Secretary-General Says Russian Federation’s Recognition of ‘Independent’ Donetsk, Luhansk Violate Ukraine’s Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly in New York today:

We meet in the face of the most serious global peace and security crisis in recent years — and certainly in my time as Secretary-General.  Our world is facing a moment of peril.  I truly hoped it would not come.

The latest developments regarding Ukraine are a cause of grave concern.  They include reports of increased ceasefire violations across the contact line and the real risk of further escalation on the ground.  My thoughts are with all those who have already suffered so much death, destruction and displacement.

The history of this conflict is complex, with at least two permanently opposing narratives.  I know that their authors will never agree on what happened in the past.  But in the present situation one thing is clear:  the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize the so-called “independence” of Donetsk and Luhansk regions — and the follow-up — are violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

And here in this hallowed Hall, I must emphasize that this action is also inconsistent with a landmark resolution adopted by the General Assembly more than half a century ago.  I refer to the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  This so-called “Friendly Relations Declaration” was adopted during the General Assembly session marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations.

The Friendly Relations Declaration — which has been cited repeatedly by the International Court of Justice as representing international law — sets out several vital principles that are highly relevant to today’s session.  In particular, I would note the principle of sovereign equality of States, and the affirmation that “the territorial integrity and political independence of the State are inviolable”.  Other resolutions of the General Assembly are also fully behind the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.

The Minsk agreements — approved by the Security Council and that I strongly supported from the beginning — were surviving in an intensive care unit thanks to a number of life-support devices.  But now those devices have been disconnected.  We must also be concerned about preserving the integrity of peacekeeping.  The United Nations has a long and recognized experience deploying peacekeeping operations — which only take place with the consent of the host country.

It is time for restraint, reason and de-escalation.  There is no place for actions and statements that would take this dangerous situation over the abyss.  It is time to establish a ceasefire and return to the path of dialogue and negotiations to save the people in Ukraine and beyond from the scourge of war.  I urge all parties to make full use of Article 33 of the Charter and its diverse instruments of pacific settlement of disputes.  The United Nations system is continuing to support the people in Ukraine through our human rights and humanitarian work.

Our Human Rights Monitoring Mission has seven offices throughout the country — on both sides of the contact line — documenting civilian casualties, monitoring freedom of movement and reporting on allegations of human rights violations.  Our humanitarian operations are independent of whoever might control the territory where people are living.

Even before this latest escalation, 2 million people in Ukraine needed humanitarian assistance.  Since the start of 2022 alone, we and our partners have delivered 140 metric tons of life-saving aid across the contact line.  Here again, our actions are based entirely on humanitarian principles endorsed by the General Assembly.

United Nations humanitarian assistance is guided by four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.  And these principles are central to establishing and maintaining access to affected people, including those in the context of an armed conflict.  The General Assembly has repeatedly underscored the importance of promoting and respecting these principles within the framework of humanitarian assistance.  Our humanitarian agencies are committing to staying and delivering to support the people in Ukraine and are ready to adjust and reprioritize their operations as necessary.

As we sadly know all too well, in conflict, civilians, including women and children, always suffer first and suffer most.  If the conflict in Ukraine expands, the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years.  I urge all sides to allow safe and unimpeded access by humanitarian agencies, including in non-government controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.  All parties must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law.

I am fully committed to support all efforts to resolve this crisis without further bloodshed.  My good offices remain available.  We cannot and will not relent in the search for a peaceful solution.

For information media. Not an official record.