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U.S. Condemns Russian-Backed Separatist Attack

A woman resident passes by a burning house in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific assault on Mariupol, by Russian-backed separatists.

On January 24, Russian-backed separatists launched a brutal assault on civilian neighborhoods in Mariupol, [Mah-ree-you-poll] a peaceful city 25 kilometers outside of the Minsk ceasefire line. They used Grad rocket systems and other advanced weaponry. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, monitors have confirmed at least 20 dead including women, children, and the elderly.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific assault by Russian-backed separatists. "It is reprehensible," he said, "that the separatists are publicly glorifying this and other offensives in blatant violation of the Minsk agreements they signed.”

The separatists’ new offensive, not just in Mariupol [Mah-ree-you-poll] and Debaltseve,[Deh-balt-sev-yeh] but along the ceasefire line, has been aided and abetted by Russia's irresponsible and dangerous decision to resupply them in recent weeks with hundreds of new pieces of advanced weaponry.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “for several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as a substantial increase in Russian heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery and advanced air defense systems. Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defense systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems, advanced multiple rocket launcher systems, and electronic warfare systems.” Secretary General Stoltenberg called on Russia to "stop its military, political and financial support for the separatists, stop destabilizing Ukraine and respect its international commitments."

Russia's commitments to the Minsk ceasefire agreements it signed will be assessed by its actions not its words, said Secretary Kerry. The U.S. calls on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing. Otherwise, the U.S. and international pressure on Russia and the separatists it backs will only increase.