Remarks at the U.S. Embassy – Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade Panel Discussion on Ukraine

Good morning everyone and thank you for coming. I am pleased to be here with such distinguished guests for what promises to be a vibrant discussion on Ukraine and the ramifications of the crisis – for Ukrainians, and for all of us. Before we get started, I wanted to thank everyone who made this event possible.

Thank you to my great colleague, Levente Benkő, who is joining us from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Ukraine is an issue we continue to work closely together on and we thank him for all of his great efforts.

Thank you also to Ukrainian Charge Mykhailo Yunger — Mr. Yunger has been a good friend of the Embassy, and I look forward to your comments later in the program. Thank you to our colleagues at the US Mission to the European Union in Brussels, the International Renaissance Foundation in Kyiv, and the International Republican Institute, for helping us organize our Ukrainian speakers’ trip to the region.

And lastly, but certainly not least, let me thank our co-hosts for the event, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their immense efforts in pulling the roundtable together.  László and Márton — thanks to you and your team for your close cooperation on this event. We, the United States, believe strongly in an open and transparent discussion on all issues and we hope that the discussion we have here today will continue.

The conflict in Ukraine may not be as prominent in news headlines lately, but that does not mean that the conflict has subsided.  Since Minsk II was signed on February 11, nearly 500 Ukrainians have been killed and a thousand injured as a result of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Let me repeat that–500 killed and a thousand injured.

This brings the total to 6,362 people killed and 15,775 wounded since hostilities began last April.  The UN High Commission on Human Rights tells us that not only have we seen tremendous loss of life, but more than 1.2 million people are now internally displaced.

Within the Russian- and separatist-controlled areas in Eastern Ukraine, international observers have documented serious human rights abuses, including allegations of killings, torture, forced labor, and extortion, including targeting former Maidan activists and Crimean Tatars.

UNHCR reports, “Law and order has collapsed in the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.”   In these conflict areas, journalists are targeted and shot.  Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko remains in detention in Russia, despite public outcry to release her.

But the situation perhaps is best summed up by the Ukrainian people themselves, who have repeatedly pleaded with the UN’s monitoring mission team that “we just want peace.”  It’s imperative that we do not forget Ukraine, the conflict taking place there, and the devastating effect on the Ukrainian people.

It is important to continue to stay engaged, because there are those who hope the international community does forget about Eastern Ukraine — that we accept the violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that we abandon the Ukrainian people to whatever fate might befall them.

But we can’t ignore what is taking place next door to Hungary, and we can’t pretend that we don’t know who is responsible for starting this armed conflict, and who is continuing to feed it, even after all parties agreed to the Minsk II framework.

As Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland has said all sides in this conflict need to be talking about a full cease-fire, a full pullback. There needs to be withdrawal of military equipment, and that includes the military support that the Russian Federation has provided to the separatists in the east.

If Russia continues to disregard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, we must continue to impose costs on Russia. And the United States will remain united with our allies in the process. I find it significant and inspiring that the unity of effort among us has played such a critical part.  Our unity on sanctions has sent a clear message to Russia that we cannot be divided.

So together, today, as allies and partners, we continue to stand by Ukraine. The United Nations Security Council, has met 33 times to discuss the crisis in Ukraine since February 2014, when Russian special forces first started appearing in Crimea – many times more than it has met to discuss any other crisis in the world during that period.

The G7, which met just last week, made a promise to continue to provide economic support and technical assistance to the Ukrainian government, to help with the economic recovery that is critical to the reforms the government is making.

And late last month, I’m happy to announce, the U.S. government announced that it will provide an additional $18 million in humanitarian assistance to help the people of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, who have suffered the most from the effects of Russian aggression.

With this new funding, total U.S. humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis will reach more than $61 million. This assistance is given in addition to countless experts in finance, energy, and many other fields who have travelled to Ukraine to help the Government rebuild and reform their country.

And it’s not just the United States that supports the Government of Ukraine, but so many of our other partners as well. Our Hungarian counterparts have provided vital help, supporting their neighbors with medical assistance, reverse gas flows, and funds to improve cyber capabilities.

We thank them for their efforts. We can all do more and we must continue to look for ways to support Ukraine.

While we continue to stand by Ukraine, we also continue to be inspired by it. Our assistance contributes to the path the Ukrainian people have chosen. And, despite having a war raging in the eastern part of the country, Ukraine continues to build a better future for itself by implementing reforms.  In October 2014, Ukraine held the freest and fairest Rada election in the country’s history.

This is also the first year that every member of the Rada has publicly disclosed his or her income and assets.

The Ukrainian government has started to chip away at some of the oligarch’s monopolies. And a major reason these reforms have moved forward is because of exceptional contributions from Ukraine’s civil society, average Ukrainians who organized themselves to claim a place in the Maidan, and who are now asking for their rightful seat at the policymaking table.

As our Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said in Kyiv last week, the Kremlin made a very serious miscalculation: it underestimated Ukraine’s resiliency and its willingness to unite to help its fellow citizens.  And it underestimated Ukraine’s determination to fix a broken system. That’s perhaps the lasting legacy of Maidan.  That the people of Ukraine will continue to determine the course of their country’s future.

In the meantime, we are standing by Ukraine. We stand for a cessation of hostilities.

We stand for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. And we stand for a Europe, whole, free and at peace.

Köszönöm szépen.  Thank you very much.