I join my European counterparts in condemning in the strongest terms today’s horrific assault by Russia-backed separatists on civilian neighborhoods in Mariupol, a peaceful city 25 kilometers outside of the Minsk ceasefire line, using Grad rocket systems and other advanced weaponry. With smoke rising from apartment buildings and playgrounds from over 40 rounds of powerful rockets, media are reporting over 100 wounded. OSCE monitors have confirmed at least 20 dead including women, children, and the elderly. It is reprehensible that the separatists are publicly glorifying this and other offensives in blatant violation of the Minsk agreements they signed.
The separatists’ new offensive, not just in Mariupol and Debaltseve, but along the ceasefire line, has been aided and abetted by Russia’s irresponsible and dangerous decision to resupply them in recent weeks with hundreds of new pieces of advanced weaponry, including rocket systems, heavy artillery, tanks, armored vehicles, in addition to continuing operational command and control.
Russia’s commitment to the Minsk agreements it signed will be assessed by its actions not its words. We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine, and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing. Otherwise, U.S. and international pressure on Russia and its proxies will only increase.