Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 12, 2021
Thank you very much. Foreign Minister Liimets, thank you for hosting, and thank you to Estonia for organizing today’s event. And to the briefers – your statements today have shed light on many issues that require Security Council attention.
I’m encouraged by the number of Members who are participating in today’s discussion. Your participation is a powerful demonstration that – seven years after Russia’s invasion of Crimea – the international community still supports the bedrock principle in the UN Charter: no country can change the borders of another one by force.
As President Biden said last month, when Russia invaded its neighbors, it did not just violate another country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it violated international law and the very norms by which modern countries engage with one another.
Russia wants us to believe that its invasion of Crimea was justified and provoked. But we will not be fooled. Here’s the truth: after protests brought an end to the corrupt Yanukovych regime, Moscow took revenge against Ukraine for its decision to chart a path toward democratic reform.
In February 2014, Russia’s “little green men,” armed with Russian weaponry, took over the Crimean Peninsula. In March, Russian agitators seized buildings and fueled the bloody Donbas conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives to date. This is how Russia’s campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine began.
Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine is not, as Russia claims, an “internal Ukrainian conflict.” Russia funds, arms, trains, leads, and fights alongside its proxy forces and armed groups in eastern Ukraine. Its invasion of Crimea was followed by a series of killings and the disappearances of at least a dozen opponents of the occupation. These actions remain unresolved, and they need to be investigated. And we urge Russia to release the more than 100 Ukrainian political prisoners it is holding.
These political prisoners are only one part of the human cost of Russia’s occupation. Occupation authorities have sustained a brutal campaign of repression against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and members of other minority ethnic and religious groups. Occupation authorities have raided mosques and homes, driven independent media off the peninsula, and handed down lengthy prison sentences to those with the bravery to speak out.
Furthermore, Russia’s occupation and militarization of the Peninsula have implications far beyond Ukraine’s borders. Russia has moved nuclear-capable aircraft, missiles, weapons, and ammunition into the peninsula and has increased its military presence in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait. This is a threat to the world’s common security.
We already know what Russia will say in response to these truths. It will accuse Kyiv of a litany of abuses against its population and claim the OSCE has not confirmed the presence of its military forces in eastern Ukraine.
But Russia refuses to allow OSCE and UN monitors to access occupied Crimea. It obstructs and harasses the OSCE monitoring teams in Donetsk and Luhansk, all so it can continue to push its false narrative.
So, if Russia wants the international community to believe its narrative and is truly concerned about the welfare of the people living in Crimea and Donbas, it should allow humanitarian workers and OSCE and UN envoys immediate access to these areas. I ask all of those gathered here today to join us in calling on Russia to grant this access.
The United States welcomes Ukraine’s new initiative, the Crimean Platform, as the next step and venue for international partners committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It’s time to end Russia’s occupation of Crimea and its ongoing aggression in eastern Ukraine. We look forward to continuing our work with Ukraine, our allies, our partners to do just that.
Thank you very much.