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Home / Press Release / Trump Urged to Maintain Sanctions Against Russia
January 27, 2017

Trump Urged to Maintain Sanctions Against Russia

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged the Trump Administration to maintain stringent sanctions against the Russian Federation until it has fully complied with the requirements for their removal. The call came following reports that President Trump is considering an executive order that would lift sanctions on Russia in exchange for Russian assistance in combating terrorism—or, alternately, would lift the sanctions unilaterally. The president is scheduled to discuss the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow. 

“Russia is under sanctions for its violation of basic international law norms protecting the sovereignty and integrity of all nations, including the United States and its allies,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “Russian supported aggression in Eastern Ukraine has violated human rights, leading to the deaths of over ten thousand people—including civilians. Russia alsointerfered in U.S. elections through aggressive cyber activity, and in so doing threatened our own democratic processes and our democracy itself. The administration needs to pocket this order until Russia corrects its course.”

Human Rights First notes that any order lifting the sanctions absent a finding that Russia has complied with their requirements would damage U.S. interests in promoting democracy and freedom overseas, and would be a serious blow to U.S. leadership on human rights. 

The United States established clear requirements explaining when it will repeal sanctions. The sanctions mandate that Russia must take specific actions to reduce or eliminate its violations to international law and human rights before sanctions are repealed. The president should maintain these rules, which call for Russia to leave Crimea, comply with the February 2015 Minsk agreements which require that it withdraw its troops and weapons from East Ukraine, restore full control to the Ukrainian government, accede to full monitoring of the region by the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and provide clear access for humanitarian aid.

Thus far the Kremlin has not satisfied any of these requirements, and in fact it continues to contribute to significant rights violations both in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine and in Crimea. Just this week the Russian Security Service detained two well-known human rights lawyers, Emil Kurbedinov and Nikolai Polozov, in Crimea in order to prevent them from representing human rights defenders and Crimean leaders in the region. 

Human Rights First urges the president not to provide support for Russia’s violations of human rights and international law. 

"By repealing sanctions, the United States will be indicating it supports, or at least acquiesces to, human rights violations. Russia must be held accountable, and all sanctions must remain in place until it has complied with the requirements for their removal,” added Hooper.

For more information or to speak with Hooper, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org, or 202-370-3310.