Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland: Thank you everybody for coming today.
I’m completing the last leg on what has been an eight-day trip. I began with Secretary Kerry in Sochi for his meetings with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov. Then, I went on with him to the NATO ministerial in Antalya, Turkey; and then I spent two days in Kyiv consulting intensively with the Ukrainian government and civil society, and then here in Moscow.
Today, with the government, I had chance to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov, who is responsible for relations in our bilateral channels, and with Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin, who is Russia’s point person on Ukraine.
Today’s consultations were very detailed, they were very pragmatic. In both meetings, we were talking about how we build on the conversation in Sochi, on all of the issues that were discussed between President Putin and Secretary Kerry. But we particularly dug in on how the United States might be able to support the process of Minsk implementation, support the parties – Ukraine, the OSCE and Russia – as they try to take forward the work of the Trilateral Contact Group and as the four working groups – on security, on political issues, on economics and on humanitarian aspects of the Minsk Agreement – get going.
We had very detailed discussions on all of the issues that I spoke about in Kyiv, from securing a true ceasefire on the line, starting with getting the OSCE into Shyrokyne, to the political working group and setting the conditions for free and fair elections under the Ukrainian Constitution in correspondence with OSCE standards, to improving humanitarian conditions on the ground for the people of Donbas, allowing humanitarian assistance in not only from the Russian side but also from the Ukrainian side, to ensuring that the OSCE can be present all along the border as Minsk requires, to the inspection of convoys coming from the Russian side.
The United States’ goal here, as I said in Kyiv, is to support the full implementation of Minsk. We are doing this in lockstep with the Normandy powers, with our colleagues in the EU, with Germany and France. I will be debriefing them and Ukraine on the consultations that I had here.
Let me also take this opportunity with regard to the most recent news regarding the capture in Shchastya of Russian Captain Yerofeev and Russian Sergeant Alexandrov.
I would just say that we welcome the Ukrainian government’s public statements that they are being well taken care of and that the ICRC- the International Committee for the Red Cross – will be allowed access to them in correspondence with the Geneva Convention. This is very, very important.
Where we go from here: the next step will obviously be for all of the Minsk working groups to meet. We hope to see progress in all four of the working groups. We will, obviously, as the United States, stay in strong bilateral contact with our colleagues in Ukraine, and now we have a more direct channel on Ukraine issues also with the Russian Federation as necessary. And as I said, this is all in support of the leadership role of the Normandy powers: Germany and France and the OSCE.
Why don’t I take one question.
Question: Madam Nuland, you arrived in Moscow from Kyiv. Did you express to President Poroshenko Secretary Kerry’s concerns about a renewal of military activity? How did he react? How did he comment on his bluster of threatening to attack the Donetsk Airport?
The second question, a very important one: You made a statement in Kyiv that the United States intends to deepen its engagement – I’ll try to quote you – “in strengthening of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.” How do you see it in general and how do you see it technically, in details?
A/S Nuland: First, on the question of military activity. The United States’ principled position is that all sides in this conflict need to be talking about a full ceasefire, a full pullback. They need to be withdrawing military equipment, and that includes the military support that the Russian Federation has provided to the separatists in the east.
There is no indication from our own information, or from my consultations in Kyiv, that anybody on the Ukrainian side, anybody in leadership – and I spoke to President Poroshenko, I spoke to Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, I’ve spoken to security officials – has any intention of launching new hostilities. That obviously would not be compatible with Minsk. We also made clear – Secretary Kerry made clear to President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and I of course made clear again here today – that any new hostilities ignited by separatist forces with Russian support would also be a violation of Minsk.
Minsk is being violated on a daily basis on the western side of the Minsk line and that is what needs to stop. We need to stop all of those violations and get the OSCE into all of the hot spots.
With regard to how we participate, I think I spoke to it. We want to see all parties in these working groups, all four parties in these working groups and all three parties in the Trilateral Contact Group – Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE – dig down deeply now and start really implementing the security, political, economic and humanitarian aspects of Minsk. We’ve talked about concrete steps to move each of those groups forward. We will continue to use our good offices with all parties, but we are not, as of now, direct participants.
Thank you all very much.