The Biden administration expressed concern about what it termed as escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. This is where the Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014. According to the reports by AP, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also made calls to his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.
He further expressed the administration’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression” in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said that the Russian escalations include violations of a July 2020 ceasefire, which was brokered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers.
According to the reports by AP, the Ukrainian military said the four were killed in an attack. It blamed the attack on Russian troops. However, Russia denies having a military presence in the region. According to the State Department, Blinken expressed condolences for the losses.
Kirby said, “Russia’s destabilizing actions undermine the de-escalation in tensions that had been achieved through an OSCE-brokered agreement back in July of last year”. He added, “Additionally, we are aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s borders”.
In another significant development, during late February, the US reaffirmed its position that Crimea belongs to Ukraine. In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Russia’s invasion and seizure of Crimea “brazen” and said that the United States “does not, and will never recognise” Russia’s purported annexation. Further, he called on Russia to immediately end its occupation of Crimea, release all Ukrainian political prisoners and return full control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
In a separate statement, the President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass, also reiterated the EU’s condemnation of the annexation of Crimea, which it says constitutes a violation of international law. Mass said that the Council reaffirms its unequivocal and unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine with its internationally recognised borders. He also called on Russia to “fully comply” with international humanitarian law and international human rights standards.