U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has emphasized why sanctions on Russia were imposed: to stand up for Ukraine’s fundamental rights.

In February 13 remarks at the 2016 Munich Security Conference, Kerry called on Russia to fully implement the Minsk agreements. Kerry cited Minsk’s cease-fire requirement and also pointed to other commitments that Russia and the separatists it directly supports must honor, among them:

  • Withdrawing weapons and troops from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
  • Ensuring that all Ukrainian hostages are returned, including Nadiya Savchenko and Oleg Sentsov.
  • Allowing full humanitarian access to occupied territories, as required by international law and the Minsk agreements.
  • Supporting free, fair and internationally monitored elections in the Donbas under Ukrainian law and meeting standards of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
  • Restoring Ukraine’s side of the international border to Ukrainian government control.

“Put plainly, Russia can prove by its actions that it will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, just as it insists on respect for its own,” Kerry said.

Kerry thanked the United States’ European partners for their continued resolve and unity in standing up to Russia’s repeated aggression. He also expressed confidence that the United States and Europe will continue to stand united on maintaining sanctions until Russia and the separatists fully implement the Minsk agreements.

Along these lines, Kerry noted President Obama’s recent budget request for a fourfold increase in spending for the European Reassurance Initiative from $790 million to $3.4 billion. This will make support from the United States and NATO “more visible and more tangible,” Kerry said.

Ukraine still has work to do

Kerry noted that the Ukrainian government still must make progress, particularly on corruption, but that the country’s “democratic potential is clearly far brighter today” than it was before the Maidan protests of 2013–2014.

Kerry urged Ukraine’s elected leaders to demonstrate the unity, integrity and courage their people are demanding. With trans-Atlantic support, 2016 can be “the year that Ukraine proves reform can triumph over corruption,” Kerry said.

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