ASRC – Special Session: Ensuring Security and Stability in Light of Developments with Respect to Ukraine

Annual Security Review Conference Special Session: Ensuring Security and Stability in the OSCE Region in Light of Developments with Respect to Ukraine

As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Harry Kamian
Vienna, June 26, 2018

My colleague Kurt Volker has compellingly described the increasingly devastating human crisis on the ground in Ukraine. I will add only a few words, echoing also the themes of the members of the European Union. We share their appreciation for the diplomatic efforts of the Normandy Four and the Trilateral Contact Group. Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine violates nearly every hard-fought OSCE international norm and agreement. Russia-led forces continue to harass and intimidate OSCE monitors. Those forces recently escalated their attacks by firing surface-to-air missiles at SMM unmanned aerial vehicles. On June 22, a member of the Russia-led forces carrying an assault rifle and displaying signs of intoxication forced an SMM vehicle to drive on a mine-contaminated road in Russia-controlled territory, after they had notified him of the presence of a suspected TM-62 anti-tank mine on the road. Russia can stop this. I don’t need to remind members of this Organization of the tragic death in April 2017 of one of our monitors, American citizen Joseph Stone. We call on Russia to do so — to stop this — before another one of our monitors is killed.

The Minsk agreements remain the best vehicle for ending the bloodshed and returning control of the Donbas to Ukraine. The U.S. proposal that a UN-authorized peacekeeping force be deployed to eastern Ukraine to facilitate implementation of the Minsk agreements would ensure security throughout the conflict zone, oversee the withdrawal and cantonment of heavy weapons, and control the Ukraine-Russia international border. By performing these vital functions, a peacekeeping force would allow local elections in the Donbas to take place in a secure environment and facilitate the return of Russia-controlled areas to Ukraine. Unfortunately, Russia has so far refused to engage seriously on this proposal.

The fruit of Russia’s delayed response has already yielded a tragic harvest of suffering, and the humanitarian situation continues to worsen. Russia-led forces expanded and advanced their positions around the Donetsk Filtration Station, which supplies water to over 300,000 people. The station has been shelled in crossfire and water has temporarily been cut off.

The SMM’s report that Russia-led forces stopped pumping shaft waters at the Yunyi Komunar mine in eastern Ukraine on April 14 raises the prospect of an ecological and radiation disaster that could impact tens of thousands of people.

We commend the work of the courageous men and women who participate in the Special Monitoring Mission. This work is critical – freedom of movement violations, lack of security guarantees, and other impediments are unacceptable. We also call on the Russian Federation to lift the restrictions it has imposed on the Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints, and to finally permit the mission to provide full transparency on Russia’s border with certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk not under the control of the Ukrainian government.

OSCE monitors can only do their job – which is to shine a light on the reality on the ground – if we have the political will to give them our full support and ensure that they have full access. These monitors report only what they see and hear. They are impartial. They are the eyes and ears of the international community. They deserve our respect, our support, and our protection.

And until Russia changes its ways and ceases its destabilization of its neighbor, they will be forced to remain under constant danger. The United States fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea. Crimea-related sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine. The United States joins our European and other partners in restating that our sanctions against Russia for its aggression in eastern Ukraine will remain until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements.

Thank you.