Some 3 million civilians have suffered as a result of Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Despite the dire humanitarian situation in separatist-controlled territories, Russia and the separatists expelled international aid organizations in July, and they continue to deny access to organizations seeking to deliver much-needed food and medicine. Russia sends what it calls “humanitarian convoys” to eastern Ukraine, but it bars Ukrainian and international monitors from inspecting the trucks.

“If your convoys are filled with food and medicine, why prevent international inspectors from looking inside of them?” Power asked on April 28 when reporting to the U.N. Security Council.

Crowd of warmly dressed people waiting in lines (© AP Images)
Local residents wait for aid in Semonovka, eastern Ukraine, on March 17. (© AP Images)

Climate of impunity

Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to obstruct monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe from fulfilling their mandate. When Russia signed the Minsk agreements, it committed to granting the OSCE access to verify the cease-fire. Instead, Russia and the separatists have methodically threatened and intimidated monitors, creating a “climate of impunity” in eastern Ukraine, according to Power. She urged Russia and the separatists it backs to provide “full and unfettered access.”

Power reported that free and fair elections in eastern Ukraine — a key point of the Minsk agreements — cannot be held until there is freedom of movement for citizens and election monitors. The elections must be held under Ukrainian law and in compliance with OSCE standards.

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