Russia’s actions in Ukraine violate international principles, and the international community must sustain pressure on Russia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said March 26.

In Blinken’s remarks at the Atlantic Council’s NATO seminar in Washington, he said Russia’s actions threaten the principle that a democratic state’s borders and territorial integrity cannot be changed by force. “It is the inherent right of citizens in a democracy to make their country’s decisions and determine its future,” he said, and “members of the international community are bound by common rules and should face costs if they don’t live up to the solemn commitments they make.”

Blinken pointed out that Russia has deployed thousands of heavy weapons and troops across its border with Ukraine and has supported separatists carrying out violence in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (© AP Images)

Russia’s infringement on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity began in March 2014, when Russia occupied and attempted to annex Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine. Even though Russia agreed to a cease-fire, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe continues to observe cease-fire violations and heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Blinken said full adherence to the cease-fire agreements signed in Minsk in September 2014 and the implementation plan negotiated by French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February 2015 will help restore Ukraine’s international border.

The international community would prefer to see compliance with the cease-fire agreement and be able to roll back sanctions and return to a more cooperative relationship with Russia. But for now, Blinken said, there must be continued pressure on Russia. In fact, he said, “if Russia continues to violate its obligations, then we should increase the costs.”

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine.