Washington, DC - We condemn the recent decision by Russia-backed separatist leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine, to expel UN agencies and all international nongovernmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance in the area. This will endanger many lives and is contrary to the Minsk agreements.
Expelling these organizations puts at risk up to three million people in separatist-held parts of Donbas by denying them access to food, water, medicine, shelter, and clothes in advance of winter. Sixteen thousand tons of immediate, life-saving humanitarian assistance is now being blocked from reaching those in need. We call on the Russia-backed separatists to take immediate steps to improve the lives of the very people they claim to care about most by allowing humanitarian organizations unrestricted access and facilitating the provision of desperately needed assistance now to all those who are suffering.
We also remain concerned about planned separatist-organized so-called “elections” in Donetsk and Luhansk, which are illegitimate and clearly contrary to the Minsk agreements. The February Minsk plan requires that local elections must be held in accordance with Ukrainian law, in compliance with relevant Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) standards, and monitored by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. None of these conditions have been met by the Russia-backed separatists.
Russia-backed separatists also continue to block access to OSCE monitors, jam the OSCE’s attempts to collect and verify information via unmanned drones, and have fomented attacks against OSCE personnel, in one instance setting fire to their vehicles.
We have made clear to Russia and the separatists it supports that such blatant disregard of the commitments made in Minsk will be met with increased costs. The key to resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine, as agreed to by Russia, is the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including a comprehensive ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons, legitimate local elections as defined by the agreements and agreed to in the Trilateral Contact Group, and unimpeded access to all areas of Ukraine by international humanitarian organizations.