Mr. President, I wish to recognize Alexander Hug, an exceptional international civil servant who has played a crucial role in ensuring that the world knows the truth about Russia's aggression against Ukraine. This Kremlin-directed war, now entering its 5th year, is responsible for more than 10,300 fatalities and over 24,000 injuries, including as many as 9,000 civilians. It has affected 4.4 million in eastern Ukraine and displaced some 1.8 million people.
Mr. Hug, a Swiss national, completed his tour of duty as Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on October 31. He had served in this position since 2014 and oversaw the mission as it grew from approximately 100 monitors to more than 700.
This unarmed civilian mission provides clear, unbiased official reporting from the war zone on ceasefire violations and the human costs of the conflict. It does this despite continuous threats and deliberate attempts to undermine and sabotage its work. The mission's reporting is a crucial counterpoint to the barrage of Kremlin propaganda that seeks to obfuscate the true nature and scale of Russia's role as a direct participant and the aggressor in the war.
The mission has not only kept the world informed about the true nature of the war in eastern Ukraine; under Hug's leadership, it has also helped mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe that the war has caused. In particular, the negotiation of localized ceasefires has allowed for the delivery of humanitarian aid and repairs to be made to critical infrastructure.
Mr. Hug has also been a compelling advocate for basic steps toward peace, such as the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the granting of unfettered access to the monitoring mission across the entirety of Ukraine's sovereign territory.
Mr. Hug's candor and clarity were on full display when he briefed a congressional audience at a Helsinki Commission briefing on November 30, 2017. He movingly paid witness to the human costs of the conflict and left no doubt about the sources behind the flagrant and daily ceasefire violations that continue to fuel the fighting.
Mr. Hug's sterling reputation as a courageous, tough, and principled diplomat is well-earned. He has personally faced significant physical risk in service of the mission's mandate, including direct threats against his convoy by Russia-led forces and being caught in the crossfire between combatants. In July 2014, undeterred by an uncertain security situation, Mr. Hug engaged personally and to great effect at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
The dangers faced by Mr. Hug and the monitors he led were made all too clear on April 23, 2017. On that tragic day, Joseph Stone, an American citizen, was killed when his armored vehicle hit a landmine in territory controlled by Russia-led forces.
Alexander Hug's leadership in this challenging position, which kept him away from his family far longer than anticipated, has been exemplary. As chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I thank him for his contribution to this crucial mission and for all those who have served to advance its work, including Joseph Stone. Their selfless dedication continues to make an inestimable contribution to the cause of peace and security in the world.