Columns

Take Away Russia's Veto 5 Years After Crimea Seizure, Ukraine President Urges UN

Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16, 2019. (Tobias Hase/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Marking five years since the Russian seizure of Crimea, Acting UN Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said today at a meeting on the situation in Ukraine that the U.S. will “continue to draw on the range of measures we have at our disposal” to show disapproval for Russian aggression.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, meanwhile, argued before the UN General Assembly today that it’s time to strip Russia of its veto at the UN Security Council.

“By resorting to the military aggression against Ukraine, Russia violated all possible fundamental norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter. The Charter, which entrusts Security Council members to uphold international peace and security instead of unleashing conflicts throughout the world,” Poroshenko said.

“So what could the international community do as regards Russia?” he added. “For instance, in 1939, for its aggressive behavior, Moscow was expelled from the League of Nations – a right and justified move. Maybe it is time to put Russia in its place – start with depriving it of its veto right, at least when it comes to issues related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

Cohen slammed Russia’s “brazen occupation and purported annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine,” noting that Russia “continues to lead and fight alongside its proxy authorities in the Donbas, despite commitments in the Minsk agreements that call for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign armed formations and the disarmament of illegal groups.”

Moscow, the U.S. ambassador added, “continues to destabilize Ukraine and attempts to make it subservient to Russia.”

“In reality, Russia is pushing Ukraine and its people farther away from Russia and strengthening Ukraine’s resolve to defend its freedom and independence. The international community should remain united in support of Ukraine and impose costs on Russia for these attempts to undermine Ukraine,” Cohen said.

“The United States firmly stands with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression, and we are committed to the success of a stable, prosperous, democratic, and free Ukraine. As we’ve repeatedly said: the United States does not, and will not, recognize the Kremlin’s purported annexation of Crimea. We will never accept anything less than the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Our Donbas-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Cohen called Russia’s Nov. 25 seizure of Ukraine ships and continued detention of two dozen Ukrainian sailors “a fresh reminder of why the international community must remain firm… we call on Russia to immediately release the vessels and crew and cease obstructing, delaying, and harassing the transit of vessels in the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports.”

“Russia attempts to justify its aggression against Ukraine by saying it is defending Russian-speaking people,” he added. “However, Russian aggression has been disastrous for the people living in those regions who have seen the humanitarian situation continue to deteriorate. The UN estimates that this conflict has taken over 10,000 lives. Beyond that toll, 1.5 million people have been internally displaced, and 3.5 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”

In Crimea, Cohen emphasized, Russia “engages in a campaign of coercion and violence to suppress any voice that questions Russia’s occupation, including through misusing counter-terrorism and so-called anti-extremism laws to suppress dissent, as Russia attempts to further consolidate its occupation of the peninsula.”

“Russian occupation forces also raid, harass, detain, deport, and forcibly conscript members of the Crimean Tatar community, ethnic Ukrainians and others who support Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea,” he said. “The United States calls on Russia to immediately release the over 70 Ukrainians it has unjustly imprisoned, including Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, and Ruslan Zeytullayev.”

“Russia has also created a hostile and dangerous environment for journalists and media workers, human rights defenders and defense lawyers to perform their work independently and without interference in Crimea. Russia must ensure the proper and unimpeded access of international human rights monitoring missions and human rights non-governmental organizations to Crimea and cease any abuse against individuals there, without any discrimination.”

Cohen vowed the United States “will continue to draw on the range of measures we have at our disposal, including diplomacy, sanctions, and security assistance to support Ukraine and make clear to Russia that the only resolution the international community can accept is the end of Russia’s efforts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“We’ll continue to coordinate our efforts with the many other countries supporting Ukraine,” he added. “Ukrainians have repeatedly shown that they will not be deterred from charting their own course and the United States will stand with the Ukrainian people until there is an end to Russian aggression.”