Effective Arms-Control Measures Needed to Block Diversion of Ukraine Weapons, Senior United Nations Disarmament Official Tells Security Council
States must apply effective arms-control measures to prevent the diversion of weapons supplied to Ukraine, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as some Council members defended their decision to continue providing military support to Kyiv while others detailed the danger of doing so.
Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the transfer of materiel to Ukraine by several States since the Russian Federation’s invasion on 24 February is a matter of public record. Information from Governments regarding transfers is largely accessible through open sources, she said, adding that there have also been widespread, independently verified reports of the transfer of conventional weapons to non-State armed groups involved in the conflict. The large-scale influx of weapons into any armed conflict raises many concerns for peace and security, including risks of diversion, potential spillover and escalation, she noted.
Measures to counter arms diversions will be key to post-conflict recovery, regional security and stability, and preventing conflict in other regions, she continued. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, along with the Arms Trade Treaty, remain key tools to enhance transparency and track the influx of weapons and ammunition in conflict zones. Encouraging Member States to follow these widely accepted approaches, she also urged them to apply effective arms-control measures. The only way to end the suffering and devastation in Ukraine is by ending the war, she emphasized, appealing to all Member States to “make every effort for peace”.
Daniel Kovalik, civil society organization representative, cited a report pointing out that the 2014 conflict in Ukraine led to the widespread proliferation of small arms, light weapons and ammunition, including to areas located far from the conflict zone. He also spotlighted several media articles that underscored the United States’ limited capacity to track and inspect the substantial supply of weaponry it has provided. “Who is watching the watchmen here?”, he wondered, noting that the United States will not provide international oversight over the billions in weapons it has sent to Ukraine. He urged the Council to live up to its responsibility and called for a negotiated end to the war.
In the ensuing debate, several Council members said that their countries will continue to support Ukraine’s exercise of its right to defend itself, pointing out that it is the Russian Federation that is driving the flow of weapons into Ukraine. Others, however, stressed the need to prevent weapons supplied to Ukraine from inadvertently falling into the wrong hands, encouraging dialogue over proliferation and underscoring the importance of effective arms control.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that his delegation requested today’s meeting to assess the impact of the ongoing influx of weapons into Ukraine on prospects for ending the conflict. Without Western assistance, military activities in Ukraine would have ended a long time ago, he said. Spotlighting the risk of weapons supplied to Ukraine falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals, he said that the situation is so out of control that weapons destined for Kyiv are turning up on the black market in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He urged a sober assessment of the risks arising from the uncontrolled pumping of weapons to the Ukrainian regime.
China’s representative recalled a statement from the High Representative in September about the risk of potential diversion of weapons, as well as a warning in June from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) that weapons destined for Ukraine could end up on the black market or in the hands of criminals. Stressing that such situations have unfortunately materialized, he emphasized the need for a political solution to end the crisis, rather than a battlefield flooded with weapons which will prolong the conflict.
France’s representative, taking a different view, urged those present not to “confuse the attacker and the attacked”, adding that the Russian Federation bears sole responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. France is providing support to Ukraine so that Kyiv can exercise its legitimate right to self-defence and independence. If Moscow wishes the transfers it denounces today to cease, it must end its military operations in Ukraine, he said.
Gabon’s representative urged the parties to stop both verbal and military escalation. “It is time to silence the weapons in Ukraine,” she said, as more weapons can only spell more death and destruction, and nobody can predict the destabilization and insecurity that might ensue with so many weapons circulating.
Ukraine’s representative stated that the Russian Federation is again trying to legitimize its flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations by using the Council as a platform to circulate propaganda. Thanking those who have supported Ukraine, including by supplying modern weapons, he said that the liberation of the Kharkiv, Kherson and Luhansk regions demonstrates that all weapons in Ukraine’s possession are serving their intended purpose. Detailing the Government’s systematic arms-control efforts, he said that his country will continue to demonstrate transparency and cooperate fully with international export-control regimes.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, United Kingdom, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Kenya, United States, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland and India.
The meeting began at 4:11 p.m. and ended at 6:04 p.m.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that, since the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, several States have transferred weapon systems and ammunition to Ukraine’s defence forces. Recalling her statement to the Council in September, she said that this is a matter of public record and that information from Governments regarding their transfers is largely accessible through open sources. There have also been widespread, independently verified reports of the transfer of major conventional weapon systems to non-State armed groups involved in the conflict against Ukraine. The large-scale influx of weapons into any armed conflict situation raises many concerns for peace and security, including risks of diversion, potential spillover and escalation, she said. Measures to counter such diversion will be key to post-conflict recovery, to regional security and stability, and to preventing conflict in other regions, she added.
Such measures include pre-transfer risk assessments and post-shipment controls, including on-site inspections and end-user verification, she continued. Equally important is the need to safeguard and account for transferred military equipment. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, along with the Arms Trade Treaty, remain key tools to enhance transparency in arms transfers and track the influx of weapons and ammunition in conflict zones. Encouraging Member States to follow these widely accepted approaches, she added that all parties to conflict have a duty to protect civilians when conducting military operations. Noting that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 17,181 civilian casualties since 24 February, she said that most of such deaths and injuries are caused by explosive weapons with wide areas of effect.
She went on to say that since 2007, two Secretaries-General have expressed concern over the humanitarian impact of the use of such weapons in populated areas. Further, on 18 November, more than 80 States adopted a political declaration on protecting civilians from the humanitarian consequences of such use. That instrument marks a milestone in efforts to better protect civilians from the consequences of armed conflict, she said, calling on Member States to give effect to the same. Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop, she emphasized, urging States to apply effective arms-control measures. The only way to end the suffering and devastation in Ukraine is by ending the war, she said, appealing to all Member States to “make every effort for peace”.
DANIEL KOVALIK, civil society organization representative, noting that his background in human rights issues in Latin America, has included studying the movement of arms to military, paramilitary and right-wing groups in Colombia, shared with the Council what he learned about Ukraine and the overall danger of weapons ending up in the wrong hands. The Small Arms Survey’s 2021 report, he said, pointed out that the 2014 conflict in Ukraine led to the widespread proliferation of small arms, light weapons and ammunition — thousands of grenades, rockets, mortar rounds, landmines and firearms cartridges — including to areas located far from the conflict zone. As the barriers to smuggling such weapons out of Ukraine are hardly insurmountable, the report stressed that the prevention of a successful trafficking scheme and reduction of civilian casualties caused by loose ammunition will require a sustained effort by Ukrainian authorities and the international community for years to come, he said.
He then spotlighted several media articles, including from CNN, The Guardian and The Washington Post, among others, which underscored the limited capacities of the United States to track and inspect the substantial supply of weaponry it has provided. Problems include a dependence on Ukraine for information, international concerns about weapons that will flood the international market once the conflict ends and the need to develop longer-term security plans. Offering some of his own observations from a week-long trip in Donetsk, he said that he witnessed Ukraine’s shelling of a school, a stadium and a water services site. Even when weapons go to the right people, they are not necessarily ending up in the right places, he said, adding that they have been used to attack civilians since 2014. He also referenced an article quoting the President of Nigeria as saying that the conflict has resulted in weapons and fighters streaming into the Lake Chad region. Weapons from Ukraine are already ending up in the hands of extremists, he said. “Who is watching the watchmen here?”, he wondered, noting that the United States will not provide international oversight over the billions in weapons it has sent to Ukraine. Urging the Council to live up to its responsibility, he called for a negotiated end to the war.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation requested today’s meeting to discuss the consequences of the growing smuggling of weapons being provided to Ukraine and for Council members to assess the impact of the ongoing influx of Western weapons into Ukraine on prospects for ending the conflict. Pointing to the proxy war by the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies against his country, he said that such large-scale military support has probably never extended to any State in history. Citing the American Center for International Policy, he said the overall volume of military assistance from Washington, D.C., alone to Kyiv from February to October totalled $40 billion. In addition, the United States and NATO are providing intelligence to the Kyiv regime. Without Western assistance, military activities in Ukraine would have come to an end a long time ago. The United States and NATO are providing the Zelenskyy regime with long-range weapons, allowing Ukrainian armed forces to strike peaceful areas of Donbass, he said, describing random strikes on residential and densely populated areas in recent weeks and days.
He voiced regret that members of the Secretariat did not have the courage to condemn the shelling of Donetsk, although they speak out all the time about the strikes on Ukrainian territory. All crimes committed by the United States and its allies will have legal consequences. As equipment is dwindling in warehouses, he said that the United States and its allies are trying to work with third countries, buying equipment and material from them and then giving them to Ukraine. The legality of these actions should be assessed, he said, adding that, in doing so, Western countries are violating their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty. Pointing to the risk of weapons supplied to Ukraine falling into the hands of terrorist and criminals, he said those are warnings and concerns of the police forces of European countries themselves. The situation is already so out of control that weapons destined for Kyiv are appearing on the black market not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East and Africa. He urged a sober assessment of the risks arising from the uncontrolled pumping of weapons to the Ukrainian regime. Western countries do not understand that they are fuelling the fire and increasing threats to international peace and security, he said.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), condemning the Russian Federation’s war in the strongest terms, said that her country will continue to stand by Ukraine. Moscow must abide by international law and stop its war of aggression now. Massive waves of missile and drone strikes demonstrate the Russian Federation’s disregard for the suffering it is causing to millions of people, she said, adding that children, persons with disabilities and the elderly must be protected. On the transfer of lethal weapons from Iran by the Russian Federation, she recalled that all States must respect the restrictions set out in resolution 2231 (2015). The Russian Federation is the one driving weapons flows into Ukraine through its illegal war, but it is not too late for it to do the right thing, respect the United Nations Charter, withdraw all troops and work for a peaceful solution through dialogue and diplomacy, she said.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that the Russian Federation is perpetrating this war with weapons sourced from Iran in violation of resolution 2231 (2015). It is ironic that Moscow is almost certainly seeking to source weaponry from other States sanctioned by the United Nations, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as its own stocks dwindle. Despite resounding calls for a ceasefire and for peace, dialogue and diplomacy, heard in the Council on 6 December, the President of the Russian Federation has confirmed that the invasion will continue and that it will be protracted. Ukraine has no choice but to exercise its right to defend itself; otherwise, it will cease to exist. “In a similar situation, all of us would do the same,” she said, adding that due to a deep determination to live, Ukraine is prevailing. The Russian Federation can end the suffering immediately by ceasing attacks against Ukraine — including on critical national infrastructure and innocent civilians — and withdrawing all its forces illegally present in Ukraine, she said.
CAROLYN OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) said that, over the past nine months, Ukraine has deployed its military and strategic capabilities to assert its inherent right to self-defence against the Russian Federation’s armed attack. Neither international law nor the United Nations Charter prohibit the supply of conventional weapons to a State under attack from another State. She added that she is acutely aware of the looming danger of a nuclear catastrophe, as the integrity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is persistently violated. As well, the war has spurred unprecedented levels of global energy, food and financial crises which have derailed the capacity of many developing States to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, further worsening socioeconomic conditions for many communities far removed from the war. The international community must focus on the immediate cessation of hostilities, including the unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. “While diplomatic efforts to end the war may appear to have eluded the international community, we must remain steadfast and unified in our efforts to facilitate a political dialogue with credible guarantees of addressing the respective security concerns of the parties,” she said.
GENG SHUANG (China) said that over the past 10 months, a large amount of weapons and ammunition have poured into Ukraine, adding: “Human lives seem so fragile when faced with gun barrels.” Both sides have suffered losses and trauma, with ordinary people bearing the brunt of the conflict. Recalling the High Representative’s statement in September about the risk of the potential diversion of weapons, as well as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) warning in June that weapons destined for Ukraine could end up on the black market and in the hands of criminals, he said that such warnings have unfortunately materialized, with weapons landing in the hands of armed groups and terrorists in the Middle East and Africa. He called for a cessation of hostilities and emphasized the need for a political solution to end the crisis, rather than flooding the battlefield with weapons and prolonging the conflict. The international community must support efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement and all parties must exercise restraint and bring about conditions to relaunch negotiations. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons must be rejected, he said, adding that efforts must be made to stabilize the global supply chain and preserve the stability of developing countries. As well, humanitarian assistance must be provided on the ground, he added.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that the Russian Federation is again trying to have the Council believe that this war was caused by Ukraine, egged on by the United States and Europe. “Let’s not confuse the attacker and the attacked,” he urged, stating that the Russian Federation bears sole responsibility for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. France is providing support to Ukraine so that Kyiv can exercise its legitimate right to self-defence and independence and it is proud of its decision to do so. It has been “robustly documented” that Moscow has used Iranian drones to target Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure, he said, calling on the Secretariat to investigate and report to the Council regarding this arms transfer that violates resolution 2231 (2015). France, for its part, will keep providing military support to Ukraine so long as Moscow’s aggression continues, just as it will continue providing humanitarian, economic and political aid. He added that, if the Russian Federation wishes the transfers it denounces today to cease, “the solution is a simple one”, which was provided by the International Court of Justice on 16 March. Namely, the Russian Federation must cease its military operations in Ukraine, withdraw from that country’s territory and respect Kyiv’s internationally recognized borders, he said.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) called on the Council to mitigate the risks of arms transfers. As the war continues, it is vital to safeguard weapons during transfers and deployment to prevent them from inadvertently falling into the wrong hands, especially those of terrorist groups. He welcomed initiatives to mitigate risks associated with arms transfers, including regional programmes to enhance anti-trafficking capabilities in the region, tailored plans concerning the transfer of high-technology weapons systems and stronger efforts to prevent the illicit trade in arms. The volume and type of arms involved in this conflict necessitate greater vigilance and transparency, he said, voicing his support for the calls for effective arms control measures. The Council has a responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and an obligation to Ukrainians and people around the world. For its part, the United Arab Emirates will continue to actively support and facilitate mediation and de-escalatory confidence measures, he said.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said once again that the war in Ukraine is a war of choice, an aggression against another country and a blatant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Helping Ukraine to defend itself is a moral duty and Albania is proud to be among those doing what they can. Whoever is helping Ukraine in whatever way, legally and openly, is also helping to uphold international law and protect the Charter. The real and very disturbing issue is not what is being provided to Ukraine, but rather the transfer of killing drones to the Russian Federation by Iran in flagrant violation of resolution 2231 (2015), she added. Those who disrespect the law must face consequences and those who commit crimes must be held accountable, she said, urging full solidarity with Ukraine, its resistance, and its right to decide on its policies and choose its friends and its future.
JAYNE TOROITICH (Kenya), reiterating her country’s call to undertake every effort to stop the war, said that the Council must be more responsive to its fundamental mandate to maintain international peace and security comprehensively. While Ukraine must bear the heavy responsibility of defending its internationally recognized boundaries, the proliferation of weapons will have a big impact both within and beyond that country. In noting the multi-pronged global crisis resulting from the war, she urged the Council to address this unprecedented proliferation. Food insecurity, a more complicated multilateral order and weapons proliferation cannot be effectively addressed with the war raging on. She also called for specific and sustained efforts to deliver a minimum level of de-escalation and de-confliction, the establishment of dialogue channels leading to a stable global order, the cessation of hostilities and a political settlement that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said the Russian Federation has wasted countless hours of the Council’s time on fictional dirty bombs in Ukraine, a claim debunked repeatedly by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As well, it has wasted the Council’s time on fictional biological weapons supposedly to be delivered to Ukraine’s near neighbours on the wings of birds and bats, he said, noting that those claims were rejected by the Council and by the States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention. The Russian Federation uses those stories to try to distract the Council from its own aggression, he said, pointing to credible reports of the Russian forces’ commission of rape, torture and summary executions in Ukraine. Frustrated on the battlefield, the Russian Federation has resorted to destroying Ukraine's critical energy infrastructure from afar, causing immense to civilians and defying the international community’s call to end its aggression. “Western assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russia's illegal and brutal invasion is not the problem here. It is Russia’s invasion itself.” The United States has seen no credible evidence of diversion of United States-provided equipment, he said, adding that it will review evidence to support such claims if it is produced. The United States takes very seriously its responsibility to protect its defence and dual-use technology and to prevent their diversion. At the same time, the United States is committed to continuing to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their country and their freedom, he added.
LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon), noting that the Council is meeting for the second time in the week to discuss the war in Ukraine, reiterated her country’s rejection of the war and its appeal to the parties to negotiate in good faith. Nobody can predict the destabilization and insecurity that might ensue due to the numerous weapons being used in the war, she said, calling on parties to comply with international humanitarian law and to abstain from both using weapons of mass destruction and from targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. They must avoid any actions that inflict further suffering on civilians and allow for the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid. She went on to urge parties to cease verbal and military escalation, adding: “It is time to silence the weapons in Ukraine.” More weapons only spell more death and destruction. The Council has a crucial role to play in seeking peace, she said, adding that Gabon stands with those who propose an alternative to the language of weapons.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), recalling his country’s concerns since 2014 regarding arms transfers, stressed the omnipresent impact of the weapons being used in the conflict. The highest price is being paid by civilians through their lives and the destruction of residential areas and infrastructure. All parties to the Arms Trade Treaty must abide by its provisions, he said, adding that States not yet party to that instrument must responsibly comply with the highest standards of precaution and with objectivity in their transfers. Thousands of lives depend on it, he said, underscoring the need for more specific arms control measures before the post-conflict stage and noting the increased difficulty as time passes. He reiterated Mexico’s call for the Council and the international community to promote dialogue and diplomacy and to not rule out mediation options. Ending the supply of weapons will require negotiations and a truce, but it will be impossible so long as the war continues, he said.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said that weapons now being used in Ukraine will possibly, in the future, fuel other conflicts in other parts of the world. Supplying arms and ammunition to the parties to the conflict in Ukraine might prolong the fighting and create more civilian suffering, but it is also undeniable that a State has a right to self-defence as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Such a discussion, however, distracts the Council from its mandate to maintain peace and security, he said, adding that more than nine months into the conflict, it has yet to call upon the parties to resolve their dispute peacefully, as it is supposed to do under Article 33 of the Charter. Calling for an immediate ceasefire without preconditions, he said that the world is looking to the Council to exercise its responsibility and stop this spiral of violence.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) pointed out that Ukraine did not commit an armed attack against the Russian Federation; rather, the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine, justifying its invasion by invoking Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Ireland is applying the relevant European Union common position whereby the bloc’s member States assess exports of military technology and equipment against a range of criteria, including a specific criterion on risk of diversion. “Attempts by the Russian Federation to frame this urgent and necessary support for Ukraine’s defence as an ‘uncontrolled supply of weapons’ is, once again, a poor attempt at obfuscating their grievous actions.” He expressed concern about reports of Moscow obtaining ballistic missiles from Iran in contravention of resolution 2231 (2015). Comments by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ambassador that his country is to supply the Russian Federation with ballistic missiles in contravention of resolution 1718 (2006) is also of serious concern. The Russian Federation must stop trying to use the Council as a platform to paint itself as the victim of its own aggression, he said. Rather, it must withdraw its troops and engage in good faith in dialogue and diplomacy to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict in line with international law and the Charter. Millions of lives in Ukraine, and across the world, depend on it, he said.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), Council President for December, speaking in her national capacity, reiterated India’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, adding that dialogue and diplomacy are the only way forward. All efforts should be made to de-escalate and bring both sides to the negotiating table. Emphasizing that the conflict’s impact is not limited to Europe, she said that higher prices and shortages of food grains and fuel are having an acute impact on the global South. In that regard, she stressed the need to avoid measures that further affect the global economy. On the humanitarian front, she said that India has dispatched 12 consignments of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and stands ready to do more. Going forward, India will promote dialogue and diplomacy with a view to ending the ongoing conflict, and work with other partners to mitigate economic challenges, particularly to developing countries, she said.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, said that his Western partners repeat the same talking points at every meeting, expressing a worldview in which the Russian Federation is guilty of everything everywhere. “In your blindness, you continue on a pathway that could lead to global consequences.” Blame for the Ukraine’s use of weapons on the peaceful citizens of Donbas cannot be placed on the Russian Federation. It is due to the “blooming corruption” of Ukrainian, American and European officials that weapons from Ukraine end up in the hands of international terrorists, fueling conflicts in other parts of the world and killing civilians there. The consequence of such actions is clear: it undermines international peace and security. The representative of the United States denied obvious facts and trends, he added, stating that that country’s desire to keep pumping weapons into Ukraine will be assessed by the international community and by American taxpayers themselves.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said that, soon, it will be no surprise to see to see Leo Tolstoy’s novel renamed Special Operation and Peace to comply with President Vladimir V. Putin’s laws, as it is — like many of the Russian Federation’s Council statements — a mix of fictional narrative, history and often-perverse philosophy. Responding to the representative of civil society who briefed the Council, he said that there is freedom of speech in the United States, “but for God’s sake, even in a city where cannabis is now legal, there is no need to fill this Chamber with the smoke of conspiracy”. Noting that the Russian Federation is again trying to legitimize its flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations by using the Council as a platform to circulate propaganda, he said that this is an algorithm that Moscow has explored since Soviet times. First, the victim is blamed, and the more it resists and receives assistance from responsible nations, the graver the accusations. Second, the lie is wrapped in numerous terms and technical characteristics to make fakes look like facts, he said.
Thanking all friends and allies that have supported Ukraine, including by supplying modern weapons, he said that his country is using the same to exercise its inherent right to self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter. Recalling that Ukraine launched its operation to liberate its east and south after the Russian Federation brought the same allegations it brings today in the Council on 8 September, he stressed that the liberation of the Kharkiv, Kherson and Luhansk regions is evidence that all weapons in Ukraine’s possession are serving their intended purpose of helping Ukrainian soldiers liberate Ukraine’s people and territory. Further, to prevent their illegal use, Ukraine has created and ensured the effective functioning of a multi-level system of arms control. This comprises three elements: circulation and use of small arms and light weapons; export controls; and control and supervision of weapons and military equipment transferred by foreign countries. Detailing the Government’s systematic efforts in this regard, he said that Ukraine will continue to demonstrate transparency and a commitment to cooperating fully with its partners, as well as international export control regimes.