…The United States recognizes that the war in Ukraine in which people are still dying every day must come to an end. We have repeatedly urged Russia to begin the path to peace by honoring its commitments under the Minsk agreements. Any resolution of the war that does not entail a fully independent, sovereign and territorially whole Ukraine is unacceptable. Russia chose to violate the sovereignty of the largest country in Europe. The United States and Europe have stood shoulder-to-shoulder since 2014 in confronting this Russian aggression with a coordinated sanctions policy.

…Russia’s willingness to exploit the vulnerabilities of critical civilian infrastructure by moving its forces closer to the Donetsk Water Filtration Station, and staging heavy caliber guns in densely populated areas, leaves the civilian population exposed to unconscionable danger. … We all know the truth: this is Russia’s conflict, but it is unwilling to make even simple moves to reduce tensions. Russia refuses to order the forces it arms, trains, leads and fights alongside to agree to the establishment of safety zones around critical infrastructure, or the withdrawal of forces in areas with dense civilian populations. …The calculated way Russia deploys its forces near infrastructure and along the contact line exacerbates the risk of environmental disaster and disruption of water supply to hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the contact line.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the second world war that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe. Since then, Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defense and the Bundestag, among many others. It is seeking to weaponize information. Deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.

…the conflict in eastern Ukraine remains hot. The Ukrainian government has taken numerous political steps prescribed under the Minsk agreements, such as its recent extension of the law to devolve “special status” to eastern portions of the Donbas after satisfactory local elections. However, the Russian Federation has failed to uphold step one: a real and lasting ceasefire. Acts that are contrary to both the letter and spirit of Minsk agreements continue regularly. The situation remains fragile and unpredictable, and the risk of re-escalation remains high.

… let us be frank with each other and with ourselves. The aim of the Russian aggression is to destroy democracy, liberal freedoms and human rights. In one place they do this with tanks. In other places – with the help of fake news. …

The United States is deeply troubled by the decision of a court in Russian-occupied Crimea against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Mykola Semena, convicting him of separatism charges and handing down a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence and a ban on future journalistic activity. This conviction was based on the fact that Mr. Semena had criticized Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea in his writing. We call on the Russian occupation authorities to vacate Mr. Semena’s conviction, allow him to resume his journalistic activity and cease their campaign to stifle dissent in Crimea. Crimea remains an integral part of Ukraine, and the United States remains steadfast in its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. – Press statement by Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, issued on September 25.

I’m not surprised that Russia is raising concerns about [lethal defense weaponry]. They had an opportunity to move into Ukraine and take territory and annex Crimea without really much opposition. So obviously they’re going to raise concerns about Ukraine being better able to defend itself.  Having been invaded and part of its territory taken it’s quite reasonable for Ukrainians to want to be better able to defend themselves. I’m not surprised that Russia is raising concerns about it. I think Russia was hoping that it would be able to keep Ukraine in its orbit as part of the Russian sphere of influence, the greater Russian identity.

…The treatment of the population in Russian-occupied Crimea remains alarming and is deteriorating. In August, authorities detained an elderly Crimean Tatar activist, Sever Karametov, for 10 days for picketing outside the courthouse in Symferopol in support of his compatriot, Akhtem Chigyoz, deputy chairperson of the banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis, who is the subject of politically motivated persecution. Another activist, Emil Minasov, was sentenced to a year and three months for expressing his opposition to Russia’s occupation on social media. Aleksiy Stogniy and Redvan Suleymanov were accused of spying for Ukraine and sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment, and one year and eight months’ imprisonment, respectively; plus a fine of 3.5 million rubles, reportedly on the basis of coerced confessions. Ruslan Zeytullaev had his sentence extended yet again to a total of 15 years’ imprisonment for alleged involvement with the political movement Hizbut-Takhrir, which operates legally in Ukraine.

“We need to solve a number of problems in the state. People should not have to wait for solutions. We came close to the reform of education, to a new pension system and health care system. We are also talking about laws for business… We need to create, but not to destroy.

Debate is picking up on the question of expanding military support for Ukraine. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that providing additional forms of assistance, including lethal defensive weapons, is under active consideration in Washington. I hope as a friend of Ukraine that the U.S. will decide to lift former President [Barack] Obama’s ban on lethal defensive weapons in order to give Ukraine the means to defend itself. This would give more support to Ambassador [Kurt] Volker in his efforts to achieve a negotiated solution. The Russians recognize that they are not going to be able to maintain the status-quo including their daily attacks on Ukrainian forces with impunity.