Russian aggression continues in eastern Ukraine. According to U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, Daniel Baer, "the situation in eastern Ukraine remains grim. Combined Russian-separatist forces have claimed the lives of more than 63 Ukrainian soldiers and wounded some 327 more since June 1." This bloodshed is eroding confidence on the ground and hardening attitudes, said Ambassador Baer.
This violence needs to stop. That's why the United States strongly supports the OSCE's efforts and those in the Normandy format to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine caused by Russia's aggression. The Special Monitoring Mission, or SMM, must have access to disengagement sites and throughout the conflict zone, including up to the international border.
Restrictions on their movement regularly occur along the parts of Ukraine's internationally-recognized border with Russia that are under the control of combined Russian-separatist forces.
The SMM continues to identify clear and continuing evidence of Russia's direct involvement with Russian-separatist forces. The SMM continues to find weapons systems in separatist-held territory that are only in Russia's arsenal. Moreover, OSCE monitors have recorded large numbers of individuals in military-style dress crossing the internationally-recognized border from Russia into separatist-held parts of Ukraine.
Only a credible ceasefire will protect civilians from greater harm and create the conditions that will allow Ukraine to move forward with the political aspects of the Minsk Agreement.
President Obama and other U.S. officials have been clear with President Putin that sanctions will remain in place until Moscow fully implements its Minsk commitments. Crimea-related sanctions will remain until the peninsula is returned to Ukraine.