Ongoing Attacks, Cold Temperatures Portend More Hardship in Ukraine, United Nations Humanitarian Chief Tells Security Council
Speakers Accuse Russian Federation of Using Winter as Weapon of War
Ongoing attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the onset of frigid winter temperatures portend danger and worsening hardships for millions of Ukrainians, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, urging all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that more than 14 million people remain forcibly displaced from their homes in Ukraine, including 6.5 million internally displaced and more than 7.8 million across Europe. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as of 1 December, 17,023 civilians have been killed since 24 February, including 419 children. Since February, 1,148 children have been killed or injured while millions have fled, been uprooted from their homes, separated from their families or put at risk of violence.
“In Ukraine today, the ability of civilians to survive is under attack,” he said, noting that temperatures are expected to drop to below ‑20°C. Since October, sustained attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have left millions without heat, electricity and water, he said, adding that Kyiv needs enhanced international support beyond what humanitarians can provide.
“Objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population must be protected and constant care must be taken to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout all military operations,” he added, emphasizing that international humanitarian law must be respected. Underscoring Member State and other donor support to the Ukraine Flash Appeal, he pointed out that more must be done, however, to close the funding shortfall.
In the ensuing debate, speakers once again deplored the Russian Federation’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, urged compliance with international humanitarian law and appealed for unimpeded access for humanitarian relief supplies. Several welcomed the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but voiced alarm at soaring food prices and growing food insecurity worldwide.
France’s representative, among many others, said the Russian Federation is using winter as a weapon of war. He called on Moscow to respect the order issued by the International Court of Justice on 16 March to end the war and noted that France is co-organizing a conference in Paris on 13 December to mobilize international assistance for Ukraine.
The United States’ representative, commending France’s initiative, said that aid agencies in Ukraine have implemented the largest humanitarian cash assistance programme in history, transferring more than $1 billion to 6 million people. However, more assistance will be needed, she said, adding that her country has provided over $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance.
Mexico’s representative, noting that 70 per cent of the attacks against health infrastructure around the world in recent months have occurred in Ukraine, said health care workers have had to abandon their posts due to internal displacement made worse by the energy crisis. He called once again for greater efforts to rebuild Ukraine’s power grid to supply electricity to priority services, along with guaranteed energy supplies for nuclear power stations to avert a nuclear disaster.
The United Arab Emirates’ representative said that winter brings new and unforeseen dangers, with snow and ice concealing landmines and unexploded munitions. Pointing to the impacts of war on education, he said that while an estimated 2.6 million children have been learning online since September, even that remote access has been disrupted by blackouts and power cuts.
Kenya’s representative warned that food security in Africa could worsen if fertilizer costs remain high due to the war. Warning that rising food prices could lead to widespread humanitarian suffering, she said that countries through which those food commodities are shipped must reflect their humanitarian responsibility and remove all measures blocking food exports.
The Russian Federation’s representative, giving a different perspective, said the root cause of the crisis is Ukraine’s many years of crimes against civilians and children in Donbass, something that the West is shamefully trying to hide. Moscow is willing to negotiate, but if its aims cannot be achieved peacefully, and if Ukraine cannot become a normal, good-neighbourly State, then it will use all available logistical and military means to protect its interests, he said.
Ukraine’s representative said that while the Russian Federation is trying to convince the Council of its desire for peace, it launched 70 missiles on 5 December to harm Ukrainian infrastructure. Nonetheless, the aggressor will be defeated, the Moscow dictatorship will fail and war criminals will be held to account, he said. He added that the United Nations and the international community must not remain silent on the deportation of 12,300 children to the Russian Federation or occupied territories.
Representatives of countries in the region, including Latvia, Poland and Germany, spotlighted ways in which they are assisting Ukraine. Latvia’s delegate, also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania, added that a special international tribunal for the punishment of the crime of aggression against Ukraine must be established to hold the Russian Federation to account.
Also speaking today were representatives of Gabon, Brazil, China, Norway, Ireland, Ghana, Albania, United Kingdom and India, as well as the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that more than 14 million people remain forcibly displaced from their homes in Ukraine, including 6.5 million internally displaced, and over 7.8 million across Europe. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as of 1 December, 17,023 civilians have been killed since 24 February, including 419 children. The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile reports at least 715 attacks on health care in the country, including 630 that impacted health facilities and 61 that affected personnel. Since February, 1,148 children have been killed or injured while millions have fled, been uprooted from their homes, separated from their families or put at risk of violence. Winter has now arrived across Ukraine, he said, noting that temperatures are already below freezing and are expected to drop to below -20°C. The attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including power stations and heating plants, have left millions of people without access to heat, electricity and water, adding another dangerous dimension to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, he said.
People are being deprived of health care and children deprived of education, he continued, adding: “In Ukraine today, the ability of civilians to survive is under attack.” Amid freezing temperatures and destruction, people at highest risk are the already vulnerable. Among them are the elderly, those with disabilities and the many millions of displaced people, essentially because of a lack of essential services. “International humanitarian law speaks for itself. Objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population must be protected and constant care must be taken to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout all military operations.” Gender-based violence targeting women and girls remains pervasive and underreported, he added. “The humanitarian community remains committed to stay and deliver,” he said, with almost 690 humanitarian partners — most of them local organizations — providing life-critical assistance and protection to 13.5 million people. In preparation for the winter, humanitarians have provided more than 630,000 civilians with different kinds of direct winter assistance, and 400 generators have been distributed to critical facilities, he added.
Since October, sustained attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have created a new level of need that impacts the whole country and exacerbates the needs caused by the war, he said, adding that the Government requires enhanced support from the international community beyond what humanitarians can provide. In recent weeks, more areas have become accessible in eastern and southern oblasts, allowing humanitarians to reach new communities with assistance, while interagency convoys are moving to bring aid to areas now back under Government control. In Kherson, for example, convoys have delivered food, potable water and medical supplies, as well as assistance for women’s and girls’ reproductive health.
Humanitarians are working to respond to gender-based violence, he said, noting that an integrated network of spaces and providers has been delivering survivor-centred services for women, girls, boys and men who may have been subject to gender-based violence. Some 765,000 children have received psychosocial support. Mobile teams are operating in centres for internally displaced persons to identify, register, assess and support children with protection needs. None of this would be possible without Member State and other donor support to the Ukraine Flash Appeal, he said, with $3.1 billion — out of a requested $4.3 billion for 2022 — received. To date, almost $1 billion in humanitarian cash transfers have been provided to about 4.3 million people, he said.
However, more must be done to close the funding shortfall, he said. While there have been some improvements in humanitarian access, the biggest challenge remains impediments to reaching areas in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Discussions continue between the United Nations and relevant parties to facilitate unimpeded access to those areas. “It is vital that we get convoys through to deliver relief items,” he said, noting that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has established a presence in Moscow and that he continues to engage key interlocutors in Moscow, Kyiv and elsewhere. One million of the 13.5 million people reached since February are in areas outside of Government control, and they have been reached thanks to humanitarian partners who are still positioned in Donetsk and Luhansk, where humanitarian operations began in 2014.
“While we continue to provide support in these regions through these local partners, our response is neither regular nor at the right scale,” he continued. Under international humanitarian law, all parties should allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. They also must ensure that their personnel have the freedom of movement. In areas where the Government has recently regained control, landmines and explosive remnants of war are a major concern for both communities and humanitarians, delaying the restoration of essential services, including electricity. States must bolster their support for mine clearance efforts, while information on mines and used or abandoned explosive ordnance should be shared promptly.
Recalling last week’s launch of OCHA’s annual Global Humanitarian Overview, he said that 274 million people needed humanitarian assistance at the beginning of this year. For 2023, however, the projected number has grown to 339 million, representing a 24 per cent increase. That is a stark reminder of how fast humanitarian needs are accelerating, especially for Ukraine, he said, pointing to an unimaginable picture of “a world gone mad” that sees one in 23 people in need of humanitarian assistance worldwide.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) condemned the massive attacks launched on 6 December across Ukraine, saying that the Russian Federation is using winter as a weapon of war. This systematic targeting reflects Moscow’s clear desire to deprive the Ukrainian people of water, heat and electricity in the hope of undermining their resistance. Those who kill children and attack schools in violation of international humanitarian law deserve their place on the blacklist of the Secretary-General’s annual report, he said, calling on the Russian Federation to respect the order issued by the International Court of Justice on 16 March to end this unjustifiable and devastating war. He welcomed efforts by the Secretary-General, United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to evacuate civilians and wounded people from besieged areas. Such efforts must continue, he said, as respect for international humanitarian law and human rights is non-negotiable. Ukraine stands on the side of peace, he added, commending President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan and recalling that France is co-organizing an international conference with Ukraine in Paris on 13 December to mobilize and coordinate international aid to help Ukrainians to survive the winter, with particular emphasis on energy, water, food and health infrastructure, as well as transport networks.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) noted that 70 per cent of the attacks against health infrastructure around the world in recent months have occurred in Ukraine. Health care personnel there were forced to abandon their work posts due to internal displacement made worse by the energy crisis. In this regard, he reiterated his urgent call to step up efforts to rebuild the power grid to ensure a supply of priority services. He also underscored the need to guarantee an electrical supply for nuclear stations to avoid a nuclear disaster. More than 3.6 million minors have been affected by the disruption in school services, he pointed out, adding that children represent almost 20 per cent of the displaced population and will pay the highest price in terms of their mental health. The Council should explore new options for mediation, he added.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) called on the warring parties to respect their commitments according to international humanitarian law. They must abstain from using weapons with indiscriminate effects, she said, underscoring the danger posed by landmines and unexploded remnants of war buried under snow to the civilian population. Echoing the appeal of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), she said the parties must “mark and clean the contaminated areas as soon as possible and inform the civilians of the danger”. Moreover, the parties must absolutely ensure that those unexploded remnants of war do not hinder access for essential services or engender additional risks for the population and humanitarian workers. The renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a sign of hope that the parties can negotiate a cessation of hostilities. She further urged all parties to abstain from all radical rhetoric that would complicate the political issue. The Council must keep diplomatic channels open to encourage the parties to meet and examine all possible avenues to put an end to the conflict. It is not enough to have more and more meetings on the matter without offering a genuine alternative to war, she said.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) underscored the importance of the victim-centred approach and emphasized the urgency of establishing a ceasefire. Western leaders’ expressed willingness to engage in dialogue with the Russian Federation to end hostilities must translate into the establishment of a mechanism for conducting pragmatic and objective negotiations, he said, adding that the Council serves as a platform to initiate such discussions. He expressed concern that serious violations against children might go unchecked, adding that protection of civilians, particularly children, and full respect for international humanitarian law must be a priority. Ending the conflict depends on a political solution that guarantees that the destruction witnessed during the last nine months will not be repeated, he added.
GENG SHUANG (China), emphasizing that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is deteriorating, said that resolving the crisis through political means is in the best interests of the countries concerned and the entire international community. He encouraged the parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible, while the international community must adhere to a people-centred approach and spare no effort to limit the spillover effects of the crisis. The parties should uphold international humanitarian law, avoid attacks on civilians and infrastructure and eliminate security risks to nuclear facilities and supplies. It is crucial to avoid misunderstanding and miscalculations, and to remain vigilant to the risks of bloc confrontation. With the Ukrainian people facing a tough winter, humanitarian agencies should help restore damaged infrastructure and provide winter supplies and heating. Children in particular must be given protection. China rejects the politicization of food and energy issues and opposes unilateral sanctions, he added, also calling on the parties to the conflict to respect the basic rights of prisoners of war under international law.
LISA A. CARTY (United States) commended the Government and the people of Ukraine for their tremendous resilience and resolve. Highlighting the work of the humanitarian community, she noted that over the last 10 months of war, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations have delivered principled humanitarian aid under difficult circumstances. Aid agencies in Ukraine managed to implement the largest humanitarian cash assistance programme in history, transferring more than $1 billion to 6 million people. Pointing out that since 24 February, the United States has provided over $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid, she noted that more assistance will be needed. In this regard, she commended the initiative of France to hold an international conference focused on Ukraine’s resilience on 13 December. Commending the efforts of the United Nations to continue the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she noted that it has helped to lower food prices and ensure wheat purchased by the World Food Programme (WFP) reaches vulnerable people in Yemen, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Somalia.
MONA JUUL (Norway), underscoring that the war has led to massive displacement, expressed concern over the risk of sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking. She condemned the fact that thousands of Ukrainian children have reportedly been transferred to the Russian Federation for adoption and naturalization through simplified and accelerated procedures, without the consent of their parents or legal guardians. She reiterated Norway’s call for safe, rapid, and unimpeded, humanitarian access to all people in need, adding that children’s needs must be at the centre of the humanitarian response. She also expressed concern over the role of the Wagner Group in the conflict, saying that it is reportedly recruiting convicts from prisons in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. She went on to welcome the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
JAYNE JEPKORIR TOROITICH (Kenya) welcomed the recent agreement to roll over the Black Sea Grain initiative, but warned that food security in Africa has deteriorated and might get worse if fertiliser costs remain high due to the war. The consequences are being felt on family dining tables as farmers pass along their higher costs and grow less food. Moreover, as their strategic grain reserves run low, rich countries will probably return to the food markets to restock in 2023 and 2024 just as African farmers might still be struggling to afford fertiliser. Food prices could then rise so sharply that widespread humanitarian suffering will be the result, she said, recalling violent uprisings in 2011 that were credibly linked to high food prices. Calling for “visible action against the fear of sanctions exposure by the banking and insurance industries in dealing with food and fertiliser supply chains,” she added that countries through which these commodities are shipped must remove all official and unofficial blockading actions to reflect their humanitarian responsibility. She went on to call for responsible leadership that can embrace discreet and even secret diplomatic channels, as well as a fundamental reset of the European security order.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the primary cause of the crisis is the years’ long crimes by Ukraine against civilians and children in Donbass, something that the West is shamefully trying to hide. Since 2014, Ukrainian shots and shelling in that region have killed more than 250 children, including 140 in the beginning of 2022. The Ukrainian army is continuing to fire on peaceful civilians there, he added. Western colleagues are also ignoring that children in Donbass are target practice for Ukrainian neo-Nazis and a target audience for poisonous neo-Nazi and Russophobic propaganda. As a result, a whole generation of children and adolescents have grown up with a warped psychology, thinking that their aim is to kill everyone who speaks Russian. He recalled that in July, the Russian Federation informed the Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UNICEF of a notorious website where neo-nationalists are posting the personal data of the enemies of Ukraine, including children. He asked what UNICEF has done since it received that request.
Noting that a significant majority of Member States expressed interest in a diplomatic settlement, he said that the Russian Federation is willing to conduct negotiations aimed at eradicating the root causes that forced it to start its military operation. The Ukrainian people are being used by the West and by the criminal Ukrainian regime as cannon fodder, but the West is not interested in a political and diplomatic settlement, as evidenced by the results of a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Bucharest on 29 and 30 November and the expansion of weapons deliveries to Kyiv. Pointing to Ukraine’s prohibition of the activities of religious centres affiliated with the Russian Federation, he said that such action is essentially a ban on freedom of religion. “Our Western colleagues for an eight-year period have created an anti-Russian monster in Ukraine,” he continued. If the Russian Federation’s aims cannot be achieved peacefully and if Ukraine cannot become a normal, good-neighbourly State, then that aim will have to be achieved militarily. The responsibility for civilians must be borne by the Zelenskyy regime and its Western sponsors. Until Kyiv and the West understands this, the Russian Federation will protect its interests with all logistical and military means available to it, he said.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), emphasizing that international humanitarian law must be respected, said the Russian Federation often says that it attacks military targets or infrastructure that supports the Ukrainian military, but the images of people living in the dark, queuing for food and huddling together to stay warm tell a different story. It is simply inhumane for the Russian Federation to restrict humanitarian access, he emphasized, adding that the war is robbing millions of young Ukrainians of their childhoods and their futures. Moreover, a new wave of displacement will exacerbate concerns for the protection of women and children. He voiced his support for the calls from the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict for swift and rigorous investigations into conflict-related violence in Ukraine, including mass rape and the rape of children. He also renewed Ireland’s call for the Russian Federation to cease hostilities, withdraw its forces and commit to resolving outstanding issues peacefully and in line with the Charter of the United Nations.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said that in places like Mykolaiv and Kherson, the lack of electricity, running water, and heating in addition to the scarcity of food and medicine are stressing humanitarian response efforts. Winter also brings new and unforeseen dangers, as landmines and unexploded munitions are now concealed by snow and ice, with the lack of heating driving people — including children — to gather firewood in forests littered with hidden explosives. Citing the risk of a lost generation of students that are denied opportunity, he noted schooling provides an important source of stability and peer-bonding that children desperately need as they cope with the intense trauma of the war. Since September, it is estimated that approximately 2.6 million children in Ukraine have been learning online due to the impacts of war on education — yet even this remote access has been disrupted by blackouts and emergency power cuts resulting from the conflict’s impact on energy infrastructure. He was heartened to see the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) latest global food price index, which showed a modest decrease in global food prices due in part to the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, welcoming the donation of 260,000 metric tons of Russian Federation fertilizer and the news of the first shipment that is destined for Malawi. The Council must encourage dialogue and foster an environment that is conducive to a cessation of hostilities.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) expressed concern over the new wave of missile attacks that began yesterday and have reportedly claimed civilian lives — at a critical time when temperatures are dropping and many homes are already without access to heating or water. She strong condemned all forms of violations against the rights of children and voiced support for investigations into such cases to avoid impunity against children in Ukraine. She called for international support for the restoration of Ukraine’s damaged energy and water infrastructure, expressing hope that the international conference announced by the French Government to be held in Paris on 13 December will help to mobilize resources to augment the efforts of the United Nations humanitarian agencies and further enhance resilience in Ukraine. While a third world war has been kept at bay, she noted the war in Ukraine has had far-reaching global consequences, welcoming reports on the progress being made to resume ammonia exports through the Black Sea port. The unimpeded export of Ukrainian grain and Russian fertilizers are critical to avoid a rebound in global food price increases and avert a food shortage in the coming months. She further noted that the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian Federation forces from the internationally recognized territories of Ukraine would provide a much-needed window for diplomatic consultations towards a peaceful and comprehensive settlement.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) recalled that yesterday was the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Budapest Memorandum in which Ukraine delivered its nuclear arsenal and, in exchange, the Russian Federation committed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, the only “celebration” yesterday was the barrage of missiles against Ukraine and a continued effort to cripple Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Noting that the Russian Federation says it does not target civilians, he pointed out: “The truth is that the only civilians not under attack are those 17,000 already killed.” Still, the aggression has failed to break Ukraine and has only bolstered its resistance and national identity. Reporting that out of 6 million children affected by the war, 3.4 million are in need of child-protection care, he commended the efforts of the United Nations and its humanitarian partners in delivering critical assistance. Highlighting the soaring evidence of war crimes committed against the civilian population by Russian Federation forces, he underlined the importance of ensuring accountability. He thus emphasized that the only way to stop the war is by the withdrawal of all Russian forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, adding that the dialogue should be conducted in freedom and not under coercion.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that the devastating humanitarian impact of the systematic strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and civilian centres presents a potentially catastrophic situation for civilians as winter begins and people are left without power and shelter. Pointing out the appalling impact the war on children across Ukraine, she noted that millions have been forced to flee their homes, over 500 schools have been destroyed or damaged and thousands of children have been reported to have been forcibly taken to the Russian Federation. Also spotlighting the credible allegations of sexual violence against children by Russian forces, she said that the inflicted trauma will last for generations. She underlined the consistency of the Council’s response in calling for an end of the conflict and for peace. However, the Russian Federation has not been listening. It is time for the Russian Federation to end the war in Ukraine, withdraw from its territory and commit to dialogue and negotiations, she stressed.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), Council President for December, speaking in her national capacity, expressed concern about recent attacks on civilians resulting in the loss of lives and homelessness, particularly for women, children and the elderly. While the protection of the rights of the child is the primary responsibility of national Governments, the international community has the obligation to do its utmost to provide succour to children affected by conflict. As well, this conflict is not just limited to Europe but has exacerbated concerns over food, fertilizer and fuel security, particularly in developing countries. Spotlighting the critical issues of equity, affordability and accessibility for the global South, she stressed: “Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination.” India has been providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and economic support to neighbours in the global South, including the exporting of more than 1.8 million tons of wheat to countries in need, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen. She also noted that the conflict has also affected foreign students, including those from India. Her country facilitated the safe return of 22,500 Indian nationals, most of them students studying in Ukraine, she reported, expressing her appreciation for the relaxations made by the Ukrainian Government for this academic year in respect of medical students.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said the aggressor will be defeated, the Moscow dictatorship will fail and war criminals will be held to account. While the Russian Federation tries to convince the Council of its desire for peace, it launched 70 missiles on 5 December, from both aircraft and ships, to harm Ukrainian infrastructure, with fragments found in the Republic of Moldova. The Russian Federation’s missile terror threatens not only to Ukraine, but neighbouring countries. Welcoming the meeting in Paris scheduled for 13 December, he said that it speaks volumes that Moscow decided to attack Ukrainian infrastructure on the anniversary of the Budapest Memorandum. Citing a letter once sent from former President Boris Yeltsin to former President William J. Clinton, he said that the post-Soviet transformation in the Russian Federation was not accompanied by the dismantling of an authoritarian style of leadership. After the imminent defeat of the Russian Federation, “de-Putinization” must follow, as Moscow has neither the moral nor legal grounds to possess nuclear weapons, he said.
A so-called “peace à la Kremlin” will be based on a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, as troops leave behind mass graves and torture chambers, he said. He condemned the vile practice of family separation, with 12,300 children deported to the Russian Federation or occupied territories and demanded information on their fate. The United Nations authorities and the international community must not remain silent on such crimes. Citing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s November peace plan, he invited Member States to take leadership and participate in any of its 10 points. Citing the representative of Kenya’s comments on food security, he said that the only root cause of the problem is the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine. He also pointed to the Grain from Ukraine programme, the 4 December shipment of 25,000 tons to Ethiopia, and forthcoming shipments of 60,000 tons for Somalia and Sudan. Calling on the international community to harbour no illusions about Moscow’s desire for peace, as that society is ruled by war criminals and hatred, he encouraged responsible nations to deprive Moscow of fossil-fuel revenues to fund the war. Moscow can only be forced into to peace, as that is the only language they respond to, he said.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania, stressed that there must be no impunity for the Russian Federation’s crimes in Ukraine. The international community will hold its perpetrators accountable for their crime of aggression and all other atrocity crimes, so it is imperative to continue documenting and properly storing evidence, as well as reporting regularly on all war crimes committed throughout Ukraine. There is currently no international court or tribunal that could bring the Russian Federation’s top political and military leadership to account for committing those crimes. As such, a special international tribunal for the punishment of the crime of aggression against Ukraine must be established to fill that jurisdictional loophole. In aiding Ukraine, Baltic States are leading, based on their share of gross domestic product (GDP), he said, calling on all relevant United Nations institutions and the international community to continue their life-saving efforts. Moreover, survivors’ access to comprehensive services, including medical and psychological support must be ensured.
The Russian aggression is the direct cause of the current global food insecurity, and not the sanctions that are aimed to stop and to end the aggression, he emphasized, calling on the Russian Federation to stop prolonging the inspection of vessels heading to and from the Black Sea ports and thereby preventing Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs from reaching millions of people. Voicing support for the Secretary-General’s Black Sea Grain Initiative, work of the Joint Coordination Centre and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in facilitating trade in food and fertilizers to alleviate global food insecurity, he called for transparency in that important work. Unhindered freedom of navigation in the Black Sea is the only practical way to ensure reliable flow of Ukraine’s grain and other food staples. “In order to achieve that, Russia must immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders,” he stressed.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said that in most conflicts, a humanitarian crisis accompanies military aggression. In this case, however, the Russian Federation is deliberately using the humanitarian crisis as a weapon of war. This constitutes a war crime and a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law. Besides hosting and supporting the biggest community of Ukrainian refugees, Poland is serving as a hub for international humanitarian assistance going into Ukraine. Seventy-seven per cent of Poles have been involved in various kinds of assistance to Ukraine and to Ukrainian refugees, with about 200,000 refugee children in Polish schools and 35,000 in preschool. Further, over 2,500 Polish and Ukrainian teachers have used special language courses in order to facilitate their communication with children from Ukraine to enable them to better respond to their educational needs.
He went on to say that Poland is also giving attention to the needs of children with disabilities and, inside Ukraine, building temporary housing for 20,000 internally displaced persons at an estimated cost of €75 million. Strongly condemning the use of harsh winter conditions as a weapon of war, and strongly urging the Russian Federation to end its war of choice, he said that war cannot be hidden from children, as they are traumatized as much as, and sometimes more so than, adults. Citing a message from a 7‑year‑old girl wishing for peace, he stressed that it was high time to deliver that hope. “There is one State in this room that can make it happen, if it chooses to,” he added.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) highlighted the Russian Federation’s systematic attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure far from the frontline — with a special focus on disrupting basic services, such as electricity, water and heat, during winter. Quoting the Minster for Foreign Affairs of Germany, she said that “the Russian President uses the cold as a weapon of war”, attacking the most vulnerable in Ukraine. Such attacks are blatant breaches of international humanitarian law. She underlined the importance of coordinating all support for Ukraine’s energy infrastructure among international partners and allies. After the successful Group of 7 plus Foreign Ministers meeting in Bucharest, the summit in Paris on 13 December will be the next important step.
She also reported that the Chancellor of Germany spoke with the President of the Russian Federation and urged the swift withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine as a precondition to any diplomatic solution. Welcoming the President of Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula, she said that Germany will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. “Russia needs to reverse its course and immediately and unconditionally stop its aggression and withdraw its troops,” she emphasized.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, reiterated the need to respect humanitarian law and enable unhindered humanitarian access. Attacks around nuclear power plants are bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear disaster. As temperatures drop below zero, the Russian Federation’s brutal and unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure not only add to growing evidence of war crimes but are also creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Russian Federation is obstructing access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he said, adding that the situation is most severe near the frontlines and in newly liberated areas. Expressing deep concern at the immense scars being left on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of the Ukrainian people, he emphasized the need to maintain well-targeted humanitarian support for the most vulnerable children as well as sustained support for relevant international actors such as UNICEF, Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Underlining the global consequences of the Russian Federation’s aggression, he said that the targeting and destruction of Ukraine’s agricultural production infrastructure, as well as grain looting and the obstruction of exports, are exacerbating hunger and food insecurity worldwide. Together with the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the European Union’s Solidarity Lanes initiative is making a difference, enabling Ukraine to export 29 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs, including to Ethiopia and Somalia. The Russian Federation must be held to account for its horrific crimes and pay financially for the devastation it has caused. Further, it must immediately and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. While Ukraine has indicated that it is ready for a just peace, and the European Union supports all meaningful efforts in that direction, the Russian Federation is still bombing civilians and critical infrastructure, deliberately blocking humanitarian access and using cold and hunger as weapons. The global consequences of the war against Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian situation are extremely challenging and requires a full engagement of solidarity, he said, adding that the European Union is proud to be at the forefront of all humanitarian efforts, hand-in-hand with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.