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For Immediate Release February 10, 2023
Ambassador Michael Carpenter
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
The Brussels Hub

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, from the State Department’s Brussels Media Hub. I would like to welcome everyone joining us for today’s virtual press briefing. We are very honored to be joined by Ambassador Michael Carpenter, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or the OSCE.

With that, let’s get started. Ambassador Carpenter, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ll turn it over to you for opening remarks.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Great, thanks so much, and thanks to all of you for joining today. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, I’d like to take this opportunity to review how things look from my perspective, where I sit with 56 other countries in the OSCE Permanent Council every week to take stock of this war. And I think two main conclusions jump out.

First, as we predicted before the war began on February 24th of last year, this has been both a human and a humanitarian tragedy for Ukraine. We’re seeing that play out before our eyes.

Number two, also as we predicted, this is a strategic miscalculation of epic proportions for Russia. Russia has obviously failed to conquer Ukraine. They’ve become almost completely isolated in the OSCE, and they’re hemorrhaging both hard power and soft power.

Of course, Russia’s propaganda – we hear it here every week at the OSCE – they try to spin this as a geopolitical struggle between East and West. But in fact, the participating states in the OSCE understand that this is an imperial war of conquest, and it’s a brutal attempt to wipe out Ukraine as a sovereign state. It matters that Russia is every week targeting civilian infrastructure. It matters to everyone here that Russia’s forces have been perpetrating the most stomach-turning war crimes, including torture with electric shocks, summary executions of civilians with their hands tied behind their backs, sexual violence against women and girls but also against men and boys.

It matters that in Russia’s prosecution of this war, that their occupation authorities are deporting Ukrainian children to Russia to be Russified, and that the barbaric – what they call so-called filtration process focuses on one variable, and that is how Ukrainian you are in the eyes of Russia’s secret police force. That alone determines if you’re let go or if you’re forcibly disappeared into what I can only describe as a modern-day gulag that Russia has established in eastern Ukraine. We have mobile crematoria that have been deployed to places like Mariupol that have been absolutely devastated and where much of the population unfortunately has been killed or has fled.

These are all, of course, reasons why the international community has rallied around Ukraine. Because this is not just a dispute over territory. This is not something that can just be solved with skilled diplomacy. Fundamentally, this is an attempt to erase Ukraine from the map of sovereign countries.

Here at the OSCE, what we’ve done is we’ve collected and compiled witness accounts of atrocities that all lead to the inescapable conclusion that these are not just acts of rogue units, but rather, a deeply disturbing pattern of abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are operating.

Also, here at the OSCE we’ve hosted the victims of Russia’s filtration operations to talk about what they’ve been through – men and women, boys and girls, targeted because they were not loyal or deemed to be loyal subjects of the Russian imperium.

So let’s be honest: these are all parts of a premeditated policy from Moscow aimed at suppressing Ukrainian identity and at laying the groundwork for the Russification and incorporation of Ukrainian lands into the Russian Federation. As you all know, teachers are threatened with death or torture in order to instill a Russian curriculum in the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, obviously. Russian passports are forced on the population. Ukrainian place names are erased. It’s all part of a pattern.

And if you’ll just permit me, I want to go back to a statement that I made on March 3rd, nine days after the war began, in which we warned that this would happen. And I’m going to quote to you what I said then. Quote, “I must also issue a warning to everyone in this Council. We have been talking about this war for several months. We have credible information that indicates Russian forces are creating lists of identified Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation. … Given what we have seen in [the] past [of] Russian operations, we expect that the Russian Federation will try to force the population to cooperate through intimidation, abuse, and repression—including through targeted killings, kidnappings, detentions, and physical abuse,” end quote. That’s what I said on March 3rd. Here we are, almost a year later.

The good news is that one year on, international resolve – at least here at the OSCE – to support Ukraine and to accelerate a strategic defeat on Russia for its campaign of atrocities is steadfast. That resolve is only growing.

And I’ll end by telling you what we’re focused on now here at the OSCE.

Number one, promoting accountability. We’ve invoked something called the Moscow Mechanism three times, and our Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights continues to compile evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by Russia’s forces in Ukraine.

Number two, we are isolating Russia diplomatically and politically. At the OSCE, there is only one country that defends Russia’s war of aggression, and that is Belarus, which is a co-aggressor.

Number three, we are supporting Ukraine. We have come up with a program called the Support Program for Ukraine, which is the first-ever OSCE field mission that is resilient against a Russian veto and based purely on voluntary contributions from likeminded states. And through that operation, we intend to support projects that will help Ukraine both in wartime and in its post-war recovery on things like demining; psychosocial support for war-affected populations; mitigating the tremendous environmental impacts of the war; enhancing Ukraine’s infrastructure resilience; building capacity for the Ukrainian judicial system to prosecute war crimes; and then finally, what I consider to be critical just from a moral perspective, helping Ukraine to reunite those children that have been forcibly separated from their parents and deported into Russia.

So that’s a snapshot of what we’re doing here as we approach the one-year anniversary of the war. There’s obviously a lot more that we could talk about, but I think at this point I will stop and open this up for questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Ambassador. We will now turn to the question-and-answer portion of the conversation. The floor is open. And I will start with a question from Klaus Proempers, who’s a freelancer from Austria. He asks, “Is the U.S. Government prepared to expel Russia from the OSCE? Will the Biden administration at least applaud when Ukraine, Poland, and others ask this for this to happen?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Okay. Well, thanks for the question. The reality of the situation is that there is no mechanism to expel Russia from the OSCE. I am sympathetic with those who call for Russia to be at least suspended from this organization because of the nature of the atrocities that I just referred to. Russia cannot and should not be a good-standing member of this organization. In fact, it cannot under any circumstances.

However, that said, there’s not a mechanism. When this organization was created in the early ’90s, no such mechanism was envisaged. And there is not a path.

However, what we can do and what we are doing is we are isolating Russia and Belarus diplomatically every week. At the Łódź Ministerial Council in December of last year, there was nobody that took the floor in support of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine aside from Russia’s interventions – formal interventions at the plenary session and a meek attempt to try to spin

some propaganda by Belarus. Aside from that, all other participating states either condemned the war or indirectly criticized it.

So that’s where we are at the OSCE, but we obviously need to continue to isolate Russia and to hold them accountable for what they’re doing. And that work will continue.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. Next we’ll go to a live question. Alex Raufoglu, I think you have your hand raised. You have the mic.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much for doing this. Ambassador, staying on that line, the previous question, I want to bring up two real-life consequences of Russia still being part of the OSCE’s top security body and get your reaction to that.

One is the OSCE recently had to put out a tweet reminding that it has nothing to do with vehicles with OSCE markings in Donbas. I guess – and I can guess who is behind it. What is your position on that, because it’s consistent with the previous reports that you laid down during our previous conversations?

And secondly, what’s your reaction to Austrian Government’s aligned sanctions of Russian parliamentarians to attend the next big security meeting on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion? If you can’t prevent them from coming, but you can at least boycott that event – is that the position you’re going to pursue?

I have another question, if maybe you can get back to me later if there’s a chance. Thanks so much.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Okay, thanks, Alex. So your question about the OSCE vehicles that have reportedly been seen in the Donbas, so let me try to explain this. There were, I think, over 70 vehicles that were evacuated from the nongovernment-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine – from Donbas, in other words – when the war began. And those vehicles for safety and security reasons were moved as quickly as possible to the nearest possible safe destination, which was Rostov-on-Don. They were parked there and the personnel who drove those vehicles left the Russian Federation. The vehicles stayed.

Now, it is our understanding that these vehicles have been somehow requisitioned, but let’s be honest: they’ve been stolen – is the word that I would use – by Russian authorities. I can’t confirm reports that they’ve been sighted in the Donbas. Perhaps they’re being used by Russian forces. But in any case, what Russia has done is – obviously it contravenes the principles of the organization. It’s reprehensible. It’s unacceptable.

But I don’t want to focus on vehicles when you have thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers dying. I mean, let’s focus on the things that matter most. But yeah, this is horrific, and it’s another demonstration that Russia is not playing by the rules of the game that every other country here is playing by.

So this leads to your second question, which is regarding Russia’s participation in the Parliamentary Assembly meeting that’s going to be held here later this month. Look, many of the members of Russia’s delegation have been sanctioned by the United States and our EU partners, and for good reason. These are not people who deserve to be able to travel to Western countries. They’ve done bad things. That’s why they’ve been sanctioned. And furthermore, they are propaganda conduits for the Kremlin, and I see no reason why anyone should have to listen to them. There is no dialogue that is going to take place, no meaningful dialogue with these individuals.

That said, it’s up to the Austrian Government to determine whether they’re going to grant visas or not. And they’ve – I refer you to them for their rationale as to what they’re going to do. But look, I don’t think anybody is under any illusions that these are people that you can have a discussion with on any topic that would be useful, and it’s – I don’t – I’m not a member of parliament; I’m not a member of the U.S. Congress. So I don’t determine what the Parliamentary Assembly does. But I can only – I can only hope that Russia’s actions will be roundly condemned at the Parliamentary Assembly just like they are here in the Permanent Council.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. We’ll go back to submitted questions. The next one is from Kristina Zeleniuk from the Ukrainian Television Channel 1+1. She asks, “Ukraine and the West are approaching the second year of this bloody Russian war. What do you think Putin will do next? On which part of the front will we see a Russian offensive? Will – do you think Putin will announce a second wave of mobilization?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, those are very good questions, Kristina. The fact of the matter is I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t predict to you what Putin will do on the battlefield. I do know that he is facing an unsustainable situation in Ukraine. His forces are dying by the hundreds. Most recently, the tactic on the part of Russia’s forces has been to throw hundreds of convicts onto the front lines as sort of cannon fodder to try to make incremental advances on those front lines. As a result, I guess this population is deemed expendable by the Kremlin, otherwise I don’t know why they would be doing this. But it’s not – it’s not gaining them any real significant advantage on the battlefield.

I’ve said many times, I predict that Ukraine will win this fight because it’s clear to Ukrainians and, increasingly with every week, to the rest of the world that this is a struggle for freedom, for basic liberty. Frankly, it’s a struggle between good and evil. When you look at what Russia’s forces are doing with Ukrainian children, it’s just absolutely appalling. And so I think the motivation and the will to fight on the Ukrainian side is much stronger now and will continue to remain much stronger than it is on the Russian side, where, as I mentioned, you have hundreds if not thousands of convicts who have been emptied out of Russian prisons to go serve on the front, and a demoralized and poorly led army behind them.

Of course Russia has from the very beginning of this war had an advantage in terms of personnel, in terms of the number of troops, and also in terms of the number of artillery systems and tanks. That is why it is so crucial now for our Western allies and partners to really

rally behind Ukraine and provide it with the military equipment and weapons that it needs to be able to decisively defeat Russian forces on the battlefield.

And the good news is, is that that momentum that we have seen in recent weeks, especially with the announcement of the deployment of tanks to the front lines, seems to be sustaining itself. And so I know Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and others are continuously talking with their counterparts, trying to sustain this support for Ukraine. And that will be dispositive.

But look, Ukraine is going to win in the end. There is no doubt. And Putin – you asked about Putin. I don’t know what he’s going to do next, but I am convinced that Russia’s original aims, which are to wipe out Ukrainian sovereignty and to erase Ukrainian identity so that they can incorporate these lands into Russia, remains the overriding goal of both Mr. Putin and those around him in the Kremlin. And that’s why we’ve got to unite against it.

Thank you, sir. Next question, also a submitted question, comes from Alex Znatkevich from RFE/RL. He asks, “A representative of the Lukashenka regime has announced that an official delegation from Belarus intends to take part in the upcoming session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna. What is the U.S. position on this visit?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, once again, we don’t control who attends the Parliamentary Assembly, nor certainly do we have any influence over who receives a visa. That’s up to the Austrian Government. I would note that the last Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Warsaw, in Poland, and the one before that in Birmingham, in the UK, certainly the Russian delegations and I believe a large percentage of the Belarusian delegations did not receive visas because they were sanctioned by those two countries. Frankly, that was a situation that I thought was fully appropriate given what these two regimes have been engaged in, both in Ukraine in aiding and abetting this war or prosecuting this war on Russia’s part, or internally in terms of the horrific oppression that they have wrought on Belarusian and Russian societies.

So again, we’ll have to see whether they receive visas. That’s up to the Austrians. And then if they show up, I just would hope that, as I said earlier, that the rest of the parliamentary delegates are able to fully condemn what Russia and Belarus have done and keep them isolated, make them understand that they are on their own, and hold them accountable. That would be, I suppose, the best outcome that we could hope for.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. Our next question comes from Vasco Cotovio from CNN, based in the UK. He says, “Britain has now announced that it is ‘actively’ looking at ways of providing Ukraine with fighter aircraft. Do you foresee the United States making a similar move?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, I’m not here to make any announcements prior to my colleagues in Washington. But I would note that I don’t think we’re in the business of ruling things in or ruling things out at this point. The Ramstein Group, which you’re familiar with, which meets on a regular basis in Germany, is where the United States sits down together with our allies and partners and discusses how we can collectively support Ukraine. There is an element of solidarity to this where different countries band together to provide support so that no one country is sticking its neck out, so to speak, but everybody is contributing and the burden is shared. And those military leaders are also discussing what is most effective given limited supplies of weapons and equipment in Western countries – what makes most sense to give to Ukraine on the battlefield right now to give it a qualitative edge or a decisive impact to enable Ukraine to liberate its land.

And so that conversation is happening and it’s not for me to predict where it goes next. But I can assure you that from the U.S. perspective, we are strongly encouraging our allies to step up their contributions. As you know, we’re close to $30 billion in military support just since February 24th of last year. That’s a lot of money, that’s a lot of equipment. But we’re continuing to talk to our partners about how we can do more.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Our next question is regarding Georgia, from Nino Tsabolovi from, I think also based in Georgia. She quotes a statement from the Pentagon today after the visit of the Georgian defense minister that says Georgia has “deepened its ties to the West and supported its path to Euro-Atlantic integration and has made significant contributions to global security.” And the journalist asks, Ambassador, how you would assess these statements and Georgia’s progress.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, look, the reality is that for a long time, Georgia has been a beacon of democracy in the region, in the South Caucasus, and has been firmly tied to the West, including to the United States. When I was a deputy assistant secretary of defense back in 2015, ’16, and ’17, we implemented a program called the Georgia Defense and Readiness Program, which saw dramatically increased cooperation between the U.S. military and the Georgian armed forces based on supporting Georgia’s territorial defense capabilities. And Georgia – the Georgian Government but also the Georgian people have for a long time been staunch advocates of deeper Euro-Atlantic integration. Georgia has been a NATO aspirant. It’s been desirous of EU membership as well. And I won’t speak for our EU partners, but I know that the U.S. has strongly supported those goals over the years and has contributed significantly to Georgia’s democratic reforms to be able to meet the criteria that are necessary.

Now, look, I won’t deny the fact that in recent times the record has been mixed in terms of some of these reforms, particularly in terms of the independence of the judiciary, the pluralism of media, the inclusive – the government’s orientation towards civil society. There have – these are issues that we discuss with our Georgian partners because there are some concerns. But as I see it, there’s no alternative to maintaining a strong partnership with Georgia because they are a country that has contributed greatly, as Secretary Austin pointed out. Georgia both in Iraq and Afghanistan had many, many troops and sustained many casualties in solidarity and in alliance with the United States. And we are deeply grateful for that – for those contributions.

So look, this partnership will continue to evolve. We’ll continue to stand by our Georgian friends and look to deepen our partnership. Now, of course it depends on a commitment to the same values that we have talked about for all these years: democracy, pluralism, civil society, openness, transparency, et cetera.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. I think we have time for one last question, also going back to submitted questions, from Alexander Troshchonkau (ph). He asks, “What can be done to bring Lukashenka’s regime to account for taking part in this aggression?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, I think accountability is a crucial aspect of both what we do here at the OSCE, but what the U.S. wants to see in the aftermath of this war, and in fact during the war. We have an obligation to help our Ukrainian friends to document any and all war crimes, to preserve the evidence, and to see prosecutions happen at all levels of the chain of command.

In terms of Belarus specifically, as you know, Belarusian units are not – Belarusian soldiers, I can say, are not physically present in Ukraine, and yet Belarusian territory has been used as a launching pad for strikes against Ukraine, for missile launches, and not just a few but many and over the course of this entire war, from the very beginning. In fact, Belarus is one of the initial vectors of attack when Russian forces tried to conquer Kyiv.

So it’s important to pursue accountability in Belarus too for its aiding and abetting of this war of aggression against Ukraine, and it’s also important to document all of the repression that happens inside Belarus – the close to 1,500 political prisoners that currently languish in Belarusian prisons as a result of the brutal tactics of the Lukashenka regime. All of that needs to be tracked. And for our part, I can say that the United States will continue to look for ways to increase pressure through sanctions and other means to hold the Lukashenka regime to account both for its internal repression, but also for its taking part in this external aggression launched by Russia against Ukraine.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Ambassador. Unfortunately, that is all the time that we have for today. Thank you all for your questions. And again, Ambassador Carpenter, thank you for joining us.

Shortly we will send an audio recording of the briefing to all the participating journalists and provide a transcript as soon as it is available. We’d also love to hear your feedback, and you can contact us at any time, as usual, at TheBrusselsHub – one word – Thank you again for your participation and we hope you can join us for another press briefing in the future. This ends the press briefing.

U.S. Department of State

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