Today, Ambassador Samantha Power spoke at the UN Security Council about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, which includes over 100,000 internally displaced people, and the United States’ efforts to help.
Ambassador Power also pointed out that Russia’s proposal for a “humanitarian corridor” imposed unilaterally by Russia would really be a pretext for Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has threatened to send in “peacekeepers” when the very people disrupting peace have been supported by Moscow.
Russia occupied Crimea, purportedly to protect Crimeans, but as Ambassador Power said today, “Peacekeepers are impartial -- yet Russia fully supports Russian armed separatists in this conflict. We have seen the 'peace' that Russian occupation has brought to Crimea since that time." The UN has said that no progress has been made on any of the 17 previous recommendations it has made to Russia regarding serious human rights problems in Crimea. So far, freedom of speech and assembly have been violently repressed, ethnic minorities systematically persecuted, and civilians abducted with impunity, 350 of whom are still unaccounted for.
There are international aid organizations already operating in Ukraine. They are perfectly capable of delivering any aid Russia provides without giving Russia a way to introduce more troops and arms into Ukraine. “Humanitarian assistance should be delivered by the international humanitarian organizations that have the expertise, experience, and independence to provide it.”
One of the issues impeding more rapid aid delivery has been the lack of security guarantees for aid workers against attacks by the armed separatists. Similarly, international investigators have had to suspend their work at the crash site of MH17 again, for fear of being taken hostage by illegal armed groups. The best thing Russia could do to help aid get in would be to get security guarantees for aid workers, but they have so far not done so.
Ambassador Power concluded her remarks with an ominous quote from a Russian official: “The population is panicking, and there are a growing number of refugees, who are attempting to flee in order to save their lives...A humanitarian catastrophe is in the making…Over the past week, the Russian Federation has continued to receive refugees. However, tens of thousands of innocent civilians remain in the conflict zone. Those circumstances dictate the logic of the steps to be taken by us now...” These words were spoken on this day, August 8, in 2008, about South Ossetia, shortly before Russia invaded.
Russia cannot be both arsonist and fireman. History should not repeat itself.
About the Author: Kurtis Cooper serves as Deputy Spokesperson at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
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