Alarmed by Targeted Attacks on Civilians Fleeing Violence, Massive Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine, Speakers Briefing Security Council Reiterate Strong Calls to End Conflict
Millions of Lives Shattered, Emergency Relief Coordinator Says, as Delegates Stress Ceasefire, Safe Humanitarian Corridors Urgently Needed
Alarmed by spreading violence in Ukraine, targeted attacks on civilians, ineffective humanitarian corridors and spiralling risks, briefers and delegates alike called for decisive action to end the conflict, as the Security Council held its seventh meeting in two weeks related to the unfolding situation.
“Simply put, millions of lives have been shattered,” said Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Indeed, the reach of humanitarian efforts can only go so far without the committed cooperation of Ukraine and the Russian Federation to ensure civilian protection and the maintenance of safe corridors for people wanting to escape the violence and those delivering critical aid. Some civilians are unable to escape at a time when 1.7 million have already fled the country since the conflict began on 24 February, while those who remain are facing cuts of essential services. Voicing an extra sense of dread over the impact the conflict will have on the wider world, he expressed deep worry about the consequences on vulnerable people living half a world away, with food prices spiking and supplies uncertain.
“We have the capacity and the know-how to meet the most urgent needs in Ukraine, if the parties cooperate, but make no mistake, we are unable to meet the needs of civilians today; I hope we will not fail them tomorrow,” he said, summarizing the widespread ongoing humanitarian efforts alongside enormous and growing needs blanketed by spreading violence. To address the current situation, he highlighted priority areas, which he had already conveyed to Ukraine and the Russian Federation: the parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure in their military operations; safe passage must be ensured for humanitarian supplies into areas of active hostilities; and a system of constant communication must be established with parties to the conflict, with assurances provided to enable aid deliveries.
Providing the latest information on the ground, Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called on Security Council members to remind all parties of their legal and moral obligation to protect children and spare them from attack and called for an immediate suspension of ongoing military actions in Ukraine. Half of those fleeing are children and, since 24 February, at least 27 have been killed and 42 wounded, she said, noting that UNICEF and its partners are working to meet rapidly escalating humanitarian needs in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. Efforts include Fund-supported child protection mobile teams, the delivery of 40 tons of medical life-saving items for children and mothers to 22 hospitals from five of the most affected regions and the launch of “Blue Dot” safe spaces in hosting countries at border crossings, offering psycho-social support, basic legal counselling, recreational kits and hygiene products.
“What is happening to children in Ukraine is a moral outrage,” she said, expressing deep concern about the safety and well-being of the nearly 100,000 children, half of them with disabilities, who live in institutions and boarding schools. Moreover, the images of a mother and her two children and a friend lying dead on the street — hit by a mortar as they tried to flee to safety — must “shock the conscience of the world”, she said.
In the ensuing debate, Council members agreed that a ceasefire is urgently needed along with safe, guaranteed humanitarian corridors. Many members reiterated strong calls to end the conflict, with some pointing to violated ceasefire agreements brokered by the parties and broken by the Russian Federation. Many condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for the continued attacks, calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian armed forces. Some expressed support for the work of the International Criminal Court, emphasizing that perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable.
Describing the Russian Federation’s breaches of humanitarian ceasefires as an abomination, the United Kingdom’s representative declared: “Let me be clear — we will hold Russia to account for its actions and will investigate thoroughly allegations of war crimes and violations of international law.” What the Ukrainian people really need is an end to the invasion, she said, appealing to the Russian Federation to end its war before bringing even more tragedy to Ukraine and even more shame on its proud nation.
In a similar vein, the United States delegate, urging parties to heed the call the humanitarian actors just sounded, called on the Russian Federation to accept and honour timebound safe passage in agreed upon locations and a safe communication system to ensure that supplies can reach those most in need. Increasingly concerned about civilian protection, especially of women, girls and other vulnerable groups affected by “Putin’s war”, she said Washington, D.C., has been warning Moscow for weeks that this war will make the Russian Federation weaker, not stronger.
The Russian Federation’s representative called on the Security Council to keep to the humanitarian context of what is happening in Ukraine and not rely on Ukrainian politicians and mendacious social networks for their political views. Citing an ongoing disinformation war in the West, he said Ukrainian radicals and neo-Nazis — and not the Russian armed forces — are holding hostages in towns and cities and using civilians as human shields. Russian Federation units had declared a ceasefire that radicals in Mariupol violated, as heard in an intercepted radio conversation instructing them to “shoot at the legs” of those heading for the humanitarian corridors, he said. Further, the deployment of heavy weaponry, including bombardment artillery, has become a rule for Ukrainian nationalist battalions, while radicals are continuing to hold over 1,500 foreigners hostage in multiple cities.
Echoing condemnation of the ongoing conflict, Kenya’s delegate also said the impact of the conflict will trigger a shock to the global food supply, given that Ukraine is a major producer. At the same time, the world will suffer greatly from the unilateral and regional sanctions against the Russian Federation. Humanitarian and legal consideration must be given to their frightful impact on the Russian people, a concern that extends to many nations, including Kenya. As such, he cautioned that while the sanctions are aimed at pressuring the Russian Federation for its inexcusable breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, they will end up harming innocent Russians and the Global South.
Ukraine’s delegate said the Council must be decisive in responding to the worst humanitarian crisis seen since the end of the Second World War in Europe. Raising grave concerns about the reality on the ground, he said the Russian Federation’s troops have blocked numerous attempts of the Ukrainian authorities to evacuate civilians through humanitarian corridors, denied access of international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the most affected places, opened fire on evacuees and evacuation vehicles and shelled the roads allocated for safe corridors. Moreover, Moscow has already sent a letter showing humanitarian corridor routes to the Russian Federation and Belarus only, he said, reiterating the call for the previously agreed passages allowing people to leave for Europe. The fragility of the situation reaches beyond Ukraine, into Europe and across the world, he said, adding that defending his country from the Russian Federation’s aggression also protects the world from hunger. He stressed that people in Ukraine require concrete actions to save their lives, their health and their property.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Albania, Ireland, Mexico, France, India, Gabon, Brazil, Ghana, Norway, China and the United Arab Emirates.
The representative of the Russian Federation took the floor for a second time.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:29 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalling that humanitarian organizations have been working in Ukraine’s Donbas region, providing 1.5 million people with aid for eight years, said the current situation was an unplannable scenario. Yet, the humanitarian community did plan, working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and non-governmental organization partners. As the unthinkable became the reality, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have started a scalable and agile, adaptable and resilient operation fit for the changing situation, in addition to the Secretary-General’s swift appointment of Amin Awad as his Crisis Coordinator. In the first days of the offensive, his staff, like so many in Ukraine, spent their days and nights working from bunkers and basements, managing to produce the two robust response plans launched last week to a generous donor response.
Describing the current situation, he said: “Simply put, millions of lives have been shattered.” People cannot stay home with shops shut, power and water cut, shells falling and phones switched off, and cannot find what they need even if they have money to pay for it, with many not even able to flee in safety. After 11 days of escalating violence, fear and pain, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports at least 1,207 civilian casualties, including at least 406 dead — the real figure could be considerably higher — and UNHCR reports that more than 1.7 million refugees have fled. Humanitarian assistance has continued in all areas where security permits, and under the leadership of the Crisis Coordinator in the country, new plans are being drafted on how to deliver where humanitarian needs are most acute, including in Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kherson, with scaled up response from hubs in Vinnutsya, Uzhorod and Lviv.
The United Nations and partners have already provided food to hundreds of thousands of people, he said. The World Food Programme (WFP) is setting up supply chain operations to deliver immediate food and cash assistance to 3 to 5 million people inside Ukraine; the World Health Organization (WHO) has shipped trauma care and emergency surgery equipment; UNHCR is providing assistance through a network of shops in Mariupol, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations; and the Ukrainian Red Cross has distributed humanitarian assistance to thousands via its emergency stockpiles, including hygiene and food kits, warm clothing and medicine.
Saluting those helping, he highlighted three immediate priorities to lessen the pain and suffering — which he has already conveyed to Ukraine and the Russian Federation. First, the parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure in their military operations, including safe passage to leave areas of active hostilities on a voluntary basis in the direction they choose. Safe passage must also be ensured for humanitarian supplies into areas of active hostilities. Civilians in places like Mariupol, Kharkiv, Melitopol, and elsewhere desperately need aid, especially life-saving medical supplies. Many modalities are possible, but it must take place in line with the parties’ obligations under the laws of war. There is also an urgent need for a system of constant communication with parties to the conflict and assurances to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid, he said, adding that his Office has sent a team to Moscow to work on better humanitarian civil-military coordination that can permit a scale up. Welcoming cooperation by both sides, he expressed sincere hope to see further progress in the hours ahead.
People are watching as this unnecessary conflict engulfs cities and civilians, with an extra sense of dread over the impact it will have on the wider world, he said, expressing deep worry about the consequences on vulnerable people living half a world away. Food prices are spiking and supplies uncertain. People in the Sahel, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Madagascar and beyond already face profound food insecurity. Record-level fuel prices mean life becomes harder still in places like Lebanon, where generators keep hospitals open and water treatment plants working, he said, stressing that: “We simply cannot afford to have political attention and donor funding diluted, diverted from other pressing humanitarian crises; this may be the latest war, but not the only one.” Reiterating that humanitarian actors have planned, mobilized and fundraised to meet the current challenge, he said: “We have the capacity and the know-how to meet the most urgent needs in Ukraine, if the parties cooperate, but make no mistake, we are unable to meet the needs of civilians today. I hope we will not fail them tomorrow.”
CATHERINE RUSSELL, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that the past eight years of conflict in Ukraine have inflicted profound and lasting harm to children. With the escalation of the conflict, the immediate and very real threat to Ukraine’s 7.5 million children has grown. Homes, schools, orphanages and hospitals have all come under attack. Civilian infrastructure like water and sanitation facilities have been hit, leaving millions without access to safe water. For many, life has moved underground as families seek safety in shelters, subways, or basements, often for hours on end. Women are giving birth in makeshift maternity wards with limited medical supplies. As of 7 March, OHCHR recorded 1,207 civilian casualties in Ukraine. Since 24 February, at least 27 children have been killed and 42 have been wounded. As of 6 March, UNHCR was reporting an excess of 1.7 million refugees fleeing to hosting countries. “Half of the people on the move are children,” she said. Noting she had just returned from the Romania-Ukraine border, she said she “met with mothers and children who had to flee their homes at a moment’s notice”. The children talked about being suddenly pulled out of school and “the terrifying sound of shelling and gunfire”.
UNICEF and its partners are working to meet rapidly escalating humanitarian needs in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, she said. UNICEF-supported child protection mobile teams are reaching children with psychosocial care, mental health support and protection services. On Sunday, UNICEF delivered 40 tons of medical life-saving items for children and mothers to 22 hospitals from five of the most affected regions, enough to meet the needs of 20,000 children and their mothers. It has also begun operating “Blue Dot” safe spaces in hosting countries at border crossings where children are first registered. The hubs offer psychosocial support, basic legal counselling, recreational kits and hygiene products. Staff at hubs are also able to identify unaccompanied and separated children, she said, warning of the very high risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation, including trafficking. “Every effort must be made to reunify children with their families,” she said.
Inside Ukraine, UNICEF is also deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of the nearly 100,000 children, half of them with disabilities, who live in institutions and boarding schools. “What is happening to children in Ukraine is a moral outrage”, she said, adding that images of a mother and her two children and a friend lying dead on the street — hit by a mortar as they tried to flee to safety — must “shock the conscience of the world”. UNICEF calls upon the members of this Council to remind all parties of their legal and moral obligation to protect children and spare them from attack. She also called for an immediate suspension of ongoing military actions in Ukraine.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), recalling the current indispensable actions of humanitarian actors, said her delegation is outraged at Moscow’s continued attacks, which have turned half a million children into refugees, with a total of 1.7 million people fleeing the country and countless others displaced, facing death and injuries. At least 100 refugees are crossing into Poland every minute, she said, recalling recent discussions with delegations about, among other things, how the United States can help. From the reckless attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to shelling those fleeing to safety, the Russian Federation’s actions have seen hospitals bombed and cities under siege. The United States is working with Ukraine, international organizations and partners to monitor the situation and assess needs. Pointing to the current $1.5 billion in pledged support, she said the needs will only increase if the Russian Federation continues its attacks.
Urging parties to heed the call the humanitarian actors just sounded, she said the Russian Federation must commit to allow humanitarian access, calling on Moscow to agree to and honour timebound safe passage in agreed upon locations and a safe communication system to ensure that supplies can reach those most in need. Increasingly concerned about civilian protection, especially women, girls and other vulnerable groups affected by “Putin’s war”, she said the physical and psychological wounds will be long lasting. While it is evident that Mr. Putin has a plan, he does not seem to be listening, she said, emphasizing that Ukrainians are defending themselves bravely and pledging her delegation’s support for them. Indeed, Washington, D.C., has been warning Moscow for weeks that this war will make the Russian Federation weaker, not stronger. Supporting Ukraine’s call for a ceasefire, she called on the Russian Federation to de-escalate and cease hostilities. In the meantime, she said: “We must do everything to help Ukraine.”
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said this war of choice is becoming a war of obsession, as civilians are killed, children traumatized and attacks trigger the fastest and largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The huge humanitarian needs across Ukraine are multiplying by the hour, he said, applauding Poland, the Republic of Moldova and other nations for welcoming refugees. “Where are the commitments of a permanent member of this body? Does international humanitarian law have any meaning for Russia today?” he asked, adding: “The answers lie under the blood of innocent Ukrainians.” Noting that the Russian Federation’s aggression constitutes war crimes and atrocities, he said there will be accountability, expressing support for Ukraine’s application to the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, he called for a ceasefire, the opening of safe humanitarian corridors and for the protection of civilians, without discrimination. Another nasty war simmers in the background, with misinformation abound and the Russian Federation’s new law that has seen media outlets shutting down. “Attacking freedom this way is the first sign of a dictatorship”, he said, recalling Albania’s history in this regard and emphasizing that Russians need to know the truth. Civilian protection must remain a top priority, he said, also raising concerns about the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage. Twelve days ago, Ukraine was guilty because it existed, and now it is guilty because it will not surrender, he said, adding that the world knows what is happening and everything must be done to stop the war.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that he wished to highlight UNICEF’s non-biased reaction to the crisis in Ukraine over the last eight years and he hopes this approach will continue in the future. UNICEF’s views should be based on tried and trusted information. There is a mass proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Ukraine that have fallen into the hands of those recently released from prison, he said, noting that the number of civilian victims at the hands of radicals grows daily. He called on the Security Council to keep to the humanitarian context of what is happening in Ukraine, and not rely on Ukrainian politicians and mendacious social networks for their political views. There is a disinformation war going on in the West, where Russian Federation information resources are being turned off and not permitted to broadcast.
The representative of the United States today accused Moscow of not complying with its commitments to create safe humanitarian corridors, he said. The Russian armed forces are not the ones bombarding civilians, but rather it is Ukrainian radicals and Neo-Nazis who are holding hostages in towns and cities and using civilians as human shields. Russian Federation units have declared a ceasefire, he said, noting that at Ukraine’s request, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were invited and the Russian Federation was prepared to provide assistance. However, the radicals in Mariupol violated this agreement, as can be clearly heard in a radio conversation that was intercepted. The radicals were told to “shoot at the legs” of those heading for the humanitarian corridors.
Considering the catastrophic humanitarian situation and also the personal request of France’s President Emmanuel Macron to President Putin, the Russian armed forces said there would be a ceasefire on 7 March at which point they would open humanitarian corridors towards Russian and Ukrainian territory. In their statements of the impossibility of evacuating Ukrainian citizens towards the Russian Federation, officials ignore the fact that there are already such citizens there and the Russian border has been crossed by 900 vehicles in the last 24 hours. Ukrainian radicals are continuing to hold over 1,500 foreigners hostage in a range of cities, he said, noting that Moscow is working around the clock on these issues. The deployment of heavy weaponry, including bombardment artillery, has become a rule for Ukrainian nationalist battalions.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) recounted the story of Andri, a two-month-old boy, who crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland over the weekend. As his aunt, Valentina, comforted him and his mother, she told the United Nations refugee agency: “I never thought I would have to leave my home. That I would have to flee just to save my life.” As a brutal war is waged, “little to no” regard is seen for the safety of civilians. Andri and Valentina represented only two of the over 1.5 million people who have become refugees in less than two weeks. Citing reports hourly of multiple attacks on medical facilities including maternity and children’s hospitals, even oncology clinics, she said: “We have looked on in horror as attempts to evacuate an estimated 200,000 people from Mariupol have failed.” The ICRC has been clear: whatever is agreed, or not agreed, on humanitarian corridors or other measures, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected. “Each chilling violation of international law evokes the darkest days of Europe’s past,” she said. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to abuse, and they must be protected from rape and sexual violence, she said, adding: “We will work to ensure that there can be no place to hide from accountability for anyone who perpetrates crimes against them.” She appealed to all countries in the region to keep their borders open to all of those seeking safety and protection, urging the Russian Federation to immediately cease hostilities, unconditionally withdraw its forces from the entire territory of Ukraine and refrain from further threat or use of force of any kind against Ukraine or any other Member State.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) declared: “The world is watching in horror at the humanitarian crisis caused by President [Vladimir] Putin’s war on the Ukrainian people.” In response to Ukraine’s fierce resistance, Moscow is now directing a campaign of violence and cruelty against civilians. Citing reports of apartment blocks torn apart and attacks on civilian infrastructure — including by cluster munitions — she said people have been left without electricity, food, water and shelter. Describing the Russian Federation’s breaches of humanitarian ceasefires as an abomination, she noted the horrifying images of a family killed by Russian strikes in Irpin. “Let me be clear — we will hold Russia to account for its actions and will investigate thoroughly allegations of war crimes and violations of international law,” she said. The United Kingdom has committed over $285 million in aid to the crisis, but what the Ukrainian people really need is an end to the invasion. “We appeal to Russia to end their war before they bring even more tragedy to Ukraine and even more shame on their proud nation,” she said.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said urgent coordinated action is required to face the current enormous challenges. Calling for a sustained pause of hostilities, he said humanitarian assistance must not be held hostage by military attacks. Instead, resolution 2573 (2021) must be implemented alongside all relevant international laws. Highlighting four priority areas for action, he called for an immediate halt to the use of prohibited cluster munitions. In addition, all efforts must be made to monitor and protect children and other vulnerable groups. Equally important is establishing a safe humanitarian pause to allow those fleeing to reach safety and those delivering critical assistance to reach those in need, he said, emphasizing that attacks on refugees violate international humanitarian law. The fourth priority is the need to address these multidimensional challenges, including by providing psycho-social services. The Council must resume its role as the main body responsible for international peace and security, he said, expressing hope that the forthcoming consultations will bring delegations closer together towards a common goal: helping the people of Ukraine.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that what is happening is a true humanitarian tragedy stemming from the Russian Federation’s aggression, which has destroyed civilian infrastructure and placed cities under siege. “This is just the beginning,” he said, commending neighbouring States’ for their welcome to refugees fleeing the violence. For its part, France has pledged €100 million and already sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid to help Ukraine. The priority now is ending the violence and ensuring respect for international humanitarian law, he said, recalling recent talks between the leaders of France and the Russian Federation. Civilian protection is equally essential. Regarding safe passageways for those wishing to escape the fighting and aid workers who are trying to reach those in need, he said his counterpart from the Russian Federation has just raised the point of the implementation of humanitarian corridors. These corridors, however, lead towards the Russian Federation, he said, adding that he did not know of any Ukrainians who wanted to go there. As such, France and Mexico are working on a draft resolution related to international humanitarian law. It must be possible for those trying to flee Ukraine to do so. Humanitarian access must be guaranteed, for those leaving and those staying behind. Light must be shed on allegations of crimes, which should not go unpunished, he said, expressing support for the work of the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) said the worsening situation in Ukraine and the ensuing humanitarian crisis deserves the Council’s immediate and urgent attention. India has consistently called for an immediate end to all hostilities and reiterated its urgent demand for safe and uninterrupted passage for all innocent civilians, including Indian nationals in Ukraine. Noting that more than 20,000 Indians and people of other nationalities have been safely helped to leave the country, he added that his country has sent seven tranches of humanitarian supplies to Ukraine and neighbouring countries containing medicine, medical equipment, tents, water storage tanks, sleeping mats, blankets and other critical items. Against that backdrop, he emphasized that humanitarian action must always be guided by the principles of humanitarian assistance, namely humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. “These should not be politicized,” he stressed.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said his delegation Gabon maintains its solidarity with the people that are suffering and invites the parties to create safe, unrestricted paths out of Ukrainian territory. He called for rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need, to protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel and people in vulnerable situations, in particular women, the elderly, people with disabilities and children. He commended the international community’s mobilization of funds, noting that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had activated their funding mechanisms during the first days of the war, preparing to mobilize $3 billion dollars, including $550 million in the very short term to support Ukraine. He applauded the generosity of countries bordering Ukraine that have welcomed those who have fled, he said, cautioning that such receptions should be afforded for all, including those from Africa.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) urged all parties to establish a cease-fire and engage in negotiations and to fully respect international humanitarian law, including when resorting to new military technologies and cyber-means. He also urged the parties to continue to establish humanitarian pauses and to create humanitarian corridors. Echoing ICRC’s concerns about upholding international humanitarian law rules for those choosing to leave and those choosing to remain, he stressed: “The rules of war are not optional.” He also joined the call for Ukraine’s neighbours to keep their borders open to refugees, without any kind of discrimination. Children in Ukraine must be protected and under no circumstances should be recruited, used or allowed to join any military activity or take any direct part in hostilities. Attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially schools and medical facilities, as well as water and sanitation systems, must be avoided and no additional hardship should be imposed on the affected populations and vulnerable groups through broad economic sanctions. Citing the need to support a growing number of internally displaced children in Ukraine and refugee children in neighbouring countries, he said Brazil has established a humanitarian visa policy for those fleeing the conflict. Brazilian embassies in Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw have started to grant special visas for displaced Ukrainians and stateless persons for humanitarian reception purposes.
MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), stressing that safety guarantees must be given to civilians, including foreign nationals, urged Ukraine’s neighbours who are hosting refugees to ensure that the civilian protections sought are offered with no discrimination on any basis, including race or religion. Disturbed by reports of broad damage to civilian infrastructure, he drew attention to calls against this provided in resolution 2573 (2021). The impact of the conflict will trigger a shock to the global food supply, given that Ukraine is a major producer, and the world will also suffer greatly from the unilateral and regional sanctions against the Russian Federation, he said, stressing that humanitarian and legal consideration must be given to their frightful impact on the Russian people. That concern extends to many nations, including Kenya. While the sanctions are aimed at pressuring the Russian Federation for its inexcusable breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, they will end up harming innocent Russians and the Global South. Directing questions to Mr. Griffiths, he asked if the Under-Secretary-General can make public his assessments of the impact of the conflict in Ukraine and the sanctions against the Russian Federation on the humanitarian situation in other countries, particularly regarding food security. He also asked what preventive actions the United Nations and Security Council can take to ensure that the shock to the global food supply system does not translate into new crises. The only way out of the crisis is for a ceasefire and dialogue to protect Ukrainian sovereignty and shape a stable European security order.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) expressed regret that the agreement reached between the two sides for the creation of humanitarian corridors for safe evacuations and the unhindered passage of food and medicines did not hold. She joined other Council members in reiterating the call for a humanitarian pause to allow the evacuation of civilians, especially in the cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv, where intense military operations are ongoing. She called for the immediate cessation of hostilities in residential and civilian populated areas. It is also vital to reach agreements to allow “windows of silence” that would enable the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys to all areas where civilians remain in need of water, food and medical care. Ghana further supports the United Nations request for the urgent establishment of a notification system and an emergency hotline with both Governments of the Russian Federation and Ukraine to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and life-saving supplies.
MONA JUUL (Norway) echoed expressions of grave concern over the staggering numbers of civilian casualties in Ukraine — which include children — and declared: “Russia, and Russia alone, bears the sole responsibility for this humanitarian crisis.” Demanding an urgent end to the aggression, she voiced concern over reports of the use of cluster munitions by Russian forces, which are inherently indiscriminate weapons, and about the fate of unaccompanied children separated from their families. Every effort must be made to restore family links and trace missing persons, she stressed, calling on humanitarian organizations to prioritize assistance to and protection of children affected by the conflict, including their need for mental health and psychosocial support. Meanwhile, Moscow’s use of urban warfare and attacks on schools and around nuclear plants endangers the health of today’s children and that of future generations. Norway supports the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ call for concrete steps to ensure the protection of civilians and humanitarian access and stresses that evacuations must be safe, voluntary and to destinations of people’s own choosing, she said.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed his concern over the rapidly changing situation in Ukraine and deplored the increasing number of civilian casualties. He called for an intensification of diplomatic efforts to ensure an early end to the fighting and to prevent the emergence of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The Russian Federation and Ukraine should overcome their difficulties in the implementation of humanitarian corridors to ensure that they are safe. The humanitarian operations must abide by the principle of impartiality in order to prevent the politicization of humanitarian issues. Full attention should be paid to those displaced as well as the protection of civilians, especially women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. The safety of foreign nations must be ensured, as well as their guaranteed and unrestricted departure from Ukraine. The United Nations coordinating role in humanitarian assistance should be supported. What is required is calm and reason, rather than adding fuel to the fire, he underscored. It is essential to abide by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, to respect the sovereignty of countries and address the reasonable security concerns of the parties, he said, adding that it is imperative to stick to dialogue and find a resolution to the crisis through peaceful means.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, agreeing that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has reached catastrophic levels. “Considering these grim facts, we must, as an international community, try to urgently alleviate the humanitarian suffering of Ukrainians,” she said. She called on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including ensuring that civilians and civilian objects such as schools and hospitals are not the target of attacks. Humanitarian aid must reach those in need without precondition on any ceasefire agreements, and the safety of humanitarian personnel must be ensured. Stressing the need to stop hostilities to allow affected civilians to leave cities exposed to violence — including Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy — she voiced deep regret over the collapse of agreed humanitarian corridors, which can serve an important role despite being imperfect solutions. She also called on donors to contribute to the humanitarian flash appeal and the Ukraine Regional Refugee Response Plan, noting that her country will send $5 million along with emergency medical and relief aid.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said that 12 days of an all-out Russian invasion in Ukraine, including from the territory of Belarus, have brought it to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. More than 1.7 million people, mostly women and children, have already fled. The Russian Federation continues to cynically disregard the norms of international humanitarian law. Its troops are blocking the Ukrainian authorities’ numerous attempts to evacuate civilians through humanitarian corridors as well as international organizations’ access to provide humanitarian assistance to the most affected places. In violation of the previously reached agreements, Russian troops are opening fire on evacuees and evacuation vehicles and shelling the roads allocated for humanitarian corridors, disrupting evacuations from the besieged cities of the suburbs of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. The Russian armed forces continue bombing and missile attacks on Kyiv, Mariupol, Volnovakha, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and other cities, towns and villages, preventing the safe exit of humanitarian convoys carrying Ukrainian and foreign citizens, as well as the delivery of medications and food.
Noting that the hearings for Ukraine’s lawsuit against the Russian Federation have commenced at the International Court of Justice, he appealed to the Court to impose precautionary measures in order to stop the bloodshed. Moscow must stop violating the ceasefire arrangements aimed at ensuring rapid, safe and unhindered passage through humanitarian corridors. He decried attempts by the Russian Federation to force civilians in the besieged cities to flee to its territory and that of Belarus, taking into account the high probability of provocations such as taking those evacuated as hostages. “It looks especially cynical when European borders are widely open for refugees from Ukraine,” he said. During the course of the meeting today, there has been another appalling example of Moscow’s disregard for humanitarian corridors. Despite a route being agreed upon by the parties and with the ICRC, Moscow has already sent a letter showing routes to the Russian Federation and Belarus only. He reiterated his call for the previously agreed routes that would allow people to leave for Europe.
Ukraine has been one of the guarantors of global food security, he said, noting that the implications at the global level of the war unleashed on his country will be catastrophic. Some 55 per cent of sunflower oil exported worldwide comes from Ukraine, while 60 per cent of Ukrainian agricultural products are exported through seaports. The closure of ports and the sea by the Russian army threatens the global supply chain, he said, stressing that defending Ukraine from the Russian aggression also protects the world from hunger. More than 211 Ukrainian schools have been damaged or destroyed by the Russian military forces since the beginning of the invasion. “The Russian occupiers are killing Ukrainian children,” he said, and doing so both “consciously and cynically”. At least 38 children have been already killed since the full-scale armed aggression began.
People in Ukraine require concrete actions to save their lives, their health and their property, he said. It is evident that the fragility of the situation reaches beyond Ukraine, into Europe and across the world. “We expect the Council to be decisive in responding to the worst humanitarian crisis we have ever seen since the end of the Second World War in Europe,” he said. After the last Council session, a colleague said that it was like group therapy, with everyone trying to bring one member to sanity. Listening to this member, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene should be called. It is very difficult to listen to the persistent “lies and delusion and delirium” coming from that country. He went on to refer to a Tweet quoting Sergey Lavrov saying that “the goal of Russia’s special military operation is to stop any war that could take place on Ukrainian territory or that could start from there.” This was tweeted by the Russian Embassy in London and retweeted by the Russian Foreign Ministry. In London you can dial 111 for mental health services, he said.
Mr. NEBENZIA, taking the floor a second time, said the Ukrainian representative has interpreted the letter “Z”, but “we have our own opinion on who the animals are”, pointing to those terrorizing the people of Luhansk and other areas. In fact, everything is the contrary of what his counterpart from Ukraine had said, he stated, noting that the Ukrainians will not agree to a ceasefire, with battalions holding civilians hostage. Indeed, a post on [the social media platform] Telegram about a related issue showed that national Azov battalions were bombarding civilians. Pointing to a report on a coordination committee for humanitarian affairs in Ukraine, he said his delegation would broadcast its contents among Security Council members. Humanitarian corridors from Mariupol and other cities will be open, he said, adding: “Let us see what answer we get from the Ukrainians.” Emphasizing that there are no demands about citizens being sent to the Russian Federation, he said, ultimately, it would be the choice of people on where they wanted to be evacuated to. He also wondered how his Ukrainian counterpart is so familiar with mental health services in the Russian Federation.