Two years ago, after the Russian Federation occupied and attempted to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the United States, the European Union, and a number of other countries and international organizations, applied targeted sanctions against Russian individuals, businesses and officials complicit in the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
In response to Russia’s continued aggression toward Ukraine, including training, arming, and fighting alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine, on July 31 2014, the United States and the European Union initiated a new round of coordinated sanctions targeting certain sectors of the Russian economy.
“Sanctions are not an end unto themselves,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at the 2016 Munich Security Conference. “But we shouldn’t forget why they were imposed in the first place: to stand up for Ukraine’s fundamental rights – rights of international norms that have been accepted ever since World War II, that were part of what that great battle was about.”
The sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Russian economy, contributing to a sharp depreciation of Russian currency and the country’s current recession.
Russia is a signatory to the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk Agreements, but Moscow has made no effort to fulfill even the first point – observing the ceasefire. Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to launch daily attacks on Ukrainian-government positions. Conditions for sanctions relief are clear. “Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions,” said Secretary of State Kerry:
“The path to sanctions relief is clear: withdraw weapons and troops from the Donbas; ensure that all Ukrainian hostages are returned; allow full humanitarian access to occupied territories, which, by the way, is required by international law and by several United Nations resolutions; support free, fair, and internationally-monitored elections in the Donbas under Ukrainian law; and restore Ukraine’s control of its side of the international border, which belongs to it.”
In other words, said Secretary of State Kerry, “Russia can prove by its actions that it will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, just as it insists on respect for its own.”
“Europe and the United States are going to continue to stand united,” said Secretary of State Kerry, “both in sustaining sanctions for as long as they are necessary and in providing needed assistance to Ukraine until the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine is protected through the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”