Statement on Ukraine by Jeff Rathke, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson

We are deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Shyrokyne, where – which is near Mariupol – where the OSCE special monitoring mission reported on April 26th that monitors observed the most intense shelling since fighting began in the area in mid-February – mid-February of this year, that is.  Russia-backed separatists continue to shell Ukrainian forces and refuse the OSCE mission unfettered access.  These are clear violations of the ceasefire and the Minsk agreements that they signed.  And as the OSCE has made clear, access for the monitoring mission is not subject to negotiations; it is the mission’s duty and their task.

At the same time, Russian and separatist forces maintain a sizable number of artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers within areas prohibited under the Minsk accords.  Also, the Russian military has deployed additional air defense systems into eastern Ukraine and moved several of these nearer the front lines.  This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August.  Russia is also once again building up its forces along its border with Ukraine.  The United States has been clear that the Minsk agreements remain the best chance for a lasting and comprehensive solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, and we call again on Russia and the separatists it backs to implement their commitments under the agreements.