May 12, 2014
Ambassador Daniel Baer, the U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held up a new report issued today by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and High Commissioner for National Minorities as evidence of the dire human rights consequences of Russian and Russian-supported actors in Ukraine.
“We see in this human rights assessment the human toll that Russia’s crimes have taken, creating a climate of fear and intimidation.”
The Human Rights Assessment of the situation in Ukraine was based on several weeks of fieldwork that began in early March and concluded in early April. Teams of researchers fanned out across the country, including in Crimea after the illegal and illegitimate referendum on March 17.
The report includes a number of damning findings that implicate Russia and pro-Russian groups who have been operating particularly in Eastern Ukraine. For example it notes that in late February, violent, organized groups “started arriving in buses or private vehicles, some of which had either no license plates or Russian license plates.”
The report also notes that “According to credible sources, many of these individuals came from neighboring small cities or from across the border with the Russian Federation. They benefitted from logistical arrangements and funding that enabled them to travel to disrupt pro-Maidan assemblies.”
The report also describes a deterioration in human rights in the Crimean region of Ukraine after the Russian incursion there began, particularly for the vulnerable Crimean Tatars. Ambassador Baer observed that “this report calls again—as many in the international community have already—for those in de facto control in Crimea to facilitate full access for international human rights monitors there.”
Journalists have been a particular target of abuses, according to the report, as violence and intimidation have been used in an attempt to silence reporters and prevent reporting, including on human rights abuses. Ambassador Baer noted: “This report follows a report from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and reconfirms many of its findings. It confirms the warnings of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media about massive deterioration in media freedom in Eastern Ukraine. While Russia has lied repeatedly about being motivated by concern for human rights, it cannot hide the truth that Russia’s actions have had such dire consequences for so many. ”
Ambassador Baer also noted that there are recommendations in the report that can be part of the national dialogue going forward: “Russia’s recent destructive actions are not the only challenge that the Ukrainian people face—the legacy of the repression and corruption of the Yanukovych era has taken its toll on all Ukrainians—those in the East, the South, the West; those who speak Russian or Ukrainian. Indeed, many of those protesting the corruption and impunity of the former regime on the Maidan were inspired by a quest for dignity too long denied, and their belief a brighter, democratic future for their country. The recommendations in this assessment highlight the kinds of challenges—including intolerance and political polarization—that Ukrainians should tackle together through a democratic process in order to build a stronger future for all Ukrainians. A key step in that process is the upcoming presidential election, which is a chance for all Ukrainians to turn the page on the Yanukovych era.”
For further information please contact:
U.S. Mission to the OSCE
Christopher Midura, Public Affairs Counselor
Tel. (+43-1) 31339-3422 / Cell: (+43) 664 322 9879