US urges Russia to put an end to violence in eastern Ukraine

Speaking at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council on March 7, Acting Deputy Chief of the US Mission to the OSCE Gregory Macris said that for five years Russia has been destabilizing Ukraine through its “manufactured conflict” in the country’s east, and breaching its obligations according to the Minsk Agreements, which constitute the roadmap to peace.

According to Macris, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has been observing numerous violations of the Minsk Agreements, and most of them take place in the territories controlled by the pro-Russian separatists.

“The United States again calls on the Russian Federation, as the instigator of this conflict, to compel its proxies to cease the violence in the Donbas. Rather than engaging in half-measures and empty pledges, Russia must take steps to end the conflict that it ignited and perpetuates,” Macris said.

He also expressed concern about restrictions to the SMM’s freedom of movement and other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate. The mission’s report cites a 60% increase in such incidents, with 75% of them taking place in separatist-controlled areas. “Russia-led forces deliberately restrict the SMM in the areas where they fear the monitors will bear witness to Russia’s involvement in this bloody conflict,” Macris observed.

On behalf of the US, Macris called on Russia and the forces under its control to respect the SMM’s mandate, which is meant to grant the observers safe access to all of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

Macris also reiterated his country’s demand that Russia immediately release the Ukrainian military vessels and 24 crew members that were seized on 25 November near the Kerch Strait. “Russia’s ramming and firing on the Ukrainian vessels, which wounded three sailors, and its blocking of the Kerch Strait were unjustified and outrageous acts,” the US representative remarked.

The deputy chief of the US mission also expressed outrage at how Russia has militarized Crimea, turning it into “a platform to launch further acts of aggression against Ukraine”. In Crimea, the Russian authorities severely repress the local Crimean Tatars and other residents who oppose the occupation. As an example, Macris recalled the apparent torture and killing of the Crimean Tatar activist Reshat Ametov in March 2014. “Ametov is only one of approximately a dozen individuals who have vanished or were subsequently found dead,” he noted.

“We call on Russia to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses, including disappearances, severe physical and mental abuse, and killings,” Macris said.

In conclusion, he emphasized that the US fully supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters.

“We do not, nor will we ever, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea,” the American diplomat affirmed.

He also noted that the sanctions related to the Minsk Agreements will remain in place until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments, and that the separate Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.

  USA, OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, Kerch Strait