Pointing to Dangerous Developments in Ukraine, Secretary-General Urges Cooperation with International Criminal Court, as Security Council Tackles Accountability
Pointing to dangerous and disturbing developments that portend more destruction in Ukraine, the Secretary-General of the United Nations called for full cooperation with the International Criminal Court in its investigation into alleged atrocities committed in that country, as high-level representatives of the Security Council and regional countries met to discuss accountability for the ongoing war.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated that the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine shows no sign of letting up, adding: “The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a subject of debate.” Reports presented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) constitute “a catalogue of cruelty” and the latest accounts of burial sites in Izyum are “extremely disturbing”, he told the Council. Ending impunity for international crimes is fundamental, and in this, the International Criminal Court plays an important role, he stressed. With the Court’s Prosecutor opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, he called for full cooperation with the Court.
“The most vulnerable are suffering most,” he went on to say. The situation will only get worse as winter approaches and energy supplies dwindle. On a global level, the conflict has driven millions into extreme poverty and hunger and reversed years of development progress. To that end, the United Nations has provided aid to nearly 13 million people in need. “There is only one way to end the suffering in Ukraine,” he underscored, “and that is by ending the war.” Affirming he would spare no effort for peace in line with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, he appealed to all Member States — especially those present — to redouble their efforts to prevent further escalation, end the war and ensure lasting peace.
Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court emphasized: “We must show that those who pick up a gun or load a missile do not benefit from impunity.” Rather, the rule of law can serve as an anchor for peace and security in Ukraine and in other places. Noting that 43 States parties referred the situation in that country to the Court between 25 February and 2 March, he said that this demonstrates not only the level of global concern, but also reflects the common understanding that the law has an important role to play. The process of collecting information and evidence and scrutinizing it based on international standards is essential to “piercing the fog of war”, exposing disinformation and getting to the truth, he said.
Detailing his Office’s efforts towards this end, he said that — based on its work to date — there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction have been committed in Ukraine. “Justice is not political,” he stated. Rather, it is a vindication of the fundamental rights of all members of humanity and a demonstration that the promises made through the Rome Statute have meaning. As a starting point for building peace and security, there must be a unity of purpose in upholding these fundamental rights, he added, pledging to work with all States and the United Nations to deliver justice in Ukraine.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members condemned the Russian Federation’s blatant violations of the United Nations Charter and international law, insisting that it be held accountable for atrocities committed in Bucha, Izyum and elsewhere. They also expressed concern over that country’s recent military mobilization and threatened use of nuclear weapons, while others urged that the diplomacy that made the Black Sea Initiative possible be harnessed to achieve peace.
However, Sergey V. Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pointed out that Kyiv’s many crimes remain unpunished, stressing that today’s discussion is an attempt to impose a narrative of Russian origin for the tragedy in Ukraine. The United States and its allies — with the participation of human rights institutions — are covering up these outrages based on the policy that “Zelenskyy might be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”. Noting that the International Criminal Court has not reacted to Kyiv’s crimes, he said that the Russian Federation has no confidence in the work of this body, and that “all of this shows that the decision to conduct the special military operation was inevitable”.
Countering that, James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development of the United Kingdom, said he had just “listened to a further instalment in Russia’s catalogue of lies”. Citing the mounting evidence of atrocities against civilians in Ukraine, he stressed that Moscow has tried to lay the blame on those who have rightly imposed sanctions on President Vladimir V. Putin’s regime. Recalling the Russian Federation’s February assurances to the Council that it would not invade its neighbour, he said that this is a war of conquest and President Putin’s desire to send even more young men and women into battle makes peace less likely.
Michael Moussa Adamo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon stressed that the Council’s reaction to the war in Ukraine cannot be a confrontation of insults, emphasizing his country’s opposition to outrageous rhetoric that compromises prospects for peace. Underscoring that war is not a state of lawlessness, he urged that the outpouring of solidarity — rightly reserved for the war in Ukraine — must also be offered to all victims of armed conflict and the fate of many Africans must not be forgotten. Because of their skin colour, many were denied the assistance they needed. “When many hearts are torn for the victims of the war in Ukraine, ours beat in time with theirs,” he said, stressing that humanity must also denounce discrimination so that double standards are no longer the rule.
Reem al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, noted that the world, in all its diversity, is concerned with the consequences of the war in Ukraine for the international system and on food and energy security. Urging dialogue, de-escalation and calm, she said that her country’s approach is drawn from its experience in the Middle East, where people have been battered by a relentless insistence on zero-sum hegemony and the pursuit of narrow self-interest. “This has left, and will only leave, destruction,” she reported.
Ukrainians want peace, stressed Dmytro Kuleba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. However, the Russian Federation seeks only military solutions and uses its diplomats in the Council to whitewash its crimes. While that country may not care for the principles in the Charter, there are 192 other Member States that do. Detailing how veto power gives leaders the idea that they can act with impunity, he warned that, if the international community does not hold them accountable for their actions, every evil force in the world will follow their lead.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, also speaking for Estonia and Latvia declared: “If international organizations stand up for justice half as strong as Ukraine stands up for universal values”, then peace and justice will prevail. The international community must meet President Putin’s desperate sabre-rattling with calm and resolve. However, condemnation alone will not end these crimes. He therefore called on the Council to fear not action — but, rather, doubt and indifference — and reminded Member States that it is not only Moscow that must be held accountable. Belarus will be on the charge sheet, too.
However, Vladimir Makei, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, took umbrage with that, recalling that his Government often spoke out about the dangers in the region. “Unfortunately, we were not heard.” The tragic result of this arrogant position is seen today in Ukraine, as no one took seriously Belarus’ warnings that the security of one State cannot be guaranteed by suppressing that of another. Belarus has worked extensively to end the conflict and has not sent a single soldier or piece of equipment to Ukraine, he stressed. Rather, Minsk is interested in creating the conditions necessary for peace. “Everything, sooner or later, ends at the negotiating table,” he added, urging for the former in this case.
Nonetheless, Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in its capacity as an observer, emphasized: “Morally and politically, Russia has already lost the war,” adding that the world will never recognize the announced sham referenda that only serve as prelude for illegal annexation. Underscoring that the core issue today is accountability, he said that this conflict is more than just a war in Europe — it is about deciding whether to protect weaker States from powerful ones; whether the global rule of law is more desirable than the law of the jungle; and whether sovereign States should yield their free choice to spheres of influence.
Also speaking today was the Prime Minister of Norway, along with Ministers and high-level officials representing France, Mexico, United States, China, Albania, Ireland, India, Ghana, Brazil, Kenya, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1:10 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, reported that the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine shows no sign of letting up; rather, dangerous, disturbing developments represent further steps away from peace and towards an endless cycle of horror and bloodshed. “The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a subject of debate,” he added. Expressing concern over reports of plans to organize so-called referenda in areas of Ukraine currently not under Government control, he underscored that any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.
He went on to say that an average of five children are killed or injured every day, that almost every child in Ukraine “has been scarred by the nightmare of war” and that some 14 million people — the majority of them women and children — have been forced to flee. This situation will only get worse as winter approaches and energy supplies dwindle. On a global level, the conflict has supercharged a triple crisis of food, energy and finance, driving millions more people into extreme poverty and hunger and reversing years of development progress. “The most vulnerable are suffering most,” he stressed.
For its part, he pointed out that the United Nations is working to “maximize every opportunity to alleviate suffering”, and together with its humanitarian partners on the ground, has provided aid to nearly 13 million people in need. It is critical humanitarian workers have safe, unhindered access to all those requiring assistance. Turning to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) — which has been documenting the unacceptable impact of this war on human rights — he said that the Office’s reports “are a catalogue of cruelty”. They document summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane, degrading treatment of civilians and prisoners of war.
“The latest accounts of burial sites in Izyum are extremely disturbing,” he said, calling for thorough investigation of all allegations to ensure accountability. Ending impunity for international crimes is fundamental, and in this, the International Criminal Court plays an important role. Noting that the Court’s Prosecutor has opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, he underlined the need for full cooperation with the Court. He also pointed out that the Fact-Finding Mission he established following the tragic incident in Olenivka is ready to deploy once all necessary assurances have been received, stressing that the Mission must have safe, unfettered access to all relevant places, people and evidence.
Spotlighting the concerning situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, he said that the presence of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the plant is an important deterrent and underscored that all attacks on nuclear facilities must cease. “The world cannot afford a nuclear catastrophe,” he said. He then welcomed the recent exchange of 250 prisoners of war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, expressing hope that the parties will build on this with further exchanges. He also welcomed the signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has resulted in a sharp drop in global food prices. These food shipments must continue and increase so that commodity markets further stabilize, and further, all States must immediately remove all obstacles to the export of Russian fertilizer.
“There is only one way to end the suffering in Ukraine,” he underscored, “and that is by ending the war”. Noting that he will continue to spare no effort for peace in line with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, he appealed to all Member States — especially those present — to redouble their efforts to prevent further escalation, end the war and ensure lasting peace.
KARIM KHAN, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said that, at this critical moment, the international community must jointly demonstrate that the law is also on the front lines in this conflict, protecting the fundamental rights of children, women and men. Spotlighting the responsibilities in conflict and underlining that accountability is absolutely essential, he stressed that the leaders of the world needed to renew the pledge made at Nuremberg to remove the statute on war crimes. “We must show that those who pick up a gun or load a missile do not benefit from impunity,” he emphasized, adding that rule of law can truly serve as an anchor for peace and security in Ukraine and in other places.
He went on to report that, between 25 February and 2 March, 43 State parties referred the situation in Ukraine to the Court. This signifies not only the level of global concern, but also reflects the common understanding that the law has an important role to play. Investigators were sent to the area to conduct forensic and painstaking work in order to separate truth from fiction. The largest‑ever field deployment took place in May this year. Through innovative partnerships with national authorities, private entities, international organizations and States, a new model is being built in which a coordinated, coherent approach to action is more effective, he noted.
The process of accountability, of collecting information and evidence, of subjecting it to analysis and scrutinizing it in line with international standards, is essential to “piercing the fog of war”, exposing disinformation and getting to the truth, he continued. That is sole role of the Prosecutor’s Office, and it has no other agenda besides what it is tasked with by the Rome Statute. In that regard, he detailed his visit to Ukraine and the first-hand evidence he saw of crimes, including bodies laid behind the Church of Saint Andrew in Bucha, the profound destruction in the streets of Borodyanka and the sound of bombs being dropped — a daily occurrence for Ukrainian citizens. Further, evidence and information collected by the Office detailed the targeting of civilian buildings, including hospitals, as well as the transfer of populations from Ukraine, including significant numbers of children. Based on the work to date, there are reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court have been committed in Ukraine.
“Justice is not political,” he stated. Rather, it is the vindication of the fundamental rights of all members of humanity and a demonstration that the promises made through the Charter of the United Nations and the Rome Statute have meaning. As a starting point for the process of building peace and security, there must be a unity of purpose in upholding these fundamental rights, including the right of those in fear of their lives to know the law is on their side; the right of the families of victims to find out what has happened to their loved ones; and the right of survivors to see justice done in accordance with the rule of law. He pledged his commitment to work with all States and the United Nations to deliver justice in Ukraine and to vindicate the rights of communities impacted by atrocities globally.
CATHERINE COLONNA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France and Council President for September, speaking in her national capacity, said that the aggression launched by the Russian Federation on a sovereign State constitutes a fundamental violation of the United Nations Charter. The peaceful resolution of disputes and the territorial integrity of States are principles to which all ascribe. However, in the situation in Ukraine, each was blatantly violated. War has been accompanied by atrocities and destruction of infrastructure. The Russian Federation must be held accountable for unspeakable crimes in Bucha, Izyum and elsewhere, she emphasized, affirming there is no peace without justice. Further, victims must receive recognition and reparation for their suffering, she said, adding that if everything is permissible in Ukraine, then it is permissible everywhere else. Justice is a political imperative to hold individuals accountable whether they ordered, committed or planned the acts involved.
She also noted that 43 States, including France, have referred the case to the International Criminal Court — the first time this has occurred. The Court will act in complementarity with Ukrainian justice and other national jurisdictions of States present in Council. France is working with many partners to collect evidence and reliable information, including sending two teams of investigators to Ukraine for three months to help Ukrainian authorities reconstitute the facts. In the wake of events revealed in Izyum, her Government is sending another team in light of the Russian Federation’s propaganda and disinformation on the issue. The Court has itself noted abusive conduct, with populations in conquered territories subjected to terror, she pointed out, adding that the mission, duty and work of the Security Council is to return meaning to things. Quoting Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn that all must condemn the very idea that men can exercise violence against other men, she underscored that facts investigated by the Court could constitute crimes against humanity. Those guilty will be prosecuted, and families must remain certain that crimes will not be unpunished. What is at stake is international security, and the principles that unite all States, she said.
Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway, said that it is the responsibility of the international community, and in particular of the 15 nations in the Security Council, to deliver solutions to global challenges. However, the United Nations Charter, which defines a rules‑based international order, is currently under attack. Citing President Putin’s speech last Tuesday, and noting that Norway was an elected member of the Council, a European State, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member and a neighbour to the Russian Federation, stressed that there was no military threat against the Russian Federation. “There is no legitimate reason whatsoever to underpin a massive mobilization of Russian troops,” he added, noting that this escalation will only lead to increased suffering for Ukrainians and Russians alike.
Urging the Russian Federation to abide by the order of the International Court of Justice and immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine, he emphasized that the Russian Federation’s destructive behaviour is also hurting multilateral cooperation. He praised the Secretary-General for facilitating the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Stressing that millions of Ukrainians have fled their country, with thousands finding refuge in Norway, he expressed hope for their safe return to a rebuilt Ukraine. Denouncing the attacks on civilian targets and the use of heavy explosive weapons, he underscored the unspeakable horrors revealed in Bucha, Izyum and other areas under occupation. Further, he condemned the forcible transfer of civilians to the Russian Federation and Russian Federation-occupied territory, the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, and potential referendums in the occupied regions of Ukraine.
Human rights violations must be investigated, and accountability ensured through national or international criminal justice mechanisms, both to ensure justice for the victims, and to deter future violations, he continued. To this end, he welcomed the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, established by the Human Rights Council and expressed support to the International Criminal Court. This war is a catastrophe for the world, but “it is also detrimental to Russia itself, our neighbour”, he added, underscoring that thousands of Russian soldiers have been sent to their deaths in an unnecessary and illegal war, and implying that the Russian people would have taken stands contrary to the conflict, if asked. “Preventing and ending acts of aggression is a direct responsibility of the Security Council,” he stressed, reiterating Norway’s determination to protect Ukraine’s right to self-defence and Norway’s right to support Ukraine.
MARCELO EBRARD CASAUBÓN, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, pointed out that, since the beginning of hostilities, his country has insisted on the need for a diplomatic solution and for responding to the humanitarian dimension of the crisis without subordinating it to political considerations. Humanitarian assistance continues to be an indispensable priority. Mexico has also supported mediation efforts, he noted, recalling that his country — together with Norway — drafted the presidential statement adopted by the Council on 6 May. While not enough, this has been the Council’s only public expression since the beginning of the conflict. Urging respect for international law, he stressed that accountability is a fundamental pillar of the multilateral system, the rule of law and sustainable peace. Therefore, those responsible for crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice without pretext or precondition, and in this, the work of the International Criminal Court is essential.
He went on to welcome the signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative — which demonstrates that, even during war, dialogue and diplomacy are possible — along with the steps already taken to ensure the access of fertilizer to global markets. Noting the United Nations’ purpose and the Security Council’s mandate to prevent human suffering from war, he said that this can only be achieved through dialogue, diplomacy and building effective political channels. “Indifference is unacceptable,” he stressed, as is the Council’s inability to fulfil its responsibility. The reasons for the Council’s dysfunction are well-known and correcting this will require structural reform. Urging the international community to work towards peace, he outlined a proposal by the President of Mexico to bolster the Secretary-General’s mediation efforts by creating a caucus for dialogue and peace in Ukraine that includes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis. “Resigning ourselves to war is simply to stand on the edge of the abyss,” he added.
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, Secretary of State of the United States, highlighted the recent unity of Member States on the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine. Big and small, North and South have spoken of the consequences of war and the need to end it. Even nations with close ties to Moscow have publicly expressed serious concerns. However, President Vladimir V. Putin has doubled down, not ending the war, but expanding it, calling up 300,000 additional troops. Rather than seeking a diplomatic solution, he has rendered it impossible, attempting to annex more territory through sham referenda. That he chose this week to do so shows his contempt for the United Nations, General Assembly and the international order. Defending Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity is about protecting the international order, and if the international community fails, it sends a message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore that order as well.
Observing that wherever the Russian Federation tide recedes “we discover the horror left in its wake”, he recalled his recent visit to Ukraine where he witnessed gaping holes left in residential buildings by Russian Federation shelling. Following the Russian Federation forces’ control of Izyum for six months, investigators discovered sites including one with 440 unmarked graves, with bodies showing signs of torture. He also cited President Putin’s statement that the President would not hesitate to use “all weapons systems available” — this despite the Russian Federation’s signing in January of the Council declaration that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Every member of the Council and every Member State of the United Nations must reject referenda, he stressed, adding that Putin’s invasion is also distracting the Council and the entire United Nations system from working on the climate crisis, famine and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Meanwhile, the Russian Federation blocked exports of grain and is lining Ukrainian wheat fields with landmines. No one chose this war — not Ukraine, United States nor other Member States, nor the Russian Federation mothers and fathers whose children are being sent to fight and die. Noting yesterday’s protests in Moscow and the chants of “Let our children live,” he stressed: “One man chose this war, one man can end it.”
WANG YI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, said that his country’s position on Ukraine has been consistent and clear. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States and the Charter should be respected. Each State’s reasonable security concerns should be taken seriously and efforts to resolve the issue should be supported. Noting his country was following the humanitarian situation in Ukraine closely, he reported that it has given humanitarian support to Ukraine, as well as 15,000 tons of food assistance to developing countries to help tackle the food crisis. He also urged that dialogue and negotiations be engaged without preconditions and without presuming the outcome.
De-escalation must be worked towards together in a constraint and constructive manner, he continued, adding his support for the positive role of IAEA, as there is “no room for trial and error” when it comes to the safety of nuclear facilities. There must also be efforts to ease the humanitarian situation to minimize suffering and casualties. In addition, spillover effects must be contained in order to keep the global energy market stable and facilitate grain exports from the Russian Federation and Ukraine. To that end, he highlighted the International World Food Security Cooperation Initiative. Moreover, he spoke out against arbitrary unilateral sanctions and cautioned against letting developing countries pay the price. The Council should uphold the principle of impartiality, prioritize mediation and work towards sustainable peace. The global community should work together to uphold the United Nations international system, in order to “prevent any form of hot war or the so-called new cold war”.
OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said that the illegal war waged against Ukraine by the Russian Federation — a permanent member of the Security Council — is a blatant violation of the Charter, both in Albania’s judgment and in that of the entire world. “International law is the same and mandatory for all,” she stressed, while pointing out that the Russian Federation has chosen to openly, continuously ignore it. Member States have worked to strengthen and expand the reach of international law and multilateral cooperation — agreeing that no one can stand above the law — in the hopes that the world would never go back to the distant past. However, she emphasized that the Russian Federation’s attempts to conquer and annex parts of Ukrainian territory “are actions reminiscent of the dark days of fascism and Stalinism”. Reports and fact-finding missions from the ground have revealed the basic truth about the Russian Federation’s actions, which constitute criminal brutality against the civilian population.
She went on to say that innocent men, women and children in Ukraine — and tens of thousands of Russian soldiers — have paid with their lives for Russian President Putin’s “war of choice”. Condemning the Russian Federation’s new military mobilization, organization of sham referenda and threatened use of weapons of mass destruction, she called on that country to completely, unconditionally withdraw its troops and materiel from the entire territory of Ukraine. She also urged the international community to help Ukraine defend itself and to hold the Russian Federation accountable for what it is doing in Ukraine, which will both provide justice and prevent future atrocities. “We all tried to prevent this conflict — we could not,” she noted, adding: “but we must not fail to hold Russia accountable.”
Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence of Ireland, said that last week he witnessed the loading of a cargo ship with 46,000 tons of grain departing from Odesa for Bangladesh. The export of grain from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea Grain Initiative had reached 3 million tons, with plans by Ukraine and United Nations staff to export 4 million tons of grain a month. The Initiative was reached through dialogue and the systems and structures and norms and institutions painstakingly built over decades, he emphasized. In January leaders of the five nuclear‑weapon States, including the Russian Federation, committed to avoid military confrontations. “Yet, just six weeks later, Russia launched an unwarranted and illegal further invasion of Ukraine and yesterday, President Putin again issued threats to use nuclear weapons,” he said. Further, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is an attempt to change internationally recognized borders by the use of force and no sham referendum can change that basic fact. Yesterday, Ireland filed a declaration of intervention at the International Court of Justice and at the European Court of Human Rights in Ukraine’s case against the Russian Federation.
“No one country, no matter how big or powerful, should have the ability to veto the application of international law, for its own aims,” he continued. Bucha, the mass graves in Izyum and other areas, the attacks on civilians and infrastructures, the impact of explosive weapons are not fabrications. This is why Ireland is seeking the wide endorsement by States of the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, at a high-level adoption conference in Dublin in November, he said, urging the Russian Federation to cease all actions against the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and return control to Ukraine. Promoting accountability through international bodies and structures is a must: “This is not just about Ukraine. This is about the entirety of the UN membership,” he emphasized, adding that it is not acceptable for the world to be governed by force and not through dialogue. The Security Council must not accept this.
SUBRAHMANYAM JAISHANKAR, Minister for External Affairs of India, said the Ukraine conflict is a matter of profound concern for the whole world, in particularly. Threats of future nuclear weapon use are particularly frightening, he added. In a globalized world, the consequences conflict, like food, fertilizer and fuel shortages, are felt everywhere — especially in the global South, he pointed out, adding he strongly advocated for an immediate stop to the hostilities and a return to dialogue and diplomacy. As Prime Minister Narenda Modi has said: “This cannot be an era of war,” he noted. Emphasizing that there can be no justification for violation of human rights or of international law, he called for objective and independent investigations into the situation in Ukraine.
The Security Council must send an unambiguous and unequivocal message on this count, he continued. Politics should never ever provide cover to evade accountability or facilitate impunity. He voiced regret regarding the role the Council has played recently in facilitating impunity and providing cover to evade accountability for some of the world’s most dreaded terrorists. The 15-nation organ must send a message that is unambiguous and unequivocally against impunity in the larger pursuit of securing peace and justice. He also called the Council the “most powerful contemporary symbol of diplomacy”. It must now continue to live up to its purpose. International law, the Charter and the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty must be upheld without exception.
MICHAEL MOUSSA ADAMO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, said the war in Ukraine challenges the international community on multiple levels, from victims who number in the thousands, the ruins of the devastation, as well as propaganda, disinformation and the nuclear threat. It further sends the shock wave of food insecurity on a global scale. The peoples of the world turn to this Council for an answer. Therefore, the reaction cannot be a confrontation of insults. Gabon, he stressed, stands against hate speech and outrageous rhetoric which compromises the prospects for peace. He noted the International Criminal Court’s investigations into the crimes committed by all parties in the war in Ukraine with a view to collecting evidence and responsibility concerning allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Justice must be pursued on allegations of mass killings, disappearances, forced displacements or deportations, in complete impartiality and in complete independence, he continued. His Government’s message is clear: war is not a state of lawlessness. Parties to conflicts must respect international conventions protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure. However, the outpouring of compassion, assistance and solidarity which is rightly reserved for the war in Ukraine must be offered to all victims of armed conflict. The international community must not forget the fate of many Africans, including young students, for whom the path of exile has all too often been sown with shame and humiliation. Because of their skin colour, many were denied the assistance they needed as much as those with whom they shared the same suffering, fear and distress. “When many hearts are torn for the victims of the war in Ukraine, ours beat in time with theirs,” he stated. However, when discrimination is added to the horror of war, humanity must also rise together to denounce it so that double standards are no longer the rule.
SERGEY V. LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that discussing impunity in today’s meeting is timely, because that term reflects what has been going on in Ukraine since 2014. It is at that time when national radical forces, open Russophobia and neo-Nazis came to power following an armed coup directly supported by Western countries. The Maidan crimes remain unpunished — as do those who perpetrated the 2014 tragedy in Odessa — and yet, today, there are attempts to impose a narrative of Russian origin for the tragedy in Ukraine. For many years now, there has been a mobilization of Ukraine’s adult population — including women — and despite declaring its commitment to the Minsk agreements, the authorities in Kyiv have blockaded the Donbas region and denied its people access to pensions, subsidies, education and basic civil rights. The Kyiv regime owes its impunity to its Western sponsors — namely, France, Germany and the United States — who ignored Kyiv’s threats to resolve the situation in Donbas by force. Further, Kyiv has excluded Russian language and literature from school curricula, and ethnic Russians are being subjected to intolerance. Ukraine has “become a completely totalitarian, Nazi-like State, where the norms of international humanitarian law are trampled upon”, he said, adding that — under the guise of combating Russian aggression — Ukraine persecutes dissidents and journalists.
Stressing that Western States’ position of “pumping Ukraine with weapons” is designed to extend the war to weaken the Russian Federation, he said that this makes the West party to the conflict. Russian armed forces and the militias of Luhansk and Donetsk are being opposed by the military machine of the collective West and NATO is providing intelligence to Ukraine’s armed forces. Pointing out that Ukraine is shelling peaceful civilians in Donbas with Western weapons, he said that these outrages remain unpunished because the United States and their allies, with the participation of human rights institutes, are covering up Kyiv’s crimes based on the policy “Zelenskyy might be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”. There are many witnesses of Kyiv’s criminal activities; Russian law‑enforcement bodies — in cooperation with their colleagues from Donetsk and Luhansk — are investigating these cases thoroughly. All perpetrators — regardless of nationality — will be held accountable. In this vein, he urged the Secretary-General to demand that the Ukrainian authorities publish information about the individuals whose bodies were shown in Bucha, which would be “useful to get to the bottom of this episode”. Noting that the International Criminal Court has not reacted to the 2014 coup d’état, the tragedy in Odessa or shelling in Donetsk, he said that the Russian Federation has no confidence in the work of this body, and that “all of this shows that the decision to conduct the special military operation was inevitable”.
JAMES CLEVERLY, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development of the United Kingdom, noted that, every day, the devastating consequences of the Russian Federation’s invasion become clearer, with United Nations agencies confirming more than 14,000 civilian casualties so far, more than 17 million Ukrainians in humanitarian need, 7 million displaced inside Ukraine and more than 7 million refugees in Europe. Citing the mounting evidence of atrocities against civilians, including horrific acts of sexual violence, torture and forced deportation to the Russian Federation, he stressed that Moscow has tried to lay the blame on those who have rightly imposed sanctions on President Putin’s regime. “Let me be very clear,” he stressed, “we are not sanctioning food. It is Russia’s actions that are preventing food and fertilizer getting to developing countries.” Recalling that, in February, the Russian Federation’s representative assured the Council that the country had no intention of invading its neighbour — which turned out to be a lie — he stated he had just “listened to a further instalment in Russia’s catalogue of lies. Mr. Lavrov, we saw you then, and we see you now.”
Denouncing sham referenda on sovereign Ukrainian territory, he accused the Russian Federation delegate of planning to invent the outcome and annex territory. He cited the testimony of Ukrainians on the reality of the war, including Olena Yuzvak, her husband Oleh and their 22-year-old son Dmytro, who were abducted by Russian Federation forces from their home in Hostomel in March. The soldiers shot Oleh twice in the legs, before they were all blindfolded and bundled into an armoured personnel carrier, abducting the son. “I just want my boy back,” he quoted her. Adding that this is a war of annexation and a war of conquest, he said that President Putin now wants to send even more young men and women, making peace less likely. If Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory are not respected, no country is secure, he stressed, adding that Ukraine’s fight for freedom is the world’s fight for freedom.
SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, said the world has been united since the Council’s referral over Darfur in resolution 1593 (2005) that impunity anywhere poses serious threats to peace and security and the international legal order. No State, however powerful, should get a pass. That is why the Council must act urgently and in unity to end its paralysis and the war in Ukraine. The damage the situation has done to the Charter may be incalculable. She also expressed concern over horrifying and painful humanitarian threats accompanying the war — with some 14 million people, mostly women and children displaced and the reports of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Similarly, the risk of a nuclear episode, whether by accident or deliberate action, involving the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, calls for support for efforts by IAEA to avert a catastrophe. Citing atrocities and reports of war crimes, she stressed that the suffering in Ukraine is abhorrent and should not be dismissed as the mere consequence of war. To do so would be sanctioning impunity.
Ghana does not and will not recognize any territory that is unilaterally and forcefully acquired or dismembered from a sovereign entity, she continued, calling on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally cease its operations and withdraw its troops from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. The need for a genuine diplomatic pathway is urgent, as “the barrel of the gun does not provide it”. It only leads to needless loss of lives and destruction on both sides. While acknowledging some positive impact from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she called for the continued and unrestricted shipment of grain to countries facing food insecurity and urged all stakeholders to reach agreement on export of Russian Federation fertilizer and crop products. In a week when the eyes of the world are on the Council, and millions around the world look to the United Nations for leadership and hope, a strong message must be sent that impunity will not be tolerated. Instead, “we will act, through concerted diplomacy, to end the war in Ukraine”, she said.
CARLOS ALBERTO FRANCO FRANÇA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, affirmed that the Council was the appropriate forum to seek a solution towards lasting peace. Detailing the effects of seven months of conflict in Ukraine and the tens of thousands of people, many of them innocent civilians, who had lost their lives, he voiced concern about the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons whose return to their homes is uncertain, and with winter approaching, face a possible humanitarian crisis. Highlighting the reports on serious human rights violations, particularly against vulnerable groups, women and children, he called for those responsible to be held accountable.
It was urgent to engage the parties in dialogue in order to secure an immediate ceasefire and open negotiations for a peace agreement, he continued. The continuation of the hostilities was also jeopardizing the food and energy security of millions of families in other regions, especially in developing countries. The risks of escalation arising from the current dynamics of the conflict were simply too great, he emphasized, adding that only diplomacy will bring the prospect of viable solutions to conflicts between States. “It is not the time to accentuate divisions or isolate parties,” he underscored. Rather, the Council’s priority must be to create conditions for negotiations towards a peaceful solution.
REEM AL HASHIMY, Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, said the outbreak of the war in Ukraine clearly generated different reactions across the international community. For some, it warned of a paralysed multilateral system; for others, concern over the rise of bygone existential threats; and those for whom the war presaged a return of historical polarization with all its portents for the world. Those disparities existed alongside a unified expression of fidelity to international law and a need to respect it. She underscored that her delegation will not deviate from its unequivocal call for all parties to the war to abide by international law — including international humanitarian law — to respect its limits. In this context, the reports of daily violations are a cause for grave concern, and she welcomed all ongoing efforts, including by United Nations agencies, to respond to the humanitarian situation while taking into account the unique impacts of the war on women and girls.
While the immediate imperative is a cessation of hostilities, peace remains the ultimate goal — and its sustainability requires comprehensive reconciliation predicated on accountability and justice for the war’s victims, she continued. Urging dialogue, de-escalation and calm, she recalled that repeated deviations from the law, without consequence, normalize the practice and “create a race to the bottom”. She noted the world, in all its diversity, is concerned with the consequences of the war on the international system, food and energy security, and the risks of an escalating confrontation. Her country’s approach is the conclusion drawn from its experience in the Middle East, where people have been battered by a relentless insistence on zero-sum hegemony and the pursuit of narrow self-interest. “This has left, and will only leave, destruction,” she stressed.
GEORGE ORINA, Director General at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, said that the obligation to respect the territorial integrity of all Member States will be further undermined if any action is taken to change the legal character of areas in eastern Ukraine. He expressed concern regarding the threats of weapons of mass destruction, as well as breaches of fundamental international law and human rights obligations. He urged all national authorities to subject their soldiers to severe disciplinary action for any abuses, especially on civilians and captured combatants and pursue prosecution. All parties must agree to investigate allegations of human rights violations, he added, calling for accountability. To this end, Kenya called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, to be replaced by a mediated agreement securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and taking into consideration the security concerns of all parties.
Regarding the need for serious reforms of the Security Council, he cited President William Samoei Ruto’s speech in the General Assembly on 21 September, calling for the democratization of the Council, if its damaged legitimacy is not to be destroyed. Further, it was time that the Council heeded the voice of Africa through reform of its membership”. He therefore welcomed United States President Joseph R. Biden’s announcement, calling for an expansion of the body. “The workers of Africa need their livelihoods protected from the climate crisis. They need the many serious conflicts on the Security Council agenda solved and not relegated to the margins because of Ukraine,” he stressed, underscoring that only permanent membership by African States will safeguard such interests in the Council. The entire permanent membership must commit to embracing reforms, for it is the only way the people of the world will consider this institution legitimate enough to earn their regard and cooperation, he said, reiterating Kenya’s respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity.
DMYTRO KULEBA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, calling the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine the most pressing threat to international peace and security in this century, said that, at this moment, bodies of innocent victims, including body parts of children, were being exhumed from at least 445 graves in Izyum. Recalling the moment when the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine in February, he said that, within 24 hours, tens of thousands of Ukrainians returned from abroad to defend their country, whereas, in that same 24 hours, thousands of Russians left their country hastily. The Russian Federation will bear full responsibility for its war of aggression and consequent war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Ukrainian investigators, in cooperation with the International Criminal Court and other supporting States, are collecting evidence of the Russian Federation’s crimes to ensure that justice will be served. This was not only for Ukraine, but also for the rest of the world, because “there will be no peace without justice”, he stressed. As such, he called for a special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine for President Putin and his entourage to be tried. The Ukrainians want peace, but the Russian Federation is only seeking military solutions and is using its diplomats here in the Council to lie and cover the crimes up.
Calling into question how the Russian Federation obtained its permanent membership to the Council, he detailed how veto power gives leaders the idea that they can act with impunity. If the international community does not keep them accountable for their actions, every evil force in the world will follow their lead, he warned. The Russian Federation does not care for the principles in the Charter, but there are 192 other United Nations Member States that do. Further, that country has led the world into a multifaceted crisis and demonstrated that they are ready to leave millions of people around the world food insecure simply to achieve its imperialistic goals. “We must not allow Russia to continue playing hunger games with the world,” he emphasized, urging the international community to use all diplomatic and public pressure available to demand the Black Sea corridor to remain open and not give in to “energy blackmail”. However, even in these dire times, Ukraine sent humanitarian aid in the form of grain to Somalia and Ethiopia. Calling on all countries to stand with Ukraine — developed and developing nations alike — he emphasized: “We are all in the same boat”, protecting the Charter and achieving peace. He then introduced the Kyiv Security Compact designed to protect Ukraine until it is part of NATO and to be used as universal mechanism by other States to improve their regional and international security and protect their territorial integrity.
JAN LIPAVSKÝ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said his country hosts the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita: over 400,000. This was a result of the Russian Federation’s colonial, unprovoked and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine which sent a massive wave of the most vulnerable population abroad. That aggression is perhaps the most dangerous challenge to global peace in recent decades, and while today it is about Ukraine, tomorrow, it may be another country. In August 1968, his country, then Czechoslovakia, was invaded by Moscow-led troops. A crackdown on the so-called Prague Spring, it turned his country into an occupied colony. “Russia cannot trick the international community and steal again another State’s territory,” he emphasized. Ukraine has refused this slavery and is bravely fighting for a multilateral world where rules protect peace.
Expressing horror at the atrocities committed by Russian Federation troops in Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin, Izyum and elsewhere, he further cited reports of so‑called “filtration camps” — with hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens deported to the Russian Federation, including children. There are also testimonies of sexual and gender-based crimes, used as a method of warfare. All must be investigated and perpetrators must be held accountable, he stressed, applauding the Secretary-General for launching the Fact-Finding Mission on events in Olenivka. More than 40 States, including his, have referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court, which opened its investigation in March. Calling for a special international tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression committed by the Russian Federation, he noted Czech law enforcement agencies have launched criminal investigations of certain crimes, based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. The Council bears a global responsibility for peace and respect for international law, he added.
ANNALENA BAERBOCK, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, citing Bucha, Mariupol and Izyum, said “when we talk about the horrors unfolding in Ukraine, we are not talking about abstract reports”, but children, women and men. Underscoring that the war is one the Russian Federation will not win, she called on Moscow to end it — to stop the suffering in Ukraine, stop sending more of its citizens to their deaths and stop the sham referendums. For many, this may seem like a regional, faraway war. However, if a permanent member of the Council is permitted to launch a war of aggression against its neighbour, what does this mean for the United Nations, she asked. Citing the Charter, she noted that all Members shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State. “We must not stand idly by, and we will not stand idly by,” she said.
The United Nations and Türkiye partners brokered the grain deal, and the World Food Programme (WFP), also supported by Germany, is shipping grain to Yemen and to the Horn of Africa, she continued. IAEA is working to prevent a catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia power plant. In contrast to the Russian Federation, “we stand up for our partners”, she pointed out, adding that the international community must not let Moscow impose its destructive agenda. The United Nations has a shared responsibility to live up to the vision laid down in the Charter: that States resolve conflicts peacefully, all human beings enjoy their rights and freedoms, and all stand up for one other in solidarity.
ZBIGNIEW RAU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, pointed out that, despite being a permanent member of the Security Council — which is tasked with international peace and security — the Russian Federation breached the most fundamental principle and attacked a fellow Member State, disregarding international humanitarian law and human rights law. Unable to break Ukraine’s military resistance, that country committed horrific atrocities against civilians as a basic tactic of its war, he said, recalling evidence of torture found in the mass graves in newly liberated Izyum. He emphasized his support for the investigations being done by Ukrainian prosecutors and other States and detailed his country’s cooperation with the International Criminal Court. He also noted that Poland was among the participating countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that twice invoked the Moscow Mechanism.
Further, Poland has opened a domestic criminal investigation into the Russian Federation’s war of aggression, as this is a crime under Polish law, he continued. His country has also helped to establish a joint investigation team under the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation framework. He also urged that initiatives put forward by Kyiv be considered, including a special tribunal for crimes of aggression committed against Ukraine and an international mechanism for compensation for damage caused by the Russian Federation. The people of Ukraine stood up for their country and their independence with bravery and determination. “Now, it is our turn to stand up for the principles that protect us all,” he said, adding that the Russian Federation must be held accountable for the invasion and all the crimes committed in the course of the aggression.
GABRIELIUS LANDSBERGIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, also speaking for Estonia and Latvia, said that, just a year ago, the Russian Federation was sowing lies and distrust. Now it is sowing chaos and death, becoming a synonym of insane brutality, State-run terrorism and genocide. By announcing mobilization, President Putin has waged the war against his own people — as fear, blackmail and manipulation are the very few weapons he has left. Calling on the international community to meet that leader’s desperate sabre‑rattling with calm and resolve, he stressed that condemnation alone will not end these crimes. It is imperative that international organizations use all of their resources to bring Putin to justice, with the establishment of a special tribunal. “If international organizations stand up for justice half as strong as Ukraine stands up for universal values, peace will prevail, justice will prevail,” he stated.
Citing far-reaching consequences beyond Europe, he stressed that the worldwide shortage of food is due to the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and the blockade of it ports, not because of the internationally imposed sanctions. With the Moscow regime pressing the button of nuclear threats, knowing that the world is aware that consequences of the disaster in Zaporizhzhia may potentially be worse than Chernobyl or Fukushima, he urged the international community to demand from the unconditional withdrawal of its military from the area. “When we say Ukraine, we mean true courage and unbeatable resilience,” he stated, underscoring that the country is fighting for every United Nations principle. Calling on the Council to fear not action, but doubt and indifference, he recalled that there remains a chance to preserve peace and security by defending the rules-based international order — reminding Member States that it is not only Moscow that shall be held accountable, as Belarus will be on the charge sheet, too.
VLADIMIR MAKEI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that the events on Ukraine’s territory are a tragedy, noting that his country knows first‑hand the cost of war. Such events did not come about suddenly, however. Rather, they resulted from Western countries systematically ignoring the security risks in the region and failing to account for the concerns of the countries involved for many years. Instead, massive sanctions pressure by the West has led to devastating consequences for the region, also significantly reducing Belarus’ margin to manoeuvre. His Government often spoke out about the dangers in the region, he said, but “unfortunately, we were not heard”. The tragic result of this arrogant position is seen today in Ukraine, as no one took seriously Belarus’ warnings that the security of one State cannot be guaranteed by supressing that of another. For its part, Belarus has been working to end the conflict and strengthen regional security, he said, pointing out that his country served as the platform for the Minsk agreements, held some 120 meetings between 2014 and 2019 to resolve the situation, and in 2014, even proposed concrete proposals to Poland following a question from that country’s then-Prime Minister about what could be done to ease tensions in Europe.
Belarus held three rounds of peace negotiations this year, he continued, adding that it suggested from the beginning that Ukraine establish direct contact with the Russian Federation. However, Ukrainian officials declared Belarus a “hostile country” in December2021 — before the special military operation — despite the two countries being neighbours with good trade relations. Now, the fighting unfortunately continues, noting the “uncontrolled Western efforts to pump Ukraine with weapons”; promotion of the activities of Ukrainian ultranationalist formations; NATO concentrating its troops at the border of neighbouring countries; and statements labelling Belarus as an aggressor and party to the conflict. Belarus is not in favour of war, although it does have obligations to its allies. Further, Belarus has not sent a single soldier or piece of equipment to Ukraine, and all accusations made against it by the West are unfounded, he stressed. Rather, Minsk is interested in facilitating negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine to create the necessary conditions for peace. “Everything, sooner or later, ends at the negotiating table,” he added, urging for the former in this case.
JOSEP BORRELL FONTELLES, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in its capacity as an observer, stated that the illegal, senseless and brutal war in Ukraine is a frontal attack on the Charter and the international rules-based order. Not only has the International Criminal Court ruled that the Russian Federation must halt, but large majorities of the General Assembly have adopted resolutions against the aggression, as well. “Morally and politically, Russia has already lost the war,” he said, adding that the world will never recognize the announced sham referenda that only prelude illegal annexation. While calling upon global leaders to send a clear and united signal that the use of weapons of mass destruction is always unacceptable, he pointed out that President Putin is continuing along a dangerous path of escalation. What is at stake is more than just the war in Europe; it is the protection of weaker States from powerful ones; global rule of law versus law of the jungle; and the free choice of sovereign States versus spheres of influence.
More so, the Russian Federation is dragging the world into an economic recession and global food crisis, he continued. The European Union does what it can to counter this fallout and is supporting global food security with more than €7.7 billion until 2024. The European Union also has supported the Black Sea Grain Initiative, using their Solidarity Lanes to transport grains for those that need it most, which has, in turn, resulted in lowering global food prices. However, the core issue today is accountability, he noted. The victims of the Russian Federation’s aggression and unspeakable crimes deserve justice and reparation. The bloc is supporting the Court financially and technically — but the entire effort is the responsibility of the international community and the Council, as well. “We owe this not only to the victims — but also to the next generation, the future of Ukraine,” he said.