Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Deputy Secretary General Eliasson and Assistant Secretary General Simonovic, for your briefings.
The Representative of the Russian Federation began his intervention extolling the so-called referendum as embodying democratic procedures, and having been conducted without outside interference. Russia is known for its literary greatness – and what you just heard from the Russian Ambassador showed more imagination than Tolstoy or Chekhov. Russia has decided, it seems, to rewrite its borders, but it cannot rewrite the facts.
The United States rejects Russia’s military intervention and land grab in Crimea. These actions, again, violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia’s own binding agreements, international law, the expressed will of most members of this Council, and the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.
Two days ago, President Obama and other world leaders put in place sanctions in response to Russia’s blatant disregard for global opinion and the legal rights of Ukraine. We are prepared to take additional steps if Russian aggression or Russian provocations continue.
In this chamber, when the crisis began, the Russian Federation described its intervention into Crimea as a human rights protection mission. They claimed that the recent change of government in Ukraine constituted such a danger to ethnic Russians in Crimea that military action was justified.
Assistant Secretary General Simonovic’s briefing once again illustrates that this crisis was never about protecting the rights of ethnic Russians and was always about one country’s ambition to redraw its own borders.
Indeed, if there was ever a time to be concerned about human rights in Crimea, it is now. Credible reports indicate that cases of harassment have been directed by Russian allies against ethnic Ukrainians and Tatars. The Tatar community, which constitutes 12 percent of the population, is rightly fearful of again falling victim to deportation or discrimination. The Crimean First Deputy Prime Minister has recently announced that Crimean Tatars will be evicted from some of their land, which he claimed is needed for, quote, “infrastructure projects.” The body of Reshat Ahmetov, a Crimean Tatar, was discovered Sunday. He had last been seen at a protest in Simferopol on March 3rd. Ahmetov’s body reportedly showed signs of torture. Russian troops are reportedly storming apartment buildings housing Ukrainian troops, border guards, veterans and their families, threatening them and demanding their immediate departure. In addition, we are seriously concerned about activists, civil society leaders, media restrictions, and journalists in Crimea. Accordingly, the United States supports the rapid deployment of international observers in all parts of Ukraine, and we believe it is instructive that the Government of Ukraine has repeatedly welcomed their deployment, and the Russian Federation has not.
Again, today in Vienna, Russia was the lone country to block an OSCE monitoring mission. There, Russia was dramatically outnumbered. It was the lone dissenting voice out of 57 countries. Fifty-six, it seemed, had a different view. Russian officials say that they understand the urgency, but they vote with their feet, relying on their military forces and refusing to allow the deployment of those who could help diffuse the crisis, and prevent further violence. After hearing my Russian colleague’s assault on the Assistant Secretary General’s report minutes ago, I see the logic of Russian obstruction. Objective information is inconvenient to the Russian tale. We call on all parties to support these observer missions, including their access to Crimea.
We want to thank members of this Council for taking a strong stance on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and for making clear that Russia stands alone in its failed, illogical, and mendacious attempt to justify actions that cannot be justified. Five days ago, when this Council accurately described the Crimean separatist referendum as invalid, only a single hand rose in opposition. When this Council declared that the referendum cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea, only a single hand rose in opposition. Now, the referendum has taken place, but the national and international legal status of Crimea has not changed. A thief can steal property, but that does not confer the right of ownership on the thief.
In closing, Madam President, let me just emphasize again what Russia has done is wrong as a matter of law, wrong as a matter of history, wrong as a matter of policy, and dangerous. What happened in Crimea cannot be recognized as valid. We must stand together denying recognition and imposing consequences for this illegal act. In doing so, we must also be very clear that what happened in Crimea cannot be repeated in other parts of Ukraine. Thank you.
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