Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ukraine receives additional U.S. security aid, while Biden and EU prolong Russia sanctions

March 7, 2021. Greece.


“The United States does not, and will never, recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a White House statement on February 26. “We will continue to work to hold Russia accountable for its abuses and aggression in Ukraine.”

The following day, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that “Russia’s invasion and seizure of Crimea is a brazen affront to the international order, and we call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea immediately.”

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign affairs minister, referred to Russia’s annexation as “violent” and “illegal” while saying that Brussels “remains steadfast in its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Before The Ukrainian Weekly went to print, the 27 EU ambassadors in Brussels agreed on March 3 to extend sanctions on 177 individuals and 48 entities for an additional six months for allegedly undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine, according to reporting by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

In a separate decision, asset freezes imposed on former President Viktor Yanukovych and seven others from his cohort were also prolonged. In January 2019, a Ukrainian court found Mr. Yanukovych guilty of high treason in absentia.

In a similar move, President Biden on March 3 signed an executive order extending for one year Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, during a two-day visit to Ukraine, which included a stop at the front in the Donbas where a war against Russian-led, supplied and trained forces simmers in a seventh year, European Council President Charles Michel blamed Moscow for not doing enough to uphold a cease-fire agreement that still hasn’t taken hold since it was brokered twice in 2014 and 2015.

Speaking at the Shchastya civilian entry-exit crossing point in the Luhansk region, Mr. Michel said sanctions would be prolonged against Russia for its inaction in holding to the terms of the agreement.

He added that “Russia is a party to this conflict and not a mediator.”

According to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) decision from December, Russia’s occupation of Crimea started on February 27, 2014.

“On February 27, 2014, over 100 heavily armed men stormed the buildings of the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” the ECHR decision said. The militants also blocked key infrastructure, including Ukrainian military and naval posts based on the peninsula.

The previous day, Crimean Tatars held their biggest rally at the peninsula’s parliamentary building in Simferopol in support of a unitary Ukraine. Since Russia’s takeover of the region, those individuals who have remained have been systemically persecuted, kidnapped, killed or disappeared.

The invasion came in the wake of the Euro-Maidan revolution that saw Mr. Yanukovych abandon office for self-exile in Russia amid a popular uprising against his kleptocratic and increasingly authoritarian rule.

On March 1, 2014, he wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to send military personnel into Ukraine.

Initially, Mr. Putin denied Russian soldiers took part in the Crimean invasion.
“Russia has not deployed any troops in Crimea,” Mr. Putin was quoted as saying on March 4, 2014. He instead called the armed men “local self-defense forces.”

A month later on April 17, 2014, the Russian president gloated that he had ordered the invasion of Crimea in which Russian military personnel were deployed.

Nearly 50 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Britain, Japan, Australia and Switzerland have sanctioned Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine. Some of the restrictive measures include a ban on importing products from Crimea, on flights to airports and calls to seaports, and limitations on trade and investment.

Meanwhile, the Russia-instigated war in Donbas has killed more than 14,000 people and internally displaced over a million more.

On March 1, the Pentagon announced it had awarded Ukraine a $125 million U.S. military aid package. The assistance includes two Mark VI patrol boats for Ukraine’s growing mosquito fleet, counter-artillery radar, as well as satellite imagery augmentation and analysis capability.

Another $150 million is contingent upon Kyiv meeting key reform benchmarks this year, the U.S. Defense Department said. Since 2014, Ukraine has received more than $2 billion in security aid from Washington.

The Ukrainian Weekly