Tag Archives: Crimea

President Obama on Elections in Ukraine

Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2014

Statement by the President on Elections in Ukraine

On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate the people of Ukraine for making their voices heard by voting in their presidential election today. Despite provocations and violence, millions of Ukrainians went to the polls throughout the country, and even in parts of eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatist groups sought to disenfranchise entire regions, some courageous Ukrainians still were able to cast their ballots. We commend the resolve of all those who participated, as well as the efforts of the Ukrainian government to conduct these elections in the face of those threats.

Throughout the last few months, the Ukrainian people have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to choose their leaders without interference and to live in a democracy where they can determine their own future free of violence and intimidation. This election is another important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country and reach out to all of its citizens to ensure their concerns are addressed and aspirations met.

The United States looks forward to working with the next President, as well as the democratically elected parliament, to support Ukraine’s efforts to enact important political and economic reforms. We also continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, condemn and reject Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, and remain committed to working with Ukraine and other partners to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Ambassador Baer at OSCE on Russian Violations, Ukraine


U.S. Mission to the OSCE
Vienna, Austria
May 15, 2014

Remarks by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer
To the Permanent Council, Vienna
May 15, 2014

As delivered

Ongoing Violations of OSCE Principles and Commitments by the Russian Federation and the Situation in Ukraine

It has now been 76 days since the Russian Federation began its military actions in Crimea, and 59 days since Russia’s lawmakers voted to annex Crimea, all in blatant violation of international law. I know I have reminded the Council of these dates before. They mark only two days out of many when the Russian Federation has broken its OSCE commitments with respect to Ukraine over the past two and a half months. We must not lose sight of Russia’s continued and flagrant disrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Russia’s behavior undermines the fundamental pillars of international law. Through the illegal military intervention and subsequent occupation of Crimea, as well as its persistent, unusual troop movements along its border with Ukraine, its support for violent groups operating on Ukrainian territory, and its propaganda campaign that perpetually distorts and often even completely ignores reality, Russia is cultivating an environment of fear, distrust, and insecurity. This undermines not only our common OSCE commitments, but also Russia’s credibility as an international actor. It challenges the credibility of Russia’s stated support for the chairmanship’s recently proposed ideas on implementation of Geneva and the credibility of Russia’s signature on the April 17 joint statement in Geneva. Russia committed to de-escalate tensions, to facilitate the disarmament of pro-Russia separatists, and facilitate an end to the occupation of government buildings. We call on Russia to do so immediately.

In stark contrast to Russia’s ongoing destabilizing behavior, the government of Ukraine has worked tirelessly to implement its commitments and to stabilize the security situation. We applaud the government of Ukraine’s decision to hold the first round of the OSCE-supported national dialogue in the Verkhovna Rada yesterday, which continues and amplifies the process the Ukrainian government had already started. We welcome the appointment of Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, who will lend OSCE support for Ukraine’s series of roundtables that were kicked off in Kyiv yesterday and will travel throughout the country, but with a special focus on the south and east.

The invitation of Ambassador Ischinger in coordination with the Chairman-in-Officeis but the latest step taken by the government of Ukraine to implement its commitments under the Geneva Joint Statement. The burden is now on Russia to act.

The OSCE, like the Ukrainian government, has been working to stabilize eastern Ukraine. The United States commends the OSCE for its ongoing broad and deep commitment to peace, security, and stability in Ukraine. We just finished this morning discussing the great work of the Special Monitoring Mission, and I’d like to turn to a few of the other OSCE activities in Ukraine.

Earlier this week we received the report of the joint ODIHR/HCNM Human Rights Assessment Mission (HRAM). This mission highlighted many of the OSCE’s greatest strengths. It deployed quickly. It assessed the situation objectively. It reported its findings comprehensively. The report itself provides a sobering and fact-based assessment of serious human rights abuses, violations and crimes in the period immediately after Yanukovych fled the country. These include murder, physical assaults, intimidation, and abductions, which were largely carried out by pro-Russian “self-defense” groups reinforced by Russian citizens transported into Ukraine from their homes in Russia on buses bearing Russian license plates. Journalists have been a favorite target of these groups, who know that the greatest threat they face is the truth. We commend ODIHR and the HCNM for their diligent efforts to bring the truth to light.

The HRAM report only covers the period through the first of April. In the intervening six weeks, the situation has not improved. The Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, remains engaged in her tireless efforts to highlight the ongoing threat that media face in Ukraine from pro-Russian separatist groups in the east and south. Her press release last Friday presents a depressing litany of threats, coercion, and intimidation. Armed people in uniform seized the editorial office of the Provintsia newspaper in Kostyantynivka, just south of Slovyansk in Donetsk Oblast. Just a few kilometers down the road, in Kramatorsk, threats from separatists forced the closure of the Privet/Novosti newspaper. Sergei Garmash, editor of the pro-Ukrainian unity Ostrov news portal, was attacked and shot at near Donetsk. Nikolai Ryabchenko, who has provided fearless reporting of the abuses by pro-Russian activists, disappeared near Mariupol. And the list goes on.

The HRAM report also highlights the fact that the Ukrainian people will have hard work ahead of them as they work to build democratic institutions that are capable of delivering the kind of accountability that all Ukrainians want. We are saddened by the tragic events in Odesa on May 2 and Mariupol on May 9 that resulted in numerous deaths and injuries. We call for a thorough investigation of these incidents and for bringing those responsible to justice in a timely manner. We welcome the Ukrainian parliament’s decision to create an ad hoc parliamentary committee to review the Odesa and Mariupol incidents, as well as any cases of killings of unarmed civilians in eastern and southern Ukraine.

As my colleague, the distinguished representative of Ukraine, informed us two weeks ago, the Chairman-in-Office’s Special Representative on Combatting Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Andrew Baker, visited Ukraine last month to investigate charges of anti-Semitism there. The United States condemns anti-Semitic rhetoric and activity anywhere it occurs. We also condemn knowingly false allegations of anti-Semitism, especially when made as part of blatant political propaganda campaign. From the beginning of the crisis, Russian propaganda has been rife with allegations of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, dire warnings of a “fascist, neo-Nazi take-over” in Kyiv, and outrageous claims that Ukraine is on the vanguard of a neo-Nazi resurgence in Europe. None of this is true. For instance, Russian media reports claimed that for the first time the Jewish community in Crimea was able to celebrate Passover. This is patently false, because Jews have freely celebrated Passover in Crimea for many, many years. We look forward to Rabbi Baker’s report and hope it will be made available soon.

So, Mr. Chair, the OSCE is doing admirable work in providing the world with much-needed unbiased information based on observable facts in Ukraine. The United States strongly welcomes that work and supports its continuation. It is important to recall, however, that none of this work would be possible without the active leadership and support of the government of Ukraine. Its government leads the national dialogue effort. Its government invited Rabbi Baker to investigate instances of anti-Semitism. Its government welcomed the Human Rights Assessment Mission and gave them complete access to the country. It invited the SMM. Its government supports Dunja Mijatovi? and continues to urge her to shine a light on media freedom issues in Ukraine, even when she is critical of the government’s activities. That is the mark of a government that is focused on improving its implementation of OSCE commitments in as transparent a way as possible. We commend the government of Ukraine for its exemplary cooperation with the OSCE. And we reiterate our call for the government of the Russian Federation to begin to implement its commitments to bring this crisis to an end.

In closing I’d just like to point out one poll that was released this week. There has been a lot of focus on this poll that polled a thousand people from across Ukraine. One of the questions that was asked and the one that has gotten the most headlines was whether the people felt more loyal to Europe or Russia, and I understand why that’s interesting to headlines. But to me the most interesting part of this poll was that it had asked people in Ukraine whether they were optimistic about the future, and 80% of them said they were optimistic about the future. I think that is a sign of great hope and a reminder to all of us of the importance of the election on May 25 and the opportunity that it presents to the people of Ukraine to start to move forward together and to build that better stronger future as one.

Joint American-Lithuanian Field Trainining Exercises

Joint American-Lithuanian Field Training Exercises, practicing marksmanship, mortar ranging, and movement techniques.

“Lietuvos ir Jungtinių Amerikos Valstijų kariai tęsdami intensyvų kovinį rengimąsi gegužės 6–8 d. dalyvavo bendrose kovinio šaudymo ir šaulių gelbėtojų pratybose Gaižiūnų poligone, Rukloje.

JAV 173-osios oro desanto brigados 1-ojo bataliono BRAVO kuopos ir Mechanizuotosios pėstininkų brigados „Geležinis Vilkas” Lietuvos didžiojo kunigaikščio Algirdo mechanizuotojo pėstininkų bataliono III kuopos kariai vykdė kovinius šaudymus judant mūšio lauke individualiai ir poromis. Šaudykloje savo taiklumą taip pat išbandė netiesioginės paramos ugnimi specialistai — Gaižiūnų poligone griaudėjo 60 milimetrų minosvaidžiai M-60.

On May 6-8 Lithuanian and U.S. military personnel attended a joint live-fire and riflemen-rescuers exercise as part of intense combat training activities at the Gaižiūnų Training Range in Rukla.

U.S. BRAVO Company, 1st Battalion,173rd Infantry Brigade (Airborne), and Lithuania’s 3rd Company, Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion, Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf delivered live fire individually or in groups while moving in a battle field.”

Defense Dept. Works to Counter Russian Intervention in Ukraine

By Jim Garamone | American Forces Press Service | 07 May 2014
Official portrait of Evelyn N. Farkas (DOD)

Evelyn N. Farkas says the U.S. government’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine is being done carefully and without taking actions that would escalate the crisis.

This article was originally published on the Defense Department website on May 6.

Washington — The Defense Department is working with the State Department and NATO allies to provide reassurance, deterrence and support to Ukraine, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 6.

The U.S. government’s response to Russia’s actions in the region is being done carefully and without taking actions that would escalate the crisis, Evelyn N. Farkas said.

“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, followed by blatant and unconcealed efforts [in] eastern and southern Ukraine, signifies a paradigm shift in our relations with Russia,” she said. “Despite Russia’s efforts to portray the situation otherwise, this crisis is entirely one of its choosing. These actions represent a wholesale rejection of the idea of a Europe whole, free and at peace.”

Farkas listed the DOD contributions to Ukraine. Soon after Russia moved into Crimea, the department delivered 329,000 packaged meals to support forces in the field. DOD also has sent uniforms, medical supplies and other nonlethal equipment to Ukrainian armed forces and border guards.

All told, this adds up to about $18 million of aid to date, she said. “Looking ahead,” she added, “we will use all available tools to provide meaningful, cost-effective support to Ukraine’s security institutions.”

DOD officials also continue to engage with their Ukrainian counterparts, Farkas said, noting that a high-level meeting is scheduled next month.

The United States has also taken prompt and high-profile steps to reassure NATO allies in light of Russian activity in Ukraine, Farkas said. These include a stepped-up maritime presence in the Black Sea and the deployment of additional combat aircraft to the Baltic republics and to Poland.

“Last week, 600 paratroopers arrived in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to begin exercises requested by those nations,” she said. “These exercises are the first in a series of activities that will take place over the next few months and beyond.”

The United States is also taking steps to support non-NATO partners — such as Moldova and Georgia — that feel threatened by Russia’s actions, she said.

And the United States is not alone, Farkas told the panel.

“Since the start of this crisis, our NATO allies have acted with resolve. As we approach the NATO summit in Wales this fall, we will continue to urge all NATO allies to increase support to these reassurance measures, including by bolstering their individual commitments to allied security by robust defense investment.”

These measures represent a clear eastward shift of allied forces, she said, specifically intended to counter Russia’s aggressive actions.

The Failure of the Budapest Memorandum

Nuclear Device, courtesy of United States Action
Nuclear Device, courtesy of United States Action

If Ukraine had denied this diplomatic agreement, then Russia would have to face a Kiev government armed with nuclear devices. Thus, the situation in Crimea would require a more realpolitik view based on the strength of arms, both conventional and nuclear, rather than political good will enshrined in a treaty. As Pavlo Rizanenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, told USA Today, “We gave up nuclear weapons because of this agreement. Now there’s a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake.”
Walter Russell Mead of the American Interests wrote, “If Ukraine still had its nukes, it would probably still have Crimea. It gave up its nukes, got worthless paper guarantees, and also got an invasion from a more powerful and nuclear neighbour.”

The moral of the story is that tactical nuclear devices guarantee territorial sovereignty – a lesson the world, especially those threatened by conventional forces – such as Iran, would be wise to heed.

Zurcher, Anthony. “Ukraine’s Nuclear Regret?” BBC. March 20, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-26676051

United States Action. “Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADMs).” http://www.unitedstatesaction.com/suitcase-nuclear.htm




CFR on Russian Expansionism

Crimea Referendum, courtesy of the CFR
Crimea Referendum, courtesy of the CFR

CFR put out an article on the current situation in the Crimea. Author Stewart Patrick concluded that, “It would be wiser for the West to shift the terms of the debate away from the legal merits of Russian conduct, and to focus instead on the illegitimacy of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s clear aspirations to expand its territory.” A great piece written on strategic geopolitical action!

Stewart M. Patrick. “Crimea: Stop Citing International Law and Start Condemning Russian Expansionism.” CFR. March 17, 2014. http://blogs.cfr.org/patrick/2014/03/17/crimea-stop-citing-international-law-and-start-condemning-russian-expansionism/

BBC Live Updates on Crimea

Independence Square, courtesy of the BBC.
Independence Square, courtesy of the BBC.

The BBC has dedicated numerous pages to the Crimea Crisis. The British media outlet has live updates as they occur – such as the current EU – U.S. sanctions – an overarching timeline of the crisis, and biographies of key leaders.

BBC. “Live: Crimean Crisis.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26612507

——. “Ukrainian Crisis.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26270866

The Next Flashpoint: Transnistria

Transnistria is a semi-autonomous region of ethnic Russians in Moldova. It is governed de facto by the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic. but lacks international recognition.  In 2006, the region held a referendum on independence and joining Russia, which was unrecognized by the international community and Moldova. While the international community may shy away from this region, the PMR has its own institutions and paramilitary forces. According to the BBC, “It has its own currency, constitution, parliament, flag and anthem.” The region is dominated by industrial manufacturing and Russian speaking elites. Most of the media is dominated by these elites and the PMR. Furthermore, Russian troops have dabbled in the area since the dismantling of the U.S.S.R.

BBC. “Trans-Dniester Profile.” October 17, 2013. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18284837

Boonstra, Jos. “Moldova, Transnistria, and European Democracy.” FRIDE. February  1, 2007. http://www.fride.org/publication/130/moldova,-transnistria-and-european-democracy-policies

Daskalovski, Zhidas. “Moldova vs. Trans-Dniester.” American University in Bulgaria. http://ewwg.vlamynck.eu/cst/cst-mold/trans.html

Dnienster Post. “2.09.2010. Military Parade in Pridnestrovie.” Youtube. September 2, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-S9taXfPkMA

The Economist. The Black Hole That Ate Moldova.” A Glimpse inside Transdniestria.” May 3, 2007. http://www.economist.com/node/9116439

Maksymiuk, Jan. “Moldova: Transdniester Conflict Was Long in the Making.” RFE. September 15, 2006. http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1071378.html

Reeve, Simon. “Places That Don’t Exist: Trans-Dniester.” Youtube. Four Parts. March 11, 2008. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmrLbTHBV3s

RT. “Transdniester celebrates 20th anniversary of de facto independence.” Youtube. September 2, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJro6NoGGeE

Wikimedia Commons. “Atlas of Pridnestrovie.” http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Atlas_of_Transnistria