January 19, 2019

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US and Russia stances remain distant over the conflict in eastern Ukraine

By Guido Lanfranchi.

Speaking with the press ahead of the November 11th elections in eastern Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, US. Special Representative for Ukraine, declared such elections as “wholly illegitimate.” In the same context, he announced a new round of US. sanctions against Russia over the country’s involvement in Ukraine.

On November 8th, 2018, just a few days ahead of the November 11th elections in eastern Ukraine, the United States State Department decided to update the press on the situation in the country. Ambassador Kurt Volker, US. Special Representative for Ukraine, updated the press on Ukraine’s dire humanitarian situation, on the elections in the east, and on a new set of US. sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine.

Ambassador Volker started by expressing the strong opposition of the United States towards the November 11th elections in the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. Such elections – he claimed – are “wholly illegitimate”, as they do not comply with the Ukrainian constitution nor with the Minsk agreements. While reminding that elections are indeed part of the Minsk roadmap, Mr. Volker stressed that this process should unfold in a safe and free environment. Such conditions – he stressed – are currently far from being achieved in eastern Ukraine.

In order to achieve the conditions necessary to implement the Minsk agreements, Ambassador Volker reiterated the US. proposal for a UN-mandated peacekeeping force, which would be tasked with creating security in the regions. Ambassador Volker “urged the Russian side to give serious consideration” to the US. proposal. However, as Russia demands a mission focused solely on the protection of OSCE observers, the position of the actors remain rather distant.

In a bid to increase pressure on Russia – Mr. Volker announced – the US. is set to impose a new round of sanctions. These new measures will target three individuals and nine entities accused either of contributing to Russia’s efforts to annex Crimea, or of committing serious human rights abuses in Russian-controlled areas. While the US. has long claimed that Russia has control over the occupied regions, Ambassador Volker stressed that these new sanctions are the first measures officially recognizing such understanding.

As the negotiations remain stalled, the situation on the ground continues to be extremely dire – Ambassador Volker noted with concern. The conflict in Ukraine has already killed more than 10,000 people and has left 3.4 million civilians in urgent need of assistance. Ukrainian people in the occupied regions suffer from physical violence, food and water scarcity, health issues, as well as a lack of freedom. However, such humanitarian catastrophe “can be ended” – Mr. Volker stressed – namely by creating peace and security and implementing the Minsk agreements.

Negotiations will thus continue, with the ultimate aim of improving the lives of the people of eastern Ukraine, who unfortunately remain the real victims of the conflict.

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