I don’t have anything formal at the top, beyond noting – and I’m sure you all have seen the announcement that has come from the White House, and you will see later today a statement from the Secretary noting that President Biden delegated to him authority to direct a drawdown, in this case, of up to $800 million for additional security assistance to our Ukrainian partners.
I think the key point here is that not in at least a generation have we seen this pace of security assistance flowing to a partner of ours – in this case, our Ukrainian partners, who are using this security assistance to extraordinary effect. And you can look at the progress, or lack thereof, on the part of Russian forces on the battlefields if you want a metric to evaluate the effectiveness of our Ukrainian partners and what they are able to do with their determination, their grit, their bravery, and with the assistance of the massive amount of security assistance that the United States and our partners have provided.
With this additional $800 million, we have provided more than $2.5 billion in security assistance since the Russian invasion began in February. We have provided more than $3.2 billion over the course of this administration. And that is just what the United States has done. If you add in what our partners and allies have done around the world, that number will grow even further, and we will continue to stand by our Ukrainian partners with all the assistance they require.
QUESTION: So you had something at the top to say. (Laughter.)
MR PRICE: Informal.
QUESTION: Just on the weapons and the military assistance that was just announced, so there are assistance and capacities that President Zelenskyy is asking that you’re still not giving to Ukraine, but there are assistance and capacities that you guys weren’t giving until now and that you’re now starting to deliver to Ukraine. Does that reflect a shift in your assessment of what would constitute an escalation or a risk of direct confrontation with Russia? Is that because you feel that, since they have moved from their full-scale war against Kyiv, there is a lesser risk about that confrontation?
MR PRICE: Well, I think it reflects a couple things. First, it reflects a conversation that we’ve been having with our Ukrainian partners since before Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine began in February. You recall, Francesco, that we started surging security assistance to Ukraine last year, when President Zelenskyy visited the White House, and it was a significant sum last year, well before the invasion started. And since then we have been in a concerted dialogue with our Ukrainian partners about precisely what it is that they need to defend themselves, to defend their freedom, to defend their territory and their sovereignty.
We most recently had an opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Kuleba last week in Brussels. You probably heard him say that he had three items on his agenda: weapons, weapons, and weapons. He met with Secretary Blinken, and Secretary Blinken had three answers for him: yes, yes, and yes. And you saw today the fruits of some of those discussions.
And you are right that we are providing additional capacities that we have not previously been in a position to provide. We, pursuant to their request, are providing artillery, armored vehicles, helicopters, unmanned coastal defense vessels, engineering and field support equipment, and other assets that our Ukrainian partners will need to defend themselves.
But the other point is that the conflict in Ukraine with the Russian defeat for the battle of Kyiv, a city of 2.9 million people that the Russians apparently thought that they could take within a matter of hours or a few short days, with that – with Russia having lost that battle, Russia repositioning its forces, Russia training its sights more squarely on eastern Ukraine, on southern Ukraine, the nature of the conflict is changing as well. And so it would stand to reason that the precise forms of support will adapt to that changing reality to provide our Ukrainian partners with precisely what they need to fortify their positions in the east, in the south, to continue to beat back this Russian onslaught.
QUESTION: And are you, just to follow up, also scaling up intelligence sharing as it was reported by Wall Street Journal?
MR PRICE: We have been providing our Ukrainian partners with detailed information, strategic information, tactical information. Again, the very kind of information that they would need to defend themselves.
QUESTION: Ned, on President Biden’s genocide comments yesterday, so does that reflect the view of the wider U.S. Government at the moment? And more importantly, after this, will the State Department launch a formal process for an atrocity determination?
MR PRICE: Well, Humeyra, a couple of things on that. First of all, you know because the Secretary announced it a couple of weeks ago now that we have for some time been taking a very close look at the atrocities that have been occurring on the part of Russia’s forces in Ukraine. We made the determination, the assessment I should say, that Russia’s forces have committed war crimes. That is a high threshold. It is our assessment, and the Secretary announced it not all that long ago that the atrocities the Russians have committed and the way in which they have committed them have reached that threshold of war crimes.
The President has been – has not hesitated to draw attention to the horrific acts, the atrocities that Russia’s forces have been committing almost since the very first hours of Russia’s invasion. And in some ways, tragically, this does not come as a surprise. Well before the Russian invasion started on February 24th, we released information, declassified intelligence information, indicating that we believed – we had reason to believe that Russia would seek to commit the very type, the very sort of atrocities that we are now seeing. The President also, as you heard, emphasized that it will be the task of international lawyers to determine whether what we are seeing meets that legal threshold of genocide. The President was basing his comments on the horrific atrocities that we’ve all seen in Mariupol, in Bucha, in Kharkiv, and you could go on.
QUESTION: Yeah, but there are State Department lawyers as well, and Secretary Blinken determined that Myanmar army, for example, committed genocide against the Rohingya, and there is a meticulous process for this. So is the State Department going to launch one of those processes?
MR PRICE: So we are engaged in a process at this very moment to work with partners around the world, but in the first instance our Ukrainian partners, to help them collect, to preserve, to document, and to share evidence of atrocities, potential war crimes, and yes, if that threshold, that legal threshold is reached, genocide. We are working very closely with the office of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, who has set up a team under her purview to initiate a criminal case with an eye towards potential prosecutions. In fact, our ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice will have an opportunity to speak, to meet virtually with the Ukrainian prosecutor general this week to determine what more we can be doing to help that effort to collect, to document, to preserve, and to share evidence with the prosecutor general, with her office, but also with the other accountability mechanisms that are – that have been established.
We were part of the effort to establish the commission of inquiry at the UN through our work on the Human Rights Council. We’ve been supportive of the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism, a mechanism that issued preliminary findings today. There are other accountability mechanisms. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that at the end of the day, however long it takes – and sometimes, as we’ve acknowledged, these processes can take longer than any of us would like – but at the end of the day there is accountability.
QUESTION: Just to be super clear, your processes are for the other processes. You’re not going to launch your own?
MR PRICE: Right now we are supporting the processes that are underway.
QUESTION: Ned, speaking to OSCE, Ambassador Mike Carpenter today said that there was credible evidence of the use of certain agents, including possible chemical agents, on the people of Mariupol. And it kind of goes ahead of what the State Department has said up until now. Do you have any information that you could share with us with regard to this evidence?
MR PRICE: I —
QUESTION: And how it’s been further – how – where we are at this stage.
MR PRICE: I have to say, I’ve been a little perplexed by the coverage of Ambassador Carpenter’s comments because what Ambassador Carpenter said today was squarely in line with what we said yesterday, including what the Secretary said yesterday. The ambassador was referring to the fact that we had credible evidence prior to these reports emanating from Mariupol that Russian forces may use a variety of riot control agents – the tear gas that we talked about, potentially mixed with other agents that could cause even stronger symptoms – to weaken and to incapacitate entrenched Ukrainian fighters and even civilians in Russia’s effort to wrest Mariupol away from the Ukrainian people.
We are in the same position we were yesterday and from late in the day before that when these reports started to emerge. I understand that our Ukrainian partners are in the same position. We have not yet been able to confirm these reports, but we are in close communication and coordination with our Ukrainian partners, and we stand ready to assist their efforts.
MR PRICE: Same topic? Sure.
QUESTION: Yes. I wonder what legal actions can be taken after publishing this report. We know Washington is collecting information about possible war crimes. Since the United States is not part of International Criminal Court, can some cases be brought to local U.S. courts?
MR PRICE: Well, we are prioritizing accountability at the end of the day. And as I mentioned before, there are a variety of mechanisms that can ultimately lead to that accountability. When you look at potential jurisdictions, obviously, Ukraine may be at the top of that list. That is why we have prioritized our cooperation with the Ukrainian prosecutor general and her team, knowing that a criminal case – Ukraine in this case would be an appropriate jurisdiction for that.
But as I said before, there are a variety of accountability mechanisms. The ICC is one such mechanism. It is true that in the past, we have cooperated, we have provided information with the International Criminal Court. In fact, many of you may have seen a statement we released just a few days ago indicating and heralding, welcoming the start of a trial of a former Janjaweed commander who committed genocidal acts under the regime of – former regime of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. That individual is being tried at the ICC based in part on evidence that the State Department itself collected.
So we are going to be in close coordination with our allies and partners around the world to determine which venue, which accountability mechanism, is best poised to bring about that accountability. Because at the end of the day – at the end of the day, that’s what we wish to see.
QUESTION: There were reports that Moscow – oh.
QUESTION: Hold on. If the State Department’s not ready to declare what’s happening in Ukraine a genocide – it sounds like you’re not; you say you’re helping with other agencies with those investigations – did the President use that term prematurely?
MR PRICE: The President used that term based on the impressions that he has seen and that we all have seen. What we are doing here is we are assisting the effort that he also alluded to on the part of international lawyers to determine whether it meets that legal threshold. But the President was speaking to what all of us have seen.
QUESTION: But if that process is still in process – as you said it is; it’s – you’re helping to make that determination – should he not have used that phrase? Should he not have declared it a genocide?
MR PRICE: The President was speaking to the impression that he had garnered from watching the horrific footage that we’ve all seen from places like Mariupol, from places like Bucha, from Kharkiv, and from other places.
Now, he also said there is a complementary effort by international lawyers, a process that the State Department is plugged into and we’ll continue to support, to determine if there is a legal threshold that is met.
QUESTION: Can I just —
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR PRICE: I’ll go back to you. Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. There were some reports that Moscow is forcibly sending thousands of Ukrainians to far-away Russian regions, including Siberia. Do you have any confirmation, and what is the State Department’s position on that?
MR PRICE: We’ve seen these reports. We are taking a close look at them. We find some of the reports that are emanating from the region to be credible, but I’m not in a position to confirm that specifically. What we have said, especially in besieged areas like Mariupol, what needs to happen, we need to see humanitarian corridors so that people can leave on their own free will, they can go to areas that are not under siege. As people can leave, humanitarian aid, humanitarian supplies can get in. Allowing people, as has happened in the past, to leave only to flee to places like Russia or Belarus, that is not humanitarian access. That is not a humanitarian corridor. That would constitute a potential trap for innocent civilians.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on Christina’s question. If this is the President’s personal opinion, what is the Secretary’s personal opinion about whether or not genocide is being conducted in Ukraine?
MR PRICE: You heard from the Secretary about the atrocities that have been committed. It was the Secretary who put out a statement that in our assessment and in the assessment of the Department of State that Russia’s forces have committed war crimes. On the part of the department, we are going to continue to collect, to analyze, to help preserve, disseminate, and share the evidence to determine if there are additional acts of war crimes, if there are additional atrocities, and if the evidence points to the genocidal intent and the legal threshold that goes along with it.
QUESTION: He’s not there yet, then?
MR PRICE: The – you’ve heard the Secretary speak to the level of atrocity, and really it is much less important what you call it rather than how you respond to it. And we are responding to it resolutely, by providing our Ukrainian partners with precisely what they need to defend themselves against this Russian aggression. Just today, as I said at the top, you saw another element of that with an additional $800 million that is flowing to our Ukrainian partners. We are providing them. We are holding Russia to account with the crippling sanctions and other economic measures that we promised well before this invasion began, with two goals in mind. One is to give our Ukrainian partners additional leverage at the negotiating table, and secondly, to push the Russians to negotiate in good faith, to actually sit down and seek a genuine diplomatic resolution to this war of choice that Vladimir Putin has opted to launch.
QUESTION: But just one thing that – to follow up both Christina and Conor, like, why not – why do you guys not have your own inquiry? Like, I understand that you’re supporting other efforts. I get that. But why —
MR PRICE: Would it be more satisfactory if we started our own duplicative effort —
QUESTION: No. I think, like, what needs to happen —
MR PRICE: — rather than supporting the mechanisms that, at the end of the day, are more likely to lead to accountability? If you want to talk about a jurisdiction that is likely to result in a criminal prosecution, it is much more likely to be in a place like Ukraine than Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: Right. So you think that the State Department process or anything that would come from U.S. Government would be more symbolic, and what you’re doing right now is —
MR PRICE: What we —
QUESTION: – would yield to more concrete results? That’s why you’re —
MR PRICE: What we are doing is the most effective means of achieving that ultimate goal of accountability.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one last question on this?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m just – can you explain for us the difference between the department making a determination about war crimes and choosing not to begin making your own determination about genocide yet? Is there some difference we’re missing here?
MR PRICE: We haven’t chosen not to make any determination. What we are doing is following the facts and the evidence wherever that leads. And we’re doing that in coordination and tandem with our allies and partners, including the Ukrainian prosecutor general. I think the other important point is that there are various labels that have been attached to the atrocities that we have all seen with our own eyes. Whether this is a war crime, whether this is an atrocity, whether this is genocide, it does not change our strategy. It does not give us any additional authorities to use.
What we are doing is continuing to support our Ukrainian partners. What we are doing is continuing to apply pressure to the Russians as a means to give our Ukrainian partners leverage and to push our – push the Russians to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: But the department made the war crime determination. So why are you not putting resources into making your own independent genocide determination as well? What’s the difference, is what I’m trying to understand.
MR PRICE: This is a process that will help further and that will lead to potential conclusions down the road. Right now we are focused on accountability. Right now we are providing evidence and helping to collect, to preserve, to analyze, to disseminate evidence and information to the Ukrainian prosecutor general. If you want to talk about what will have the most meaningful impact, it will be ensuring accountability. That’s what we’re focused on.
As we ensure accountability, the effort to collect, to document, to analyze, to preserve evidence of course will support any future determinations – again, whether those are additional instances of war crimes, whether those are additional atrocities, or whether what we are seeing or what we will see meets or will meet the legal definition of genocide.
QUESTION: All right. Can we just turn to something else? That – or do you have another question on this?
QUESTION: I was going to ask one more on this. Just with regard to the President’s comment, public comments about genocide, even when he made the comments about Putin being a war criminal a couple of weeks ago, you keep on talking about a legal process that’s underway. Is he at risk of undermining that legal process when he’s making determinations before the U.S. Government is officially prepared to do that? And how are you also speaking with allies about this? Because there’s obviously some cross-messaging that’s going on that publicly becomes a little confusing.
MR PRICE: This doesn’t seem confusing to us. What the President is doing is putting a very public spotlight on the atrocities that are taking place in Ukraine right now. For us, we want the world’s attention to remain trained on this. The fact that this conflict continues to garner the world’s focus for us, that is a good thing. It’s a good thing that – in knowing that this will continue to be a cause that is at the top of the conscience of the world.
We have been gratified by the amount of support our Ukrainian partners have received, not only the security assistance, but also the humanitarian assistance. And part and parcel of that is the attention that this continues to garner.
QUESTION: So the President’s position is not a position of the U.S. Government on genocide in Ukraine?
MR PRICE: Christina –
QUESTION: That’s a yes-or-no question.
MR PRICE: So, as the President said, international lawyers will make a legal determination as to whether genocide has occurred or in the future may occur.
QUESTION: That’s a no.
QUESTION: And just back to a different topic – same topic, but different part of it – we’ve seen a lot of reports of Russians fleeing Russia, and I’m just wondering if this department is doing anything to provide support to the Russians who are fleeing their country in a similar way that you guys are providing support to Ukrainians who have to flee from the war.
MR PRICE: Well, what I would say is that we have been very careful to distinguish between the Kremlin, between the Russian Government, and the Russian people. This is a war that the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin himself has chosen to launch against the people of Ukraine. We know that there are countless Russians who are vehemently opposed to what their government is doing, purportedly in their name.
There have been reports of Russians fleeing, of Russians being forced to flee, being pressured to flee because they have voiced opposition to this. We know that, across the country, more than 15,000 Russians have been detained for peacefully taking to the streets to show their dissatisfaction and their opposition with what their government is doing.
If there are Russians who are fleeing their country and who qualify for – to emigrate to the United States under a legal pathway, of course, that is something we will support. You have heard the President make the announcement that the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others from the region who are affected by Russia’s aggression. So it’s difficult to speak in any particular – with any – to the specifics of this. But if there are individuals who, for one reason or another, are forced to flee from this aggression, that is something that we’ll look for or that we would look to support.
QUESTION: Following up on that, can you say how many Ukrainians have been brought into the United States as part of that 100,000 pledge so far? I know that you’ve spoken specifically to the Lautenberg program.
MR PRICE: That’s right.
QUESTION: But in addition to that, is there any other numbers you can provide?
MR PRICE: Well, so the President said that we would welcome up to 100,000 who were fleeing this violence from the region. As I said yesterday, we are at the moment working out with our partners across government, including our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, how precisely – the legal pathways that we will pursue to welcome these individuals.
We are going to look at the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, we’re going to look at family reunification programs, we’re going to look at parole, we are going to look at all legal authorities. So we’ll have more details on this before too long, and when we do, we’ll share them with all of you.
QUESTION: French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen just said today that, if she’s elected, she will push for a strategy of rapprochement between NATO and Russia, once the war is over. Is that a stance that you would share that concerns you, since that it one of the countries that is more active in engagement with Russia among your allies?
MR PRICE: Those comments were made in the context of a presidential campaign. That’s a decision the French people will need to make.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Francesco’s earlier question about the helicopters? What’s the difference between helicopters and airplanes in terms of the threat that it could produce in the U.S. providing them?
MR PRICE: So Conor, first of all, the helicopters are something that our Ukrainian partners have requested as part of what they would need to defend themselves against Russia’s aggression.
QUESTION: They’ve also requested war planes, though, and the administration has not approved a plan to provide those.
MR PRICE: Has not approved a plan to provide MiGs, which we don’t have.
MR PRICE: That’s what you’re referring to?
MR PRICE: Okay.
QUESTION: But, so the assessment at the time was that you couldn’t do so because it was an escalatory threat in the eyes of the Russian Government.
MR PRICE: Conor, we’ve never had MiGs in our inventory, so the request for American MiGs is —
QUESTION: I know. You know what I’m talking about, though. The Polish fighters.
MR PRICE: I think it’s something that has been misconstrued in some ways.
Countries are going to make their sovereign decisions about what it is that they are in a position to provide. We are providing a massive amount from our own inventory, from our own stocks. But what we’re also doing is backfilling other partners and allies who are in a position to provide systems, with that backfill flowing in. We talked about the example of Slovakia, which was able last week to provide the S-300 system. They were able to do that with the backfill of the Patriot missile battery that the United States ultimately provided.
So of course, we’re not in a position to provide elements that we don’t have in our possession. But if we are in a position to help our partners and allies to provide what would be effective and appropriate for our Ukrainian partners, that’s something we’ll do.
QUESTION: Just another one.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Just on this same topic. With fighting now moving east and south and away from the capital – you said you’ve heard of the defeat of the Russians around Kyiv – is the U.S. considering at all returning some diplomats either to Lviv or to the capital?
MR PRICE: This is something that we’re always reviewing, given the fact that the safety and security of our diplomats and American officials serving around the world is a top priority for us. What we know is that we are in a position to engage face to face with our Ukrainian partners on a regular basis. Secretary Blinken, I mentioned before, had an opportunity to see his counterpart last week in Brussels. He had an opportunity to see him just before that in Warsaw with the President. He had an opportunity to see him just before that on Ukrainian soil. So there are no shortage of opportunities to consult with our Ukrainian partners.
And then, of course, on top of that the Secretary speaks regularly over the phone to Foreign Minister Kuleba. President Biden spoke to President Zelenskyy over the phone again this morning. So the fact that we don’t currently have a team on the ground in Ukraine isn’t inhibiting our ability to coordinate very closely with our Ukrainian partners, but obviously our goal is to have a functioning diplomatic presence in Ukraine as soon as it is safe and practical for us to do so.
QUESTION: Yes, I have two questions on Turkey. My first question is that there are reports around that you are planning to lift the CAATSA sanctions against Turkey for buying the S-400 from Russia. Do you deny this report?
MR PRICE: Sorry, I didn’t catch the last part of your question. Do we —
QUESTION: There are reports that you are planning to lift —
MR PRICE: Oh, to lift.
QUESTION: — the sanctions, the CAATSA sanctions, against Turkey for buying the S-400 from Russia.
MR PRICE: I don’t have any response to you for that. As you know, CAATSA is written into legislation that’s mandated by law. We are in a continuing discussion with our Turkish allies about our concerns over Turkey’s possession of the S-400 system, and that’s a conversation that’s ongoing.
QUESTION: So you are not going to lift the sanctions? This is what you are saying?
MR PRICE: I don’t have anything for you on that beyond —
QUESTION: Could you take the question, if you could?
MR PRICE: If we have anything additional to say, we’ll let you know.
QUESTION: I have another question, please. Is it acceptable to the United States countries like Turkey to refuse to sanction Russia? Like all the allies, they are following except Turkey. Is it acceptable for the United States that countries like Turkey to violate the sanctions against Russia?
MR PRICE: Well, in the case of Turkey, Turkey is an important NATO Ally. Turkey has made important contributions to the effort to support the Ukrainian people and to hold Russia to account. Turkey is a NATO Ally. NATO has put forward some very firm statements. NATO has coordinated very closely on the various forms of support. The Turks have also played a very significant diplomat role seeking to bring together the Russians and Ukrainians to see if there can be a diplomatic – any diplomatic progress can be achieved.
Unfortunately, none of the efforts that have been undertaken to date, whether it’s on the part of Turkey or France or Germany or Israel or others, have had much success – not for the lack of effort on the part of those countries, but because the Russian Federation does not seem to be serious about engaging in diplomacy to bring about an end to this conflict.
QUESTION: So Turkey is – you are okay with Turkey that – Turkey refuse to follow your lead and sanction Russia, so you accept this. And Turkey is violate this action, and as I understand, you accept this also.
MR PRICE: I am —
QUESTION: Is it correct?
MR PRICE: I am not familiar with the fact that there is – there are sanctions violations ongoing in the context of Turkey, but Turkey has made important contributions. Turkey, again, is a NATO Ally and in that context has stood up to Russian aggression and has provided important additions to the campaign to support the Ukrainian people.
QUESTION: A question on Iran, Ned. You’ve probably seen the report that a senior IRGC commander has made comments regarding Qasem Soleimani and, quote/unquote, “Iran taking revenge” against the U.S. He said that killing all American leaders is not enough to take revenge and what they should do is – and I quote again – “We should avenge him by following his path,” meaning Soleimani’s path, “through other methods.”
Does this sound like a threat to the United States? And also, given the fact that reportedly removal of the IRGC is one of the issues still in the Vienna talks, doesn’t this affect those talks?
MR PRICE: I’m not going to characterize those words, his words, that statement. What I will do is to remind you of what we have already said, and we have consistently made clear that we will protect and defend our citizens. This includes those serving the United States now, those who have formerly served the United States in the past.
What is true is that this is an issue – Iran policy – on which there are many disagreements. But we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations, and we will work with partners and allies around the world and in the region to deter and to respond to any attacks that may be carried out by Iran.
QUESTION: And shouldn’t this comment really have any effect on the negotiations and the decision here at the State Department about the IRGC FTO designation?
MR PRICE: Well, I think you have seen the approach we have taken to the IRGC. The vast majority of the sanctions that we have imposed on the – on Iran have been imposed on the IRGC. We are committed to seeing to it, using every appropriate tool, that we respond to, that we deter, the malicious activity that the IRGC engages in.
QUESTION: One clarification. Does the State Department differentiate between the IRGC and the Qods Force, given the comments made recently by General Milley and then here at the State Department that the Qods Force is a terrorist group and the IRGC was not specifically named?
MR PRICE: My understanding is that the FTO designation covers both.
QUESTION: Ambassador Satterfield, the report that he’s resigning his position shortly and what it says about the fact that two special envoys now have come and gone in less than a year without much progress.
MR PRICE: Well, I think you saw that we put out a media advisory overnight speaking to the fact that Ambassador Satterfield remains fully engaged in advancing our diplomacy as the special envoy for the Horn of Africa. He and his deputy, Payton Knopf, are in Ethiopia. They are meeting with Ethiopian Government officials as well as with representatives of humanitarian organizations and diplomatic partners.
Their visit continues our efforts to reach a cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, transparent investigations into the human right abuses and violations by all actors, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict in Ethiopia. Ambassador Satterfield also continues to lead U.S. efforts supporting the people’s – the Sudanese people’s democratic aspirations.
I don’t have any personnel updates to offer.
QUESTION: In his meeting with Secretary Blinken today, did the Egyptian foreign minister make any commitments regarding the violations outlined in the department’s Human Rights Report? And was there a discussion of the human rights conditions that Cairo failed to meet in January?
MR PRICE: Well, the Secretary did have an opportunity to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Shoukry, earlier today. They discussed the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, noting that this year marks a hundred years of bilateral diplomatic relations between our two countries. They discussed efforts in key areas such as regional stability and security cooperation as well as the next steps to build off the Negev ministerial that was held in the Negev Desert late last month, where we last saw Foreign Minister Shoukry.
They also discussed global developments. In almost every engagement we have with foreign counterparts, we take the opportunity to speak to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its mounting global consequences. When we were in Algeria and Morocco the other week, and Egypt is no exception, we were in a region that has been very hard hit by the increase in food prices, the increase in commodity prices that has been brought about by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. So they had an opportunity to discuss that as well.
To your question, the Secretary did have an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in our bilateral relationship and with our partners around the world, including Egypt. And as we always do, he encouraged progress on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
MR PRICE: You were there with us, I believe.
QUESTION: I was, yes.
MR PRICE: We issued —
QUESTION: I was not involved in the meeting.
MR PRICE: We issued a rather lengthy readout of that meeting. The Secretary also spoke to it the next day from Algeria, if I recall. The fact is that the Secretary made very clear to our Emirati partners that the United States stands with them. We stand by them in the face of the spate of attacks that our Emirati partners as well as our Saudi partners have faced from Houthi terrorists in Yemen.
QUESTION: Yeah. But apology is not something that you guys would put on a readout. I mean, did he – is this a fair characterization?
MR PRICE: I’m not going to characterize the meeting beyond what we said. There was a discussion of the shared interests we have in the region, and one of those interests is in seeing to it that these reprehensible attacks from terrorists based in Yemen, Houthis in this case, come to an end, and that we are going to continue to do everything we can to stand by our Emirati partners.
QUESTION: Can you answer it this way: Is there a sense in the administration that you have something to apologize for?
MR PRICE: There is a sense in the administration that this is a relationship that we prioritize. And you have seen that in terms of the engagement we had in Morocco with the crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed. The Secretary, just before that, had an opportunity to meet with the Emirati foreign minister, ABZ. So we’ll continue our close coordination and cooperation with our Emirati partners, knowing that we do have a number of shared interests. And again, one of them is countering the threat that is emanating from Yemen because it’s a threat that targets not only our Saudi and Emirati partners, but it’s a threat that also implicates the sizable population of American citizens who are based in the Gulf.
QUESTION: And just one more question on that. In retrospect, should the United States have done more to support the Emiratis in the faces – in the face of those attacks earlier this year? And did the Secretary say that in some way, shape, or form?
MR PRICE: I think you’re asking – I’ve heard the same question a few times now. My answer is —
QUESTION: I didn’t say “apologize.”
MR PRICE: My answer won’t change. I think what you’ve seen from us is an intent to stand by and to stand with our Emirati partners and our Saudi partners in the face of these attacks, but also to work with them, knowing that over the longer term, the only real, durable, sustainable way to bring about an end to this violence and an end to these attacks is to find a negotiated solution to the civil war in Yemen. Obviously we’ve achieved some progress there. The UN special envoy, working closely with our Special Envoy Tim Lenderking, has been instrumental in that progress and that process. And our goal is to see to it that that progress sticks and that we’re able to build on it.
QUESTION: One more on the refugee – Ukrainians refugees coming over here. Of the 704 Ukrainian refugees who have been resettled with the Lautenberg program so far in 2022, can you say how many of those applied for that after the war in Ukraine began? And if you can’t say that, can you take the question?
MR PRICE: We can take the question. What I can tell you, however, is that after the war began, our ability to process individuals in Ukraine, of course, came to an end. We are now working with our personnel in neighboring countries to expedite processing since the violence has – since the violence began in Ukraine. But again, the U.S. refugee admissions program is just one potential pathway for Ukrainians and others who have been affected by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. We are looking at all potential legal pathways, whether it’s family reunification programs, whether it’s various forms of parole, whether there are other auspices under which those fleeing this violence can reach the United States.
QUESTION: Ned, can you give us an update on local hires at the embassy in Ukraine, whether or not the U.S. has managed to either get some of them out of Ukraine and/or process some SIV applications?
MR PRICE: Well, the leadership of Mission Ukraine and the department leadership here from Washington, we’re in regular contact with our locally employed staff in Ukraine, and we’re exploring all legal options to support our team. We know – we understand, of course, the difficult circumstances, and we’ve already taken some important steps in an effort to assist them. We have implemented paid administrative leave for all staff unable to work or to telework regardless of their location. Whether they are in Ukraine, whether they are out of Ukraine, whether they are working, whether they are not able to at the moment, they continue to be paid, and that’s important to us.
We provided additional financial support to help our local staff, including the option of salary advances to help enable them to move themselves and their families to safety. We have established a dedicated communications channel for all locally employed staff, and we’ll continue to process Special Immigrant Visa applications for locally employed staff who meet the statutory requirements. Of course, those statutory requirements are spelled out in the law, so we are somewhat constrained in what we can do there. But for those for whom this is an option, we will continue to process this.
But throughout this ordeal we are continuing to provide them with every form of assistance we can, and we are going to see to it that they continue to be paid for their continuing service to the United States.
Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 4:11 p.m.)