The United States continues to be deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the worsening humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine.
On December 18, Russia-led forces shelled the town of Novoluhanske with GRAD rockets, wounding eight civilians and damaging dozens of homes, a school, and a playground. Russia-led forces have also resumed attacks around the Donetsk filtration station and its system of pipes carrying poisonous chlorine gas. “This is considered extremely dangerous,” warned State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. “If those were to go off in this area, which is close to where people live, it could be potentially devastating.”
The filtration plant and nearby coke factory help provide drinking water, electricity, and central heating to approximately 345,000 people. “Threatening water supplies and also home heating in the dead of winter is simply unconscionable,” said Ms. Nauert. She called on Russia-led forces to “immediately withdraw from their new positions surrounding the water treatment plant. We again call on Russia to stop artillery and rocket attacks against Ukrainian civilian areas and to honor the ceasefire called for in the Minsk agreements.”
The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine is the worst it has been in three years and is deteriorating. More than 1 million people in the Donbas region are food insecure and civilian casualties have increased significantly over the last year. Ms. Nauert called for “Russia to put an end to the attacks in eastern Ukraine, withdraw its forces and heavy weapons from the sovereign territory of Ukraine, and agree to a robust UN peacekeeping mission.”
The United States remains committed to securing a lasting peace in eastern Ukraine through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, as the Secretary of State Tillerson said in Vienna recently, “We should be clear about the source of this violence. Russia is arming, training, leading, and fighting alongside anti-government forces.”
The decision to end the violence in eastern Ukraine and secure better relations with the United States and the international community lies squarely with Russia.