agreed at the 2019 Normandy Summit to take steps to improve humanitarian and security situations on the ground. However, Russia subsequently sought to hinder the implementation of those very same steps at the Trilateral Contact Group, both directly and through its proxies. Russia stalled the opening of new civilian crossing points along the Line of Contact and blocked additional exchanges of detainees. President Putin has even refused to endorse the agreement on ceasefire-strengthening measures Ukraine secured through the Trilateral Contact Group last July.

Meanwhile, Russia escalated its oppression of any dissent to its brutal occupation of Crimea. The United States continues to condemn the human rights abuses taking place under Russia’s repressive occupation. We urge Russia to release the more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners it is holding, and to end its campaign of intimidation against Crimean Tatars and opponents of their occupation.

Madam President, the United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea. As a result, U.S. sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression in eastern Ukraine and occupation of Crimea will remain in place unless – and until – Russia reverses course.

We continue to support the Minsk agreements as the way forward in eastern Ukraine. The resolution to this conflict must be a diplomatic one, and one which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We are also greatly concerned by the restrictions on access that Russia and its proxies continue to impose on humanitarian workers and OSCE Special Monitoring Mission personnel. This is especially troubling as it comes at a time when vulnerable conflict-affected populations face even greater threats to their lives and livelihoods due to COVID-19. Russia and its proxies have used the guise of “COVID-19 mitigation measures” to further limit the life-saving operations of humanitarian actors, contrary to humanitarian principles and the OSCE’s mandate in Ukraine.

Russia must immediately cease its aggression in eastern Ukraine and end its occupation of Crimea. We call on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, cease its support for its proxies and other armed groups, and implement all of the commitments it made under the Minsk agreements. We further call on Russia to grant and facilitate safe, timely, and unhindered access to all humanitarian personnel and OSCE and UN monitors throughout the Ukrainian territory that Russia controls, including parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, and occupied Crimea.

Madam President, the United States looks forward to continuing to support our Ukrainian partners in their efforts to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and restore its territorial integrity. To this end, we welcome Ukraine’s Crimean Platform initiative, and hope like-minded partners will consider joining this diplomatic effort to push back on Russia’s aggression and make clear that the international community will not tolerate Russia’s brutal occupation.

Thank you, Madam President.

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