Ambassador William W. Popp’s Remarks Ukraine Briefing: What We’re Seeing – Russian Attacks on Civilian Centers
Wednesday, April 6, 11:00am, Zoom
Good morning. I would like to thank all the journalists from the region with us today as we continue this series of interviews to lay bare the ground truths of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. Independent journalism is the foundation of democratic government, but also the essential bulwark against disinformation and propaganda to sustain an informed global public in times like these.
Ukraine has suffered greatly since 2014 when Russian-led forces seized Crimea and instigated conflict in the Donbas region. By the close of 2021, more than 14,000 people had been killed in Ukraine before Russia started to amass combat troops along Ukraine’s border in early 2022, eventually conducting a mass invasion on February 24th.
Let us remember that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are designed to remove a government – led by President Zelensky – that was democratically elected with 73 percent of the popular vote in elections that were free and fair. It’s a fact that any citizen of a sovereign democracy should remember about this war. Putin’s war of choice calls into question security and prosperity for all countries. It questions the sovereignty and territorial integrity of independent states, human rights, energy and food security, and the existence of a rules-based international order.
I want to express my gratitude to our Ukrainian expert: Dr. Volodymyr Dubovyk [Vah-loh-dee-meer Due-bo-vick]. Dr. Dubovyk has graciously agreed to share his observations with us and conduct this interview, even in the middle of his country’s unprecedented crisis – a crisis caused by President Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on a sovereign Democracy. To be more direct, Dr. Dubovyk joins us while his very home city, the historic, culturally diverse, and economically dynamic center of Odesa – one of Europe’s truly legendary great cities – is under Russian bombardment. Dr. Dubovyk, we are saddened and outraged by these events, and we thank you for agreeing to be with us today under such conditions.
This is the third interview with a Ukrainian expert we have held since the Russian forces began to amass on Ukraine’s borders – a prelude to invasion that Russia falsely denied. Our first session was with Yevhen Fedchenko – Journalism Professor and head of Ukraine’s “Stop Fake” NGO on false information. Under Dr. Fedchenko’s leadership, Stop Fake continues to operate. It’s website – stop.fake.org – documents Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign against Ukraine.
Our second interview was after Russia invaded. Mr. Oleksandr Danylyuk [Ah-lek-sander Dan-eel-yook] – the chairman of the Ukrainian Center for Defense reform – discussed Ukraine’s resistance and the unfolding strategy of Russia’s attack.
In today’s interview, Dr. Volodymyr Dubovyk will discuss events unfolding in Ukraine today, including recent discoveries of mass graves in the town of Bucha outside of Kyiv, and the continued and systematic shelling and bombing of civilians. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion of Ukraine, the ceaseless bombardment of Ukraine’s cities and critical infrastructure by Russia’s forces has created one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises in recent decades.
As Secretary of State Blinken reiterated recently, we believe that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. There must be accountability for these actions. In addition to our financial and military support to Ukraine – $2.3 billion in military equipment to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration preparations to commit more than $1 billion towards humanitarian assistance – the United States is supporting a range of mechanisms to document and pursue accountability for war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. We are committed to pursuing accountability, including criminal prosecutions.
Now let me formally introduce Dr. Volodymyr Dubovyk. Dr. Dubovyk is an expert on Ukraine, Transatlantic and U.S. relations, and Black Sea security. He is the Director of the Center for International Studies at Odessa National University. Dr. Dubovyk has conducted research at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington D.C., and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. His previous teaching assignments include the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Texas. He is the co-author of “Ukraine and European Security” and numerous articles on Ukrainian foreign relations. Dr. Dubovyk, it’s an honor to have you with us today.
I’ll now hand the microphone back to our Press Officer, Saul Mercado, who will serve as moderator and get us started. Thank you.