Thursday, August 07, 2014

Putin's Campaign Continues—So Does Ukraine's

We welcome support from the international community and hope it expands as we move against Russia's aggression.

Aug. 7, 2014 7:26 p.m. ET

Almost three weeks have passed since the appalling shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by pro-Russian terrorists over eastern Ukraine. The terrorist act, in which 298 souls perished, was seen as a potential turning point in the continuing military confrontation imposed on Ukraine by Russia. But if anyone expected the tragedy to reverse the Kremlin's policy to destabilize its western neighbor, that turned out not to be the case.

In fact, the situation has gotten worse. Instead of rethinking its hostile strategy, Moscow has decided to double down on escalating tensions. The flow of Russian mercenaries and military equipment into Ukraine has not stopped, nor has the increasing Russian military presence along the Ukrainian border. And now Russian forces have begun armed confrontation in the form of constant artillery and rocket attacks on Ukrainian military positions, attacks launched from within Russia.

The deaths of innocent civilians have not ceased with the terrorist act against Flight 17 either, as every day inhabitants of eastern Ukrainian cities fall victim to the shelling of residential areas by pro-Russian terrorists.

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve, on Wednesday. EPA

What's more, the Kremlin keeps trying to shift the blame for the attack on the Malaysia Airlines plane—in the worst tradition of its propaganda machine. In Moscow's false version, information about the disaster is being manipulated in an effort to implicate Ukraine, and even the United States, in a mass murder that was perpetrated by Russian-backed terrorists armed with Russian surface-to-air missiles.

The international community is thus compelled to take a common stand against Russia's actions. Last week's announcement that new sanctions will be imposed by the U.S. and European Union on the Russian regime was a necessary and important step. It shows that the leading democracies of the world do not intend to stand aside while an aggressor attempts to strip a sovereign nation of the right to determine its own future. Vladimir Putin's announcement Wednesday that Russia will retaliate by banning some foodstuff imports from the U.S. and EU means that the Russian people will suffer doubly from the consequences of their government's illegal behavior toward Ukraine.

The policy of imposing a cost on Russia for its actions shows that the West realizes the implications of the assault on Ukraine: It is a matter of global security. Today, Ukrainians sacrifice their lives for the sake of democratic values, peace and security—countering Moscow's attempts to reverse the course of history and plunge all of Europe back into the darkness of the Cold War era.

Since sanctions alone have not yet changed the Kremlin's maleficent calculus, however, Ukraine—the country I represent in Washington—calls on the U.S. and Europe to take a next logical step: Designate the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" in Ukraine—proclaimed by Russian-backed militants—as foreign terrorist organizations. Anyone who sponsors them would become a sponsor of terrorism.

Meanwhile, and despite intermittent delays and all the obstacles, including those posed by Russian-backed terrorists, more than 100 international experts have been working on the Malaysia Airlines crash site, trying to determine circumstances of Flight 17's destruction. Ukraine is doing everything in its power to ensure that there will be a transparent and unprejudiced investigation. We are determined to establish the truth so that grieving families all over the world will know what happened to their loved ones.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is advancing in its effort to liberate our people from terrorist oppression in the east and return peace to our land. This would not have been possible without valuable help and moral support from our American and European partners. We highly appreciate this assistance—including political and economic support—and hope that such efforts will be expanded.

Ukraine's success on the battlefield has not affected our commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. A peace plan supported by international community was put forward by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko as soon as he assumed office after his May 25 election, and it remains on the table.

We are confident that the truth is on our side, and that before long the Russia-imposed violence in Ukraine's east will be a thing of the past. But this will only happen if the international community, led by the U.S., remains united and decisive in supporting Ukraine and countering the aggressor.

Mr. Motsyk is Ukraine's ambassador to the United States.


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