(Washington, DC) In response to incidents in Ukraine targeting minority communities, Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, made the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by the recent attacks and threats against minority groups in eastern Ukraine, including Jews, Roma and Crimean Tatars. The Joint Statement on Ukraine signed on April 17 by the EU, the United States, Russia and Ukraine calls on all sides to refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions and condemns and rejects all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.
“In recent days, we have seen troubling manifestations against ethnic and religious minority communities. In Donetsk, leaflets have been distributed calling for Jews to register their religion and list property, and Molotov cocktails have been thrown at a synagogue in Mykolaiv. In Sloviansk, armed separatists have reportedly invaded Romani houses, beating and robbing inhabitants. In largely Russian-speaking Donetsk oblast, even Ukrainian-speakers, such as Ukrainian-language media, have reportedly experienced intimidation. At the same time, in the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, Crimean Tatars continue to be threatened with deportation and assaulted for speaking their own language.
“These attacks underscore the importance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE institutions in Ukraine in assessing the situation on the ground and helping to de-escalate tensions. They need to be permitted to operate unhindered in eastern Ukraine and need to be allowed access into Crimea, which Russia has thus far blocked.
“The actions against minorities are the direct result of Russia’s unfounded and illegal aggression towards Ukraine – first in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin needs to keep the Geneva promises and immediately rein in the militants.
“I commend the Ukrainian government for its denunciation of attacks and threats against minorities and its pledge to find those responsible and bring them to justice. It is imperative that the Russian-controlled separatist groups cease their de-stabilizing and violent activity.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.