So-Called Referenda during Armed Conflict in Ukraine ‘Illegal’, Not Expression of Popular Will, United Nations Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council
Delegates Condemn ‘Sham’ Annexation Polls by Russian Federation in Occupied Ukraine Territories, Call for Resumption of Peace Talks
The so-called “referenda” conducted by de facto authorities in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine have been held during active armed conflict in the country and cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will, the United Nations senior political and peacebuilding official told the Security Council today, as members condemned the Russian Federation’s “sham referenda”, while others called for a return to peace talks.
“Unilateral actions aimed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the attempted acquisition by force by one State of another State’s territory, while claiming to represent the will of the people, cannot be regarded as legal under international law,” Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs emphasized. She added that the exercises, which began on 23 September, have been held during active armed conflict, in areas under Russian control and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework.
“The United Nations remains fully committed to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she underscored. As the occupying Power, the Russian Federation is obliged under international humanitarian law to respect the laws of Ukraine in the administration of occupied territories. She warned that recent developments, including heavy fighting, escalating military operations, human rights violations and attacks in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, point to more death and destruction. Member States must do all they can to end the war and ensure lasting peace.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressed the Council via a pre-recorded video statement, highlighting that Moscow is conducting a sham referenda on the occupied territory of Ukraine. People are being forced to fill out papers while threatened with guns and results have been prepared well in advanced. He condemned the annexation of the captured territories as an attempt to steal the territory of another State and erase the norms of international law. “There is only one way to stop it all,” he said, calling for complete isolation of the Russian Federation, its exclusion from all international organizations and further sanctions against Moscow.
In the ensuing debate, delegates questioned the legitimacy of the referenda, with Brazil’s representative stressing that “it is unreasonable to assume that populations in areas in conflict can freely express their will”. Referenda on questions of sovereignty should be conducted transparently, without restrictions on freedom of expression and allowing for monitoring by independent observers. The referenda in Ukraine are “yet another step that leads to an escalation of the conflict,” he warned.
Likewise, the speaker for Albania stressed that, “when you vote at gunpoint, the process is more expedited”, describing the forced conditions in which the referenda are taking place. The holding of such referenda violates the Constitution of Ukraine, Ukraine’s martial law, and runs contrary to the United Nations Charter, international law and the principles the Russian Federation should uphold as a permanent Security Council member. He urged support for a joint resolution his country is co-sponsoring with the United States and called on Member States to support Ukraine in defending itself and getting its territory back.
The representative of the United States said that her country will never recognize any seized or annexed territory of Ukraine as anything other than a part of it. It will, thus, continue to provide “historic amounts of support for Ukraine”. She said the resolution her delegation intends to introduce will condemn the sham referenda, call on Member States to refrain from recognizing any altered status of Ukraine, and obligate the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from the country.
Some delegates, including Ghana, United Arab Emirates, India and Kenya, urged the cessation of hostilities, with the latter also echoing others’ concerns about the threats of the use of weapons of mass destruction. Noting the most powerful actor’s prioritization of this conflict over other crises, he pointed out that, in Eastern Africa, fertilizer prices have doubled, fuel prices have risen sharply, and cereal production is predicted to shrink 16 per cent this year. “It is a matter of life or death for all actors to respond to the food insecurity crisis,” he stressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation asserted that, “if the West forced its subordinates in Kyiv to uphold the basic human rights and respect for their compatriots and their right to life”, Moscow’s special operations would not have been needed. Over the next few days, the results of the referenda held in the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions will be published. It is a long-awaited event for the inhabitants of Donbass who have been living in constant fear for their lives and sought to bring peace to their land, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ireland, United Kingdom, Mexico, China, Norway, Gabon and France.
At the outset of the meeting, the representative of the Russian Federation voiced opposition to the participation of the President of Ukraine via video teleconference, noting that such participation must be made in person.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:43 p.m.
Rules of Procedure
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), at the outset of the meeting, noting the participation of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy by video teleconference, said his delegation is not against the participation of the President of Ukraine or his representatives. However, such participation must be in person as required by the rules, which have governed the work of the Council for 70 years. The Council should not turn into a forum for political shows or cinema. “Connivance in these matters causes very serious harm to the prestige of the Council,” he said.
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said: “The most recent developments in the war are ominous, pointing to more death, destruction and suffering.” Actions seen since the last Council meeting on Ukraine on 22 September threaten to further escalate the conflict, she underscored, pointing to the so-called “referenda” just conducted by de facto authorities in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Ukrainians were asked whether they approved their regions joining the Russian Federation, she recounted, adding that voting took place in polling centres. De facto authorities accompanied by soldiers also went door to door with ballot boxes. These exercises, which began on 23 September, have been held during active armed conflict, in areas under Russian control and outside Ukraine’s legal and constitutional framework. They cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will. Unilateral actions aimed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the attempted acquisition by force by one State of another State’s territory, while claiming to represent the will of the people, cannot be regarded as legal under international law, she underscored.
“The United Nations remains fully committed to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions,” she continued. As the occupying Power, the Russian Federation is obliged under international humanitarian law to respect the laws of Ukraine in the administration of occupied territories. In the past few weeks, there has been heavy fighting in southern Ukraine in the direction of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as escalating military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In mid-September, the Ukrainian military undertook a successful counteroffensive to restore Ukrainian control over most of the Russian-held areas in the Kharkiv region. Daily attacks continue on many Ukrainian cities, including in Donetsk and Luhansk, but also the targeting of civilian energy and water infrastructure, reportedly by Russian forces. Recent reports of drone attacks in and around Odessa are also deeply disturbing, she said.
To date, t the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 14,844 civilian casualties with 5,996 persons killed and 8,848 injured. Those are verified individual incidents; actual figures are likely considerably higher, she pointed out. Turning to nuclear security, she said alarming rhetoric regarding the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. She reiterated the Secretary-General's appeal for all nuclear‑armed States, including the Russian Federation, to recommit to the non-use and progressive elimination of nuclear weapons. Amid those grim developments, she said the United Nations continues to work to alleviate the suffering caused by the war, to support accountability for violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and to prevent the deterioration of the already volatile situation around Ukraine’s nuclear sites. Regarding the delivery of assistance, she said that in the areas of Kharkiv region back under Ukrainian control, the United Nations and partner organizations were able to organize several aid convoys. However, in areas outside Government control in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions, access is the biggest challenge.
The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine continues to report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, she continued, voicing grave concern about allegations of violations committed in parts of northeastern Ukraine, including after the recovery of over 400 bodies from improvised graves in Izyum. OHCHR is working with local authorities to investigate this and other allegations of human rights violations and abuses in areas in Kharkiv region that were until recently under Russian control. Following investigations in the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, mandated by the Human Rights Council, has concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine. Among other findings, the Commission was struck by the large number of executions and other violations carried out by Russian forces. In the four areas it covered, the Commission has processed two incidents of ill‑treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces. “Those responsible for the outrages being committed in Ukraine, wherever they sit, must be brought to account,” she said.
Noting reports of continuing attacks, as recently as last week, in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, she affirmed the United Nations continued support of the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). She further urged all concerned to provide maximum cooperation with the Agency, stressing that all attacks on nuclear facilities must end, and the purely civilian nature of such plants re-established. The Black Sea Grain Initiative continues to gather pace, she said, noting that over 4.5 million metric tons of foodstuff have been shipped from Ukrainian ports, including to the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Afghanistan. Noting efforts to remove remaining obstacles to the export of Russian food products and fertilizers also continue, she said these products are not under sanctions, and it is crucial to get them back to world markets. “Averting a global food crisis makes it vital to renew the Black Sea deal when it expires at the end of November,” she underscored. Reiterating the Secretary‑General's appeal, she urged Member States to help prevent further escalation, and to do all they can to end the war and ensure lasting peace in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, addressing the Security Council via a pre-recorded video statement, said “so far, [representatives of the Russian Federation] haven’t been using weapons instead of words in [the Security Council]”. Yet, no one would be surprised if the Security Council Chamber was turned into a zone of violence by the Russian representatives. Moscow despises the Charter of the United Nations, and it is only a matter of time before it destroys the last international institution that can still function. Moscow responds to any proposal for talks with new brutality on the battlefield, he asserted, pointing to hundreds of examples of its violations of the international legal order.
On crises and threats to Ukraine and the rest of the world, he underscored that the Russian Federation has ignored IAEA calls for the immediate de-occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and termination of any hostile action against nuclear facilities of Ukraine. “Deliberately keeping the world on the brink of a radiation disaster,” Moscow is engaging in nuclear blackmail while the threats of using nuclear weapons have become the narrative of Russian officials and propagandists, he said. Its inability to guarantee the safety of the world — even against the threat of using nuclear weapons — proves that Moscow has no right to possess nuclear weapons.
He said that, in response to the Ukrainian peace formula he presented to the General Assembly during the high-level week, Moscow announced mobilization of more forces. The Russian Federation deliberately focuses its mobilization on the indigenous people in the territory it controls, recruiting as many men as possible from that population. Among all the ethnic groups of Ukrainian Crimea, seized by the Russian Federation in 2014, the male indigenous population received the most Russian draft notices. “This is a genocidal policy,” he warned. In front of the eyes of the entire world, Moscow is conduction the so-called sham referenda on the occupied territory of Ukraine. People are being forced to fill out papers while threatened with guns, “all for a nice TV cover”, he said. The results of the sham referenda have been prepared well in advanced, just as the issue of passports for the population of the occupied territory. Condemning the annexation of the captured territories — the most brutal violation of the Charter of the United Nations — as an attempt to steal the territory of another State and erase the norms of international law, he pointed to Moscow’s cynical efforts to mobilize the male population in Ukraine’s occupied territory into the Russian army and send them to fight against their own people.
“There is only one way to stop it all,” he noted, calling for complete isolation of the Russian Federation. A State cannot remain a permanent member of the Security Council with a right to veto if such a State is waging a genocidal policy, keeping the world one step from a radiation disaster and threatening with nuclear strikes. To this end, he called for exclusion of the Russian Federation from all international organizations. He further urged for new and tough sanctions against Moscow. Any annexation in the modern world is a crime against all States that consider vital the inviolability of borders, he underlined, adding that Ukraine does not succumb to the blackmail of terrorists.
In this ongoing war, not only Ukrainian independence is being defended, but also international law as such, he cautioned, urging the international community to support his country with all the necessary defence and financial support. Ukraine should receive clear and legally binding guarantees of collective security since its independence is of fundamental importance to global security. Moscow’s recognition of these sham referenda as normal, its implementation of the so-called Crimean scenario, as well as another attempt to annex the Ukrainian territory signifies that there is nothing to talk about with the President of the Russian Federation. “Annexation is the kind of move that puts him alone against the rest of humanity,” he added. To the international community, he said: “I believe in your ability to act.”
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, while seven months ago Member States were discussing how to preserve peace in Ukraine, “Putin chose war”, and thereby showed “exactly what he thought of this Council”. When leaders from around the world gathered in New York for the General Assembly’s high-level week, he announced a renewed conscription effort in the Russian Federation and instructed areas under Russian military control to prepare for illegitimate snap referenda. Moreover, his emissary threatened to use nuclear weapons — on a non‑nuclear country — to secure the illegitimate military gains of the Russian Federation. “The purpose of all of this is clear: Russia intends to try to annex these territories,” she added. First, it runs sham referenda in areas controlled by its military and its proxies, coercing people to “vote” at gunpoint, then it uses these referenda to lend a semblance of legitimacy to its attempted annexations. “We know the outcomes of these sham referenda were pre-determined in Moscow,” she continued, affirming that these actions do not represent a legitimate expression of the will of the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people demonstrated that they will never accept subjugation to the “Russian rule”. Furthermore, she underscored that the United States will never recognize any seized or annexed territory of Ukraine as anything other than a part of it. Her country will, thus, continue to provide “historic amounts of support for Ukraine”.
She urged the States to “have the courage” to stand up for Ukraine, to call out aggression and attempts at “naked territorial expansion”. “Not doing so only enables Russia to commit further abuses,” she added. Spotlighting Ukraine’s fight for survival and democracy, she informed the Council that the United States intends to table a resolution, that will condemn the sham referenda. The document will call on Member States to refrain from recognizing any altered status of Ukraine and will obligate the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from the country. She added that the sham referendum “will open a Pandora’s box” that will be difficult to close, as she called on the Member States to join her country in reaffirming the commitment to the Charter. “If Russia chooses to shield itself from accountability here in the Council, we will then look to the General Assembly to send an ‘unmistakable message to Moscow’,” she added.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), which requested the meeting along with the United States, quoting a 2014 speech by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin negating interest in the partition of Ukraine, implied that such remarks do not reflect the situation, just like Russian statements in the Council over the past months “have little or nothing to do with what happens on the ground — two parallel realities”. The Russian people are protesting against a war they do not want or understand. “When you vote at gunpoint the process is more expedited,” he said, describing the forced conditions in which the referenda are taking place in Kherson, with, among other things, votes being casted on park benches, shops or police stations, also known locally as “torture chambers”. Elsewhere, doors have been broken to facilitate the voting process. “So much for the solemn moment of voting,” he said. According to the already scripted result, residents would love to be ruled by the Russian invaders, he stated, emphasizing that “nobody in the world would take seriously the results of people voting at gunpoint”. “The sham referenda in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson have nothing to do with democracy, free will of Ukrainians” or international standards, and follow a script seen in Georgia and Crimea. These are attempts to speedily legitimize conquests in front of the world, as Ukraine’s counter-offensive is pushing the Russian Federation out. The holding of such referenda violates the Constitution of Ukraine, Ukraine’s martial law, and also run contrary to the United Nations Charter, international law and the principles the Russian Federation should uphold as a permanent Security Council member.
He strongly condemned that country’s war and its premeditated mock elections, which have zero credibility, stressing that Albania will not recognize them. Further, comparing this situation to other contexts is “worthless cynicism”. Therefore, he called on Member States to oppose the Russian Federation’s actions, condemn the referenda and anticipated results and never recognize any attempt to steal Ukrainian land through violence and terror. Noting that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine established by the Human Rights Council concluded that war crimes had been committed in that country by the Russian Federation, and stressing the facts underlined by the International Criminal Court Prosecutor General, he said that “these crimes are being meticulously documented”. Urging support for a joint resolution to be presented by his delegation and the United States, he called on Member States to support Ukraine in defending itself and getting its territory back.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) condemned the sham referenda conducted in the occupied Ukrainian territory “by Russia or its proxies”. He called the referenda “illegal and illegitimate” because they violate the Charter and the obligations of the Russian Federation under international law, including the law of occupation. They also ignore Ukraine’s Constitution, which provides a legal basis for any referenda that would affect the territorial boundaries of the country. Moreover, they “do not reflect the popular or freely expressed will of the Ukrainian people”, he stressed. Stemming from the military invasion, more than 1 million people from the occupied territories have been moved to the Russian Federation and over 7 million people were internally displaced. “These referenda are a cynical ploy to not only further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also to try to reset an unjustified war,” he said, adding that they are “a blatant land grab to redefine areas of Ukraine as part of Russia”. Reiterating Ireland’s unwavering support for Ukraine, he stated that the sham referenda will not have any legal or political effect on the status of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant or other Ukrainian nuclear facilities. He condemned nuclear threats of the Russian Federation, and all nuclear threats “whether explicit or implicit regardless of circumstance”. He called on that country to end its aggression immediately, to comply with its obligations under international law, and withdraw all forces unconditionally from the sovereign territory of Ukraine.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said that her country had repeatedly called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the need to resolve the ongoing conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unequivocally stated to Russian President Putin on the side lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Tashkent. The global order is anchored on international law, United Nations Charter and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States. India will continue a human-centric approach to addressing the conflict, she said, adding that it is providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, as well as economic support to some of its neighbours in the Global South under economic distress, as these face the escalating costs of food, fuel and fertilizers due to the ongoing conflict. “The need of the hour is to end this conflict in Ukraine and return to the negotiating table,” she said, stressing the loss of countless lives and misery, particularly for women, children, and the elderly, with millions becoming homeless and seeking shelter in neighbouring countries. “Let us all work together to ensure that this comes to an early end,” she said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), expressing deep concern over the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, stressed that the invasion undermines the Charter of the United Nations and stands in contrast to the norms which have guided international relations. Raising caution against heightening rhetoric concerning the use of nuclear weapons, “which can only lead into the dark abyss of a nuclear catastrophe with no winners”, he urged maximum restraint by all sides. Expressing particular concern over the ongoing referenda in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, he stressed that such attempts are being made to disintegrate the legitimate authority of the Government of Ukraine. Stating that the international community “cannot continue to live in parallel universes”, he urged it to use the full weight of its will to serve as a bulwark against such practices. He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, while also calling on the parties to refrain from targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. He urged Moscow to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine and withdraw its troops from the internationally recognized border. The situation reinforces the imperative for a reformed and responsive Council that can address all threats to international peace and security, he added.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) described the Russian Federation’s sham referenda in Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions as an egregious violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Reminding all of the Russian Federation’s referendum in Crimea, he noted the same playbook of disinformation, intimidation and fabrication. Since the invasion, the Russian Federation has controlled these regions through violence, torture, filtration and forced deportation. Any referenda held under such conditions, at the barrel of a gun and at three‑day’s notice in the middle of a war zone, can never be free or fair. In supporting the draft resolution and calling for the unequivocal rejection of the Russian Federation’s attempts to illegally annex Ukrainian territory, he warned there is no middle ground and stated: “No member of the United Nations should turn a blind eye to Russia tearing up the principles of the United Nations Charter. If we allow Russia to believe it can change sovereign borders by force, then the entire system on which we base our shared safety and security is under threat.” He urged the Russian Federation to end the senseless war instead of sending thousands of its citizens to their death and inflicting further destruction on Ukraine.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the referenda in Ukraine are “yet another step that leads to an escalation of the conflict”, which are likely to make the prospect of peace negotiations even more distant. Turning to the right to self‑determination, he noted that in the context of decolonization, referenda were used to enable peoples to express their free will and Council resolutions established them as a legitimate practice to decide on issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The validity of referenda, however, depends on certain conditions, he said, pointing out that “it is unreasonable to assume that populations in areas in conflict can freely express their will”. Referenda on questions of sovereignty should be conducted in transparently, without restrictions on freedom of expression and allowing for monitoring by independent observers. He reiterated Brazil’s call for an immediate ceasefire and on starting peace negotiations. He called the Istanbul agreements in July and the recent prisoner exchanges “positive signs that demonstrate the value of diplomacy”, yet underscored, that these efforts were “insufficient”, calling for restraint and pragmatism. The Council so far has collectively failed to find creative solutions to the conflict. “Dialogue, advocated by most members in their interventions over the past seven months, presupposes a willingness to listen,” he added, stating that “the lives of those on the ground” should come before any political considerations.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said his Government is monitoring the reports on the referenda held in four regions of Ukraine. Citing General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), he noted that any attempt aimed at partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the Charter's principles and purposes. Therefore, he urged all States to refrain from taking measures that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and any other country. He emphasized that any attempt to change borders by using threats and other means, incompatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, violates international law. Underscoring people’s right to self‑determination, he noted that this right cannot be understood as “authorizing or encouraging” any actions that impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity of sovereign, independent States. He confirmed his country’s position in line with Assembly resolution 68/262 and reiterated a call for urgent dialogue between the parties of the conflict. To that end, he expressed the need to strengthen diplomatic channels to promote confidence-building measures and highlighted the importance of creating new “fora of mediation”, that could lead for a cessation of hostilities.
ZHANG JUN (China) said his country will continue to play a constructive role in promoting peace and dialogue. He recalled that, in the recently concluded high-level general debate of the General Assembly, many leaders expressed concern about the prolongation of crisis in Ukraine and its spillover effects and called for dialogue to cease hostilities. Stressing that bloc confrontation and political isolation will only lead to a dead end, he said: “The task at hand is to push parties to open the door to political settlement as soon as possible and include their legitimate concerns in negotiations.” The signing of the Black Sea Grain initiative showed that, even in conflict situations, diplomacy can produce results and bring hope. International order based on international law must be upheld; they should not be mere political slogans. The Council should make full use of mediation tools provided for in the Charter and “stick to the right direction — that is ceasefire and peace talks”. His country will work with all peace-loving countries to deescalate the situation and resolve the crisis.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said the referenda being held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will undermine the prospects of a longer‑term negotiated peace settlement as they will encourage strengthening of armed alliances in preparation for war. Even more alarming are the threats of the use of weapons of mass destruction. Kenya calls for an immediate stop to the hostilities and any attempt to unilaterally alter internationally recognized borders. Pointing to the most powerful actor’s prioritization of this conflict over other crises, he said that “bold action is required to halt extreme food insecurity and starvation in the world”. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), in Eastern Africa, fertilizer prices have doubled, fuel prices have risen sharply and cereal production is predicted to shrink 16 per cent this year. “It is a matter of life or death for all actors to respond to this food insecurity crisis,” he said. He called on grain and fertilizer producers to avoid stockpiling and breaking delivery contracts, and for sharply increasing agricultural productivity in the most food-insecure regions, particularly Africa, as this will prevent cycles of humanitarian crises. The multilateral system cannot continue as it is today, he said, urging real inclusion and fairness — starting with the procedural rules in the Council, all the way to the Charter. Reforms should not be limited to just allowing other major powers a seat at the table, he said, because multilateralism founded on the principle of “the powerful extracting what they can”, while “the weak suffer what they must” offers poor protection to the scourge of war.
MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), noting that the referenda under way further complicate efforts for peace in Ukraine, underscored that any actions that undermine the prospects for a constructive dialogue must be avoided by all parties. Recalling the joint statement issued in January by the five permanent Council members, he affirmed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Highlighting some incremental progress made between the parties that has led to positive outcomes — including prisoner exchanges assisted by Türkiye and Saudi Arabia, as well as the agreement related to the export of grains and fertilizers, he added that there is further potential to build on these agreements. With the war carried on for over seven months, he continued, more than 17 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 14.5 million people were forced to flee their homes, 7 million of whom are now displaced across Europe, he went on. Spotlighting the importance of an immediate cessation of hostilities, he stressed that it is “essential to build on and amplify positive developments between the parties, so we can begin to pull back from this dangerous point of heightened global tensions”.
MONA JUUL (Norway) rejected the recent referenda as “a phony pretext from the aggressor, Russia, to try to annex more parts of Ukraine”. They are contrary to international law, have no legal effect and do not change Ukraine’s sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. No claim by the Russian Federation of territorial annexation, she continued, can take away Ukraine’s right to defend itself. In reminding all of their obligations under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, she expressed grave concern over the mobilization of reserve forces as a “dangerous escalation which will lead to increased suffering for people in all parts of Ukraine”. She then strongly condemned the war crimes the Russian Federation has committed in Ukraine and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable for the hostilities, indiscriminate attacks, ill-treatment, torture and sexual and gender-based violence. In expressing full backing of the Secretary-General’s good offices and the United Nations efforts to build and sustain peace, she pledged her country’s continued support for Ukraine. The Russian Federation must stop the war, she stressed, by fully, immediately and unconditionally withdrawing its forces and military equipment from Ukraine.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said that the international community will not stop its call for a de-escalation, pointing to the fact that most world leaders during the general debate advocated for negotiations to find a lasting solution in Ukraine. She called upon parties to refrain from fanning the flames and instead prioritize issues that guarantee peaceful coexistence, stating that the Charter must be the international community’s guiding document for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity. While the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is worsening, and number of deaths are increasing, she appealed to all parties to lay down their weapons and stop with inflammatory rhetoric that might encourage the use of weapons of mass destruction. Gabon, she concluded, supports bilateral and multilateral initiatives aimed at dialogue and achieving lasting peace.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, over the next few days, the results of the referenda held in the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions will be published. It is a long-awaited event for the inhabitants of Donbas who have been living in constant fear for their lives and sought to bring peace to their land. For eight years, the shelling of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics occurred every week. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia region can finally rest assured that they will not have their right to speak Russian or teach their children in Russian taken away from them.
From 2014 onwards, Kyiv has deliberately focused on the physical destruction of the inhabitants of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics while their backers — the European Union and the United States — did not lift a finger to force the Kyiv authorities to uphold the Minsk agreements, he said. Guaranteeing the safety of the citizens in those republics and their dignified future within Ukraine, the Minsk agreements provided for a ceasefire and direct dialogue between Kyiv and Donbass. If it had not been for the criminal violation of the Minsk agreements, violating inter alia Security Council resolution 2202 (2015), by the Kyiv authorities, with secret but clear support of the Western delegations, in other words, “if the West forced its subordinates in Kyiv to uphold the basic human rights and respect for their compatriots and their right to life”, Moscow’s special operation would not have been needed. The authorities in Ukraine clearly stated that Russians and Russian-speaking citizens of the regions were not humans, he recalled.
In 2014, when the population of Crimea chose to become a part of the Russian Federation, Moscow heard similar accusations of aggression and annexation, he said. For the past eight years, people in Crimea have not lived in fear for their lives, he stressed, pointing to Moscow’s investments in the development of the region. Emphasizing that the recent referenda were conducted transparently with upholding all electoral norms, as witnessed by 100 independent observers from 40 countries who were surprised by the enthusiasm of the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, he criticized the statement of the Western countries that they will not recognize the results of these referenda. “It seems they have to vote after they have been shot and raped, it that the case?”, asked the Russian delegate, opposing the Western propaganda and false narratives surrounding the referenda. Describing the direct vote of citizens as the criterion of democracy, he said the western version of democracy was born in a dictate of the liberal minority over the conservative majority. The denial of rights of non-liberals and non-Russophobes is not only used by Ukraine, but also their Western allies, he observed, drawing attention to countries “on the blacklist”: Italy, Hungary and Serbia.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, speaking in his national capacity, said that, despite the Council’s seven-month-long appeals to end the war of aggression against Ukraine, Moscow has chosen escalation and further violation of the United Nations Charter and the international law. The partial mobilization announced on 21 September is evidence that the Russian Federation is “waging an illegal war in Ukraine, not a so-called special operation”. On the sham referenda in the occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, he cited President Emmanuel Macron who called them “a parody”. It’s the same “gambit” as was seen in Crimea in 2014, he said, with referenda used to legitimatize annexation of illegally occupied territory. He pointed to the Secretary-General’s remarks that any annexation of territory of a State by another State by threat of or use of force is a violation of the Charter and international law. France will never recognize the referenda, he stressed, calling on States to unequivocally reject them: “If we let Russia change internationally recognized borders of Ukraine by force, we’ll be letting them trample the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added, affirming that “the fate of the occupied territories of Ukraine is of concern to us”. While Moscow is continuing its war, Kyiv is exercising its right to self‑defence, fighting in a counter-offensive that is succeeding, thanks to the courage of its people. Noting that tens of thousands are fleeing the Russian Federation to escape mobilization, he reiterated Paris’ support for Ukraine.
Mr. HOXHA (Albania), taking the floor a second time, stressed that the “parallel” made by the delegation of the Russian Federation with Kosovo was wrong, inaccurate and regrettable. Kosovo and Serbia are bound today by dialogue. They meet; they do not fight. Moreover, the issue is not Kosovo nor any part of the world. It is the Russian Federation’s crimes and territorial grab, to the detriment of its neighbour. "We will not be misled,” he underscored.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a third time, said the statement just heard from the representative of Albania confirms the double standards that he had talked about regarding Kosovo. He said that he provided an example of how Western colleagues who dealt with Kosovo are calling for a completely different approach with respect to the Russian Federation and the referenda taking place in the territory discussed.