Comments by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Ukraine in a Telephonic Press Briefing with European Journalists

With regard to Ukraine, let me just say a couple of things.  We stand strongly behind the Minsk agreements, the agreements that were reached last September, and then the implementation plan that was reached a few months ago with France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine participating.  And that is a clear way forward to resolve this crisis, to restore the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, to bring peace and stability to all the citizens of Ukraine – and, if that were to happen, to end the sanctions with regard to the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.  So it is our strong hope that the plan is implemented, and that is the way forward.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen to date is that while the overall level of violence has decreased, which is positive, unfortunately and tragically, significant violence remains in specific places, and that violence is being perpetrated almost exclusively by the separatists and by the Russians who back them and indeed provide command and control.  If you look at a map of Ukraine, and in particular the Donbas, and you look at the line that separated the separatists from the Ukrainians that was in September, when the Minsk agreements were initially reached, you will see that every single point of conflict today is to the west of that line.  In other words, every point of conflict is a result of the separatists trying to extend their territory, backed and supported by Russia, and the Ukrainians are acting defensively.  The Ukrainians have made a very significant effort to implement their responsibilities under the Minsk accords; unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the separatists or for Russia.

So unless and until those agreements are actually implemented, the sanctions that have had a profound effect on Russia will remain.  And if further aggressive action is taken, including in a place like Mariupol, it would be my anticipation that the sanctions would be increased.