Presentation by Oleksandra Romantsova, Coordinator on monitoring human rights violations in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Introductory Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Harry R. Kamian
Vienna, February 27, 2018
Thank you, Ihor, it is an honor to have an opportunity to share this stage with you. The leadership that you and your delegation have shown in my time here in making sure that the issue remains at the forefront of our agenda is admirable, and you can count on the United States to always be with you.
Welcome dear friends and colleagues – in particular a shout-out of appreciation for the representatives from the 32 co-sponsors of the event: thank you very much for joining us today!
It is an honor to be here today to have an opportunity to hear from an expert from civil society on the serious issue of human rights violations in Crimea and the Donbas. The fact that 32 OSCE participating States are co-sponsoring this event illustrates the high level of policy interest within our organization, as well as the support that you and your colleagues in civil society enjoy across the OSCE for your contributions to advancing human rights in the area.
A special thanks goes out to you, Oleksandra, for being here. Individuals like you provide much needed ground truth to our discussions here at the OSCE. I know from my discussions with my colleagues at the Embassy in Kyiv that they value your work, they rely on it, and they agree that the work of the Center for Civil Liberties gives us focus here in Vienna. It gives us solutions. It even gives us inspiration in the face of challenges. So thank you for your commitment to advancing human rights on the ground there.
I would also like to thank your colleague Aleksandra Krylenkova for her report, and we share the sympathies expressed by you for her not being able to be here, and we hope for her speedy recovery.
Four years ago Ukrainians from all walks of life and all regions of the country came together on the Maydan to demand their government recognize the choice of the citizens of Ukraine to join Europe.
It is a dream that still burns in the hearts of most Ukrainians, and one that they won’t abandon.
The United States will continue to stand by Ukraine as it faces ongoing Russian aggression, which so far has claimed over 10,000 lives and displaced more than 1.6 million Ukrainians. We are very proud of the opportunity and the work with the people of Ukraine to honor the sacrifices made four years ago to build a Ukraine that is stable, democratic, prosperous and free.
It was also nearly four years ago that Russia occupied Crimea. Russia then staged an illegal referendum in which residents of Crimea were compelled to vote while heavily armed foreign forces occupied their land.
Since then, Russian occupation “authorities” in Crimea have engaged in a campaign to suppress dissent. Human rights monitors have documented disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and punitive psychiatric hospitalizations.
As you have mentioned, Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists, and independent journalists have been subjected to politically motivated prosecution and regrettably they continue to face ongoing repression.
And Russian occupiers have silenced and forced the closure of nongovernmental organizations and independent media and have consistently denied international observers access to the peninsula.
Oleksandra, I know I speak on behalf of several participating States here in the Hofburg – not just the 32 who co-sponsored this event but others who are unable to join us today – when I say that we greatly value civil society’s role. We rely on your reporting and your observations to help us in these halls of the Hofburg to truly understand what is going on on the ground and the challenges that Ukrainians are facing. And we believe that you will continue to play a key role in building the Ukraine that is stable, democratic, prosperous, and – most importantly – free.
Again, thank you for your presence here in Vienna. We very much look forward to your presentation, to engage with colleagues around the table, and a follow-on discussion.