Ukraine in the State Department Press Brief

MS. PSAKI:  So a couple of items for all of you at the top.  Secretary Kerry will host his counterparts from Canada and Mexico in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, on Friday, January 30th, and Saturday, January 31st for the North American Ministerial.  Secretary Kerry, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Meade will review efforts to support greater North American competitiveness, advance leadership on energy and climate change, enhance our security cooperation, cooperate on hemispheric priorities, and strengthen education initiatives throughout North America.

One other item.  We are deeply concerned by reports that Ukrainian parliamentarian and former military pilot Nadiya Savchenko is gravely ill due to her continued detention by Russia.  We understand that Ms. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike since December 13th to protest the terms of her detention.  Ms. Savchenko was captured by Russian-backed separatists in June of 2014 in eastern Ukraine, and illegally transferred to Russia by the separatists.  We note that Ms. Savchenko is also a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a body dedicated to protecting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.  We call on Russia to immediately release Ms. Savchenko and all other Ukrainian hostages as well as fulfill all commitments it made under Minsk.

QUESTION:  Jennifer, I have a question on the sanctions – on the new sanctions – European Union against Russia.  The new Government of Greece —

MS. PSAKI:  I believe it’s a – they’re having a discussion.

QUESTION:  Yes, I know.

MS. PSAKI:  So I don’t think there’s been any confirmation, but —

QUESTION:  Okay.  But the leader of the new Government of Greece, Minister Tsipras, has raised yesterday a formal objection to this statement.  Obviously, he’s against the sanctions, as we understand.  He spoke with Mrs. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief.  He sent her a letter, and according to his office, we – means that Greece – underline that it does not have our country’s consent.  Do you have any comment on this?  I mean —

MS. PSAKI:  Well, we are – these are deliberations —

QUESTION:  — he’s in agreement with you, with the Europeans?

MS. PSAKI:  These are deliberations that are happening within the EU, so I’m certainly not going to speculate on that.  Obviously, we appreciate the cooperation of our European partners in implementing the sanctions adopted by the EU, and we continue to work with them in helping to end the crisis in Ukraine.  There’s been a meeting – this week’s meeting of the EU foreign ministers to discuss escalating violence in eastern Ukraine and what to do about it.  And obviously, this discussion is a part of that, but we’ll let that discussion happen between the EU ministers.

QUESTION:  Can we tease that out a little bit more?

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

QUESTION:  Are you concerned at all that Russia is trying to somehow hive the new Greek Government, and therefore Greece, away from the European Union, specifically in relation to Ukraine, the situation in Ukraine and sanctions – but more generally in terms of European Union unity, such as it is or ever was?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think, one, the new Greeks – Greek Government, I should say, is only a couple days old, Matt.  And obviously, we expect they’ll have conversations with a range of countries.  There have been in the past, as you know, debates or discussions about what is beneficial or not on EU sanctions leading up to decisions that are made.  So that has not been uncommon.  I don’t think we’re at the point where we have concern.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And then – in the – in Greece, are you aware of any contact that there has been between the Secretary or other senior officials and the new Greek leadership, recognizing that I don’t think the government’s been fully named yet?

MS. PSAKI:  I think it’s still in process, as I understand the status.

QUESTION:  So is he —

MS. PSAKI:  He – I don’t have a call from him to read out.  Obviously, he’s been traveling and been on a plane, I think, for 23 hours yesterday.  So, nothing to read out.  We can see if there’s more to say about other officials, certainly.

QUESTION:  But is he planning to call his counterpart in Greece?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any calls to predict.  I expect when there’s a new government, often that’s what happens.  So let me see if there’s a call planned and we can let you know about it.

QUESTION:  Another question:  Do you think it’s a problem that Greece is against the sanctions against Russia?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, I don’t want to speak on behalf of Greece.  I know they have made their own comments.  There are often discussions and debates leading up to the EU decisions about sanctions.  That’s a part of the process, so we’ll leave that process where it is.

New topic?

QUESTION:  Well, I have a question about Russia.

MS. PSAKI:  Okay.

QUESTION:  I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but the head of the parliament, Russian parliament, is – says that parliament is going to consider a resolution, which would be symbolic in nature, but that would condemn the reunification of East and West Germany.  I’m just wondering if you guys have any thoughts about that.

MS. PSAKI:  We haven’t seen that.  I think if it’s a proposal I’m not sure we’ll have much to say, but I’m happy to talk to our European team on that, Matt.

QUESTION:  Right.  And it’s just a question of the tenor and the overall —

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

QUESTION:  — atmosphere of East/West relations.

MS. PSAKI:  Yes, understood.  I will see if there’s more details or where it is in the process.