A photograph taken on February 19, 2022, shows smoke rising from an explosion after a shelling in Novohnativka village, Donetsk region, not far from position of Ukrainian Military Forces on the front line with Russia backed separatists.

A photograph taken on February 19, 2022, shows smoke rising from an explosion after a shelling in Novohnativka village, Donetsk region, not far from position of Ukrainian Military Forces on the front line with Russia backed separatists. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s Ukraine Claims Don’t Convince Europe, US Officials Say

The chairman of Europe’s largest intergovernmental security group calls Putin’s moves “a breach of international law.”

Russia’s effort to justify its invasion of Ukraine didn’t convince the members of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, on Tuesday, according to a State Department senior official who attended a special session of the Permanent Council of the 57-member intergovernmental security organization. 

“No member of the international community [with whom he had spoken] is prepared to acknowledge Russia's recognition of these territories,” Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to OSCE, told Defense One

The OSCE has monitored the Minsk II ceasefire agreement signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2015. Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as “independent” from Ukraine essentially invalidates the oft-violated agreement. 

"This step is a breach of international law and fundamental OSCE principles and runs counter to the Minsk agreements,” Marcin Przydacz, Polish deputy foreign minister, said in a Tuesday statement to Polish state media. Poland currently holds the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship.

On Tuesday in Vienna, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told the Permanent Council that Russia had for years operated in bad faith toward the Minsk agreement. 

“The ink was barely dry on the Minsk agreements before Moscow began to pretend that its guns, its artillery systems, and its anti-aircraft missiles had never been inside Ukraine at all. They attempted to gaslight the world into believing it was all a mirage, and that Russia had never been a party to this conflict,” Sherman told the delegates. 

Speaking on the sidelines, Carpenter said Russia’s recent moves have destroyed its credibility among OSCE members. They aren’t buying the Kremlin’s justifications for attacking its neighbor. 

Meanwhile, the OSCE mission of monitoring the ceasefire is getting harder as violations have skyrocketed. Last week, monitoring staff moved away from eastern Ukraine. Still, on Monday, the monitoring mission report counted 703 ceasefire violations in Donetsk, including 332 explosions, up from 579 the previous day. In Luhansk, Monday saw 1,224 violations, including 1,149 explosions, up from 333 the previous day.

Carpenter said that the OSCE monitors are continuing as best they can, while trying to keep out of harm’s way. 

“Ceasefire violations are a very serious matter and when mortar and artillery shells land in the nearby vicinity of our OSCE monitors, you know, we take that risk to their health and safety and security very, very seriously,” he said. 

The mission of international monitoring is more important than ever as the United States government and others call out provocative Russian false-flag operations. Those may only be the beginning. News reports have emerged from Ukraine of forced conscriptions for fighting-age men by Russian forces and last week the United States sent a letter to the United Nations warning of Russian plans to detain and possibly kill Ukrainian politicians, journalists, and others who might oppose Russian occupation. 

Carpenter said that reports of human rights abuses by Russian forces in Ukraine have alarmed international conflict monitors. “I've spoken to a lot of participating states that are very concerned by human rights abuses in [Ukraine’s] non-government controlled areas,” meaning the areas currently under the control of Russian forces and proxy forces, he said. “Not only would this be an egregious violation of human rights if any of this were carried out but, yes, it would clearly be a war crime as well.”

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