Black Sea Grain Initiative Negotiations Continue, But Attacks on Civilians Impact Humanitarian Aid, Senior Official Tells Security Council
While intensive discussions are ongoing to secure an extension and improvements to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, rising attacks on civilians are impacting humanitarian aid, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as speakers took stock of the ongoing fallout of the war on Ukraine which is inching past the fifteenth month mark.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that hostilities, including missile strikes, appeared to be escalating on both sides of the front line, with civilian casualties rising to their highest levels in months. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had verified a staggering 23,600 civilian casualties since 24 February 2022, he said, noting that the actual toll is likely to be much higher.
Against this backdrop, he outlined a slew of challenges facing the provisioning of humanitarian aid on the ground, including obstructed access to communities on the north-eastern border with the Russian Federation and near the front line, as well as attacks on humanitarian facilities. Despite such dangerous and challenging circumstances, humanitarian workers continued to deliver assistance across Ukraine with nearly 3.6 million people receiving assistance in the first quarter of 2023.
Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he said that 30 million metric tons of cargo have been safely exported from Ukrainian ports, with over half to developing countries and least developed countries, including towards humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Somalia. However, there is a reduction in exports out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports due to a related slowdown in operations. Calling for more to be done regarding the export of ammonia, he urged all parties to meet their responsibilities, “as the world watches us very closely”.
In the ensuing debate, speakers were near unanimous in their call for unhindered humanitarian access to civilians in need and for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, emphasizing its crucial role in ensuring global food security. A number of delegates also voiced concern over deteriorating humanitarian conditions and mounting civilian casualties in Ukraine.
Stressing the need for accountability, Malta’s delegate spotlighted the forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation documented in the recent report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Voicing support for the ongoing International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court processes, she took note of the warrant issued against President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian Federation Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.
The United Kingdom’s delegate characterized recent reports of Russian attacks on humanitarian operations as “appalling”, urging the Russian Federation to abide by international humanitarian law. Yet, despite the United Nations’ regular attempts to gain access to deliver humanitarian support, the Russian Federation has never provided necessary security guarantees for such access.
Meanwhile, the United States’ delegate underscored that that every day the Russian Federation obstructs or threatens to suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, it raises global food prices around the world. It must implement its own commitments and stop holding global food security hostage to its cynical power plays and profit-taking, he stressed.
The representative of Poland noted that Russian Federation military failures on the battleground have been accompanied by stepped-up brutal aggression on civilians. Condemning the targeting of critical infrastructure by rockets and civilian deaths, he called on Member States to never be indifferent, or get used to the war even if it disappeared from breaking news headlines.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative, pointing to a hypocrisy underlining today’s meeting and questioning Western countries’ commitment to protecting civilians, declared that weapons supplied to Ukraine by Council members are killing civilians, women and children every day. Further, the Russian Federation supported the package agreement [Black Sea Grain Initiative], including the ammonia exports, although it did not go according to plan. The Secretary-General’s proposed package only works to service Ukraine’s commercial exports, he said, warning that, if no progress was achieved, his country could not guarantee the extension of the agreement.
Nonetheless, the representative of Ukraine emphasized that his country remains a reliable contributor to global food security by implementing the Black Sea Grain Initiative and is striving for its extension, alongside the United Nations and Türkiye. He also pointed out that “innocent civilians have been a deliberate target for Russian weapons and a permitted object for its crimes”. The Secretary-General and the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict should assess the gravity of violations against children in Ukraine by Moscow in the upcoming annual report.
For his part, Mozambique’s delegate stated that it is “heart-breaking” that conflicts remain the major driver of humanitarian crises, especially in Ukraine. Noting that guaranteeing effective protection of civilians in conflict situations remains “a formidable challenge”, he called on the belligerent parties to immediately return to direct negotiations, conducted in good faith, and for urgent measures to be taken to allow for aid distribution, reconstruction, as well as long-term peace and reconciliation in the country.
The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:17 p.m.
MARTIN GRIFFITHS, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalled that, in his last briefing to the Council, he had highlighted the humanitarian impact of the war not only on the people of Ukraine, but on the wider world, and had emphasized the overwhelming need for a political solution to the war on Ukraine. However, hostilities, including missile strikes, currently appear to be escalating on both sides of the front line and civilian casualties are rising to their highest levels in months.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified a staggering 23,600 civilian casualties since 24 February 2022, he continued, adding that the actual toll is likely to be much higher. Communities along the north-eastern border with the Russian Federation and near the front line were encircled, cut off from water, food and medical care by heavy ground fighting and blocked roads, while only last week in Kherson, scores of civilians were left in need of shelter and health care, due to reported damage to residential buildings, a school, an outpatient hospital and an elderly care facility.
Missile strikes in Odessa hit a humanitarian storage warehouse, while a Ukrainian Red Cross mobile hospital in Mykolaiv was also hit, he reported. Although no humanitarian staff or volunteers were injured during the latest wave of attacks, he urged that parties take constant care to protect all civilians and civilian objects, as well as humanitarian facilities and assets. Despite a complex and dangerous humanitarian operating environment, humanitarian workers continue to deliver assistance across Ukraine, with nearly 3.6 million people receiving humanitarian assistance in Ukraine in the first quarter of 2023. Around 43 inter-agency convoys have delivered supplies to 278,000 people in front-line areas so far this year, in the form of cash assistance, food, health care, among others, with local partners conducting last-mile delivery and distribution.
However, he emphasized the need to do more to scale efforts, highlighting persisting challenges in reaching all areas currently under the military control of the Russian Federation: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. While the humanitarian system — with direct engagement with key interlocutors in Moscow and Kyiv — was working towards safe and unimpeded passage of inter-agency convoys to those areas, they had not been able to deliver assistance, despite fourteen months of notifying parties of their intentions.
Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he said that 30 million metric tons of cargo have been safely exported from Ukrainian ports under the Initiative, of which over 55 per cent to developing countries and 6 per cent has gone directly to least developed countries. That includes just under 600,000 metric tons of wheat transported by the World Food Programme (WFP), in direct support of humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. He also noted a lessening in the prices of cereals globally, which he attributed in part to in the continued movement of Ukrainian grain, and by large quantities available for export in the Russian Federation and other locations.
Such developments represent undeniable progress, but much more remains to be done, he said, highlighting, in particular, the export of ammonia, which has not yet been possible, although it is referred to in the Initiative. Further, he noted an unfortunate reduction in volumes of exports moving out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, due to increasing challenges within the Joint Coordination Centre and a related slowdown in operations. In this context, he had been engaged in intensive discussions with the parties to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, to secure agreement on its extension and the improvements needed for it to operate effectively and predictably. In parallel, Rebeca Grynspan and her team have continued to deliver a wide range of support with concrete results under the Memorandum of Understanding on the facilitation of Russian Federation food and fertilizer exports. Calling on all parties to meet their responsibilities in this regard, “as the world watches us very closely”, he thanked Türkiye for its efforts in brokering the deal and in intervening at all levels for the deal to be sustained.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) called Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine “an affront to the collective conscience” that has already led to 23,000 civilian victims, including 1,000 children. These figures only represent a fraction of the real toll, he observed, noting the difficulty to verify casualties in hard-to-reach zones temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. Journalists who bravely cover the conflict are also at risk, as tragically demonstrated by the death of French journalist Arman Soldin. Since February 2022, Russian authorities have carried out countless violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, intentionally targeting civilians and infrastructure. These crimes — including killings, rapes, forced displacement, deportation of children and deliberate attacks against hospitals, schools and maternity clinics — must not go unpunished, he stressed. Noting that there is no lasting peace without justice, he underlined the need to combat impunity and hold perpetrators accountable. The Russian Federation’s war has no place in the modern world and must not be accepted, he said.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) called on the Russian Federation to facilitate safe access to territory temporarily under its control. Noting deteriorating humanitarian conditions and rising civilian casualties, he stressed the need for the parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. He also underscored the urgency of ending the use of explosives in populated areas and voiced regret that high-impact explosive weapons have caused 92.5 per cent of civilian casualties in Ukraine. Additionally, he expressed condolences to France for French journalist Arman Soldin — killed in Bakhmut on 9 May — and underscored the significant role of reporters in documenting and disseminating the reality of the war. Pointing to the spectre of nuclear catastrophe — particularly at Zaporizhzhia — he called on the parties to take all necessary measures to safeguard the nuclear plant. He also urged all parties to protect civilians, along with the goods required for food production and distribution. He added that the Black Sea Grain Initiative must be extended as long as the conflict lasts.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said that, 446 days into the relentless war on Ukraine, the country had not surrendered; it was fighting back harder than ever, despite all attempts to terrorize it. Just as Mariupol came to symbolize the aggression’s brutality, Bakhmut would symbolize Ukrainian resistance, he said. Citing the civilian toll of the war, with 23,000 people killed or wounded, he said that Moscow’s claim that it was not fighting the Ukrainian people was “not even a bad joke”, as it had uprooted 14 million civilians from their homes, left 18 million in need of humanitarian assistance and abducted thousands of children. Further, serious violations of human rights in towns under occupation by the Russian Federation had been duly documented, he said, citing findings by bodies including the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed. The most “incomprehensible” of such crimes were those perpetrated on children, he said, underscoring the need for the Secretary-General’s report to outline the war’s impact on children. On the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is crucial to global food security, he voiced concern over the reported slowdown in activity, and that any renewal beyond 18 May seemed to “go in weeks, not months”. In this context, he called for the Initiative to be extended, emphasizing: “One does not sit in the Council to deny food to those in need.”
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said that it is “heart-breaking” that conflicts remain the major driver of humanitarian crises, especially in Ukraine. He stressed that humanitarian action is an imperative that aims to address the demands of those in need — particularly in terms of protection and assistance — adding that such action encompasses legal, ethical and political dimensions. While noting that guaranteeing effective protection of civilians in conflict situations remains “a formidable challenge”, he stressed that humanitarian work be prioritized. He therefore called on the parties in Ukraine to take urgent measures to allow for aid distribution, reconstruction, long-term peace and reconciliation in the country. Moreover, he called on the belligerent parties to immediately return to direct negotiations, conducted in good faith, urging that peace initiatives put forward by several States — including Council members — be given a chance. He also called for the Black Sea Grain Initiative to be renewed, improved and expanded.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), pointing to the hypocrisy underlining today’s meeting, said there were no Council meetings in April on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. Questioning Western countries’ commitment to protecting civilians, he said that weapons supplied to Ukraine by Council members are killing civilians, women and children every day, and destroying health facilities. The Russian Federation military is not fighting civilians or subjecting them to targeted strikes, unlike Ukrainian armed forces, he stated, noting, however, that Kyiv does not shy away from openly terrorist methods. Furthermore, global food security issues showed up long before the special military operation and were the consequence of Western countries’ irresponsible monetary policy, which were then worsened by the pandemic.
His country supported the package agreement [Black Sea Grain Initiative], but it did not go according to plan, he said, pointing out that, as of 4 May, 40 per cent of all production from the sea humanitarian corridor went to the United States. Ammonia exports were supposed to be launched in parallel with grain exports, but this never happened, he added, also detailing other provisions which did not materialize. Pointing to other issues, he said the package proposed by the Secretary-General works only with respect to servicing Ukraine’s commercial exports. His country in March had already warned during the extension then that if there was no progress on the five systemic issues blocking its agro-supplies, that it could not guarantee that the package agreement will be extended, he said.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), stressing that there must be no impunity for war crimes and other acts of atrocities, underscored that the Russian Federation must be held accountable. Affirming his country’s commitment to Ukraine’s rapid recovery and reconstruction, he said Japan will continue to steadily implement humanitarian, financial and other assistance, totaling $7.6 billion to support Ukraine. It also actively contributes to providing emergency food assistance and enhancing the resilience of the international community, and has so far committed over $250 million of assistance, he added. Voicing regret that the Russian Federation opposed a 120-day automatic extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in March, he expressed concern that, since 1 May, the Joint Coordination Centre inspection rate has dropped significantly, indicating not only the Russian Federation’s unwillingness to facilitate inspections and movements of ships, but also the intention to suspend the grain deal. To avert global hunger and tackle food insecurity, the safe and smooth passage of vessels transporting grain, related foodstuffs and fertilizers from designated Ukrainian ports must be ensured, by sustaining the Initiative’s operations, he stressed, calling on all relevant parties, particularly the Russian Federation, to act responsibly to ensure the continuation of the grain deal.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), noting that the toll of the conflict in Ukraine continues to grow as it passes its fifteenth month, voiced concern about the targeting of civilians and civilian casualties, as well as the displacement of civilians. Further, it is concerning that humanitarian assistance has not been able to get to those in need, he said, citing the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs projection that as many as 17.6 million Ukrainians need assistance in 2023. In this context, he called on all parties to undertake efforts to ensure that convoys can reach all areas of conflict, including those closest to the front lines. As well, the vulnerable, including children and the elderly, must be able to access basic services. Gabon reiterates its call on the belligerents to uphold international humanitarian law, and to refrain from targeting civilians, civilian infrastructure, and to abstain from the use of weapons with an indiscriminate effect. Further, he called on all parties to work towards bringing about peace and peaceful coexistence, taking note of encouraging signs of progress with respect to the Black Sea Grain Initiative and prisoner exchange.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) expressed concern that the war on Ukraine puts at risk the lives of innocent civilians as several cities and towns continue to come under the heavy bombardment of military artillery. For several weeks, intense fighting has held in areas such as Bakhmut, Mariupol, Lysychansk, Popasna and Sievierodonetsk, where there are reports of numerous civilian casualties. Moreover, both sides have suffered great costs as hundreds of thousands of their men have lost their lives or been injured at the frontlines of the battle. In keeping with their humanitarian obligations, he urged the parties to ensure the safe passage of civilians and to grant unhindered humanitarian access to all areas where people require assistance, including the occupied territories of Ukraine. She cautioned against deliberate attacks on civilian populated areas, as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure, especially energy and water installations, homes, medical centres and schools whose destruction heighten the vulnerabilities of civilians. Against this backdrop, she emphasized the importance of making medical, reproductive and psychological health services accessible to all, especially women and children. Citing the grain deal as an important stabilizing factor in global food prices over the past year, she expressed hope for an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Following the recent evacuation of settlements around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, she underscored the absolute necessity of nuclear safety and security in Ukraine, noting that “there can be no winners in a nuclearized conflict”.
GUSTAVO SÉNÉCHAL (Brazil) voicing regret about the pursuit of a military solution to the conflict, urged parties to refrain from attacking critical civilian infrastructure. He also stressed that there must be no politicization of humanitarian messages, nor selective application of international humanitarian law. Noting new appeals in favour of dialogue between the parties, he underscored that this is the only path towards sustainable peace. Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he encouraged the Russian Federation and Ukraine to reach an understanding, and urged other Member States to avoid actions that go against the spirit of the Istanbul agreements. Voicing concern about the deterioration of the political environment in the Council, he said that, despite different perspectives, Council members' understanding of basic international humanitarian law norms and principles must be shared. Equally regrettable are attempts, mentioned at a meeting earlier this month by Gabon, to force others to choose sides, he said, adding that the parties and other Member States must be willing to understand the demands and concerns of all sides.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) underscored that every day the Russian Federation obstructs or threatens to suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, it raises global food prices around the world. It must implement its own commitments and stop holding global food security hostage to its cynical power plays and profit-taking. Spotlighting the rising death toll in Ukraine’s civilian population centres, he noted that, from 1 to 4 May, the Russian Federation launched more than 145 air strikes across Ukraine, translating into an average of more than one missile, drone or bomb every hour, 24 hours a day, for three days straight. In just those three days alone, the Russian Federation’s attacks have killed and injured more than 100 civilians. Pointing to worsening conditions reported by humanitarian organization, he called on Russian Federation President Vladmir V. Putin to stop holding the world’s hungry hostage and extend and fully implement the Initiative. He further called on the Russian Federation to end its attacks on the people of Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s territory. “The Russian Federation alone has the power to end the war it senselessly started,” he stressed.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), voicing concern over the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine since it was last discussed at the Council, noted that the number of people in need of emergency humanitarian aid and protection has increased from approximately 3 million to nearly 18 million over the past 15 months. Malta strongly condemns the Russia Federation’s continued escalation of its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, which has resulted in these circumstances. She voiced concern over continuing deliberate large-scale attacks on critical infrastructure needed for basic services, including attacks on energy infrastructure, which prompted an energy crisis in the first months of 2023, as well as the indiscriminate killings of civilians, torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, and the abduction of children. In this context, she cited the recent report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which found that the forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation or regions under Russian control constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to war crimes, underscoring the need for these children to be promptly returned to Ukraine using technical assistance from international organizations. Stressing the need to ensure accountability for all crimes committed by the Russian Federation, she expressed support for the ongoing International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court processes to this end, taking note of the warrant issued against President Vladimir V. Putin and Russian Federation Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. She reiterated the need for hostilities to cease, and for the Black Sea Grain Initiative to be further extended to ensure global food security.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine remains dire, and that the effects of the crisis continue to spill over in various contexts. The international community should take positive steps to mitigate its humanitarian consequences, de-escalate the situation and facilitate an early cessation of hostilities. Noting that international humanitarian law must be observed, he called on parties to the conflict to protect civilians and civilian facilities. Women and children are the most vulnerable groups in armed conflicts and must be given special attention, he added. Against this backdrop, he welcomed the international community’s expansion of aid to all affected populations and repair of civilian infrastructure on the basis of neutrality and impartiality. He also voiced support for effective implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding on the export of Russian Federation food and fertilizers. Underscoring that the red line of nuclear safety must never be crossed, he observed that the safety and security of nuclear power plants in Ukraine concern the well-being of millions of people and the environment. He added that unilateral sanctions have no basis in international law, urging a political settlement to the crisis through dialogue and negotiations.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), calling the recent reports of recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian Red Cross warehouses in Odessa and a mobile hospital in Mykolaiv appalling, she urged the Russian Federation to abide by international humanitarian law, particularly the distinction between combatants and civilians. Ukrainian civilians — indeed, all civilians — should be protected by all combatants. Despite the United Nations’ regular attempts to gain access to deliver humanitarian support, the Russian Federation has never provided necessary security guarantees for such access. Underscoring the critical importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she stressed that the Russian Federation must stop threatening to leave the Initiative and agree to a sustained and stable deal. Her country is fully committed to holding the Russian Federation to account for its illegal actions in Ukraine and will continue to support independent investigations into the atrocities committed in the country, she said.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), underscoring the need to not stand idly by as the war in Ukraine “transforms into a protracted conflict”, noted that fighting has been continuous, with civilians bearing the brunt of suffering. Continued humanitarian access must be ensured. Reiterating her call on the parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, she said the United Arab Emirates is continuing to lend support to humanitarian assistance efforts, including through donating ambulances and 2,500 generators. Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, she emphasized the need for it to continue, noting that it has alleviated pressure on global food prices and the inevitable knock-on effects of a destabilized food system on the world’s poorest. As well, she called for call the full implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Russian fertilizers and food products. Noting that agreement on the Initiative and other successful negotiated outcomes, such as exchanges of prisoners of war, demonstrates some degree of willingness to negotiate, she called for de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, spotlighted the multiple waves of attacks the Ukrainian population has had to endure, including Russian Federation missiles and drone-hits on towns in various regions of Ukraine. In Kherson, attacks hit a train station and a supermarket during rush hour and killed or injured dozens of persons; in Odessa, the Ukrainian Red Cross warehouse was destroyed, as was its mobile clinic in Mykolayev; and in Ternopil, a humanitarian warehouse was also destroyed. Strongly condemning these attacks, she emphasized that civilians and civilian objects are not targets, and the parties to the conflict have the responsibility to take all possible measures to protect the civilian population. She also recalled the obligation to protect humanitarian workers and ensure their unhindered access to 18 million people in need in Ukraine, including to those in the Russian Federation occupied areas. In addition, she voiced supported for the International Independent Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation that complementary instruments, such as a victims registry, reparations and mental health and psychosocial services, be put in place. Moreover, the Black Sea Grain Initiative that helps to alleviate food and energy insecurity must continue.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said that, in April alone, the Russian Federation committed 6,139 war crimes which led to the death of 207 Ukrainian civilians, including 11 children. Since day one of the invasion, “innocent civilians have been a deliberate target for Russian weapons and a permitted object for its crimes”, he said, declaring: “‘Russism’ and its disciples, including in this Chamber, have defied logic, all laws on non-contradiction, and all semblance of decency.” Detailing further attacks and deaths in May, he also noted that on 7 May, a Russian Federation missile damaged a mobile hospital in Mykolaiv region which also belonged to the Red Cross in Ukraine, pointing out that, since the beginning of the invasion, 25 facilities of the Red Cross have been damaged or destroyed. In addition to the immediate harm caused to millions of Ukrainians, the long-term effects of displacement, trauma and poverty will be felt for years to come. As a result of the Russian Federation aggression, 480 children have been killed and 967 injured. Moreover, Russian Federation attacks have damaged 3,185 educational institutions, 1,412 health-care objects and 577 health-care facilities. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), education for an estimated 5.7 million children has been disrupted. To date, the Ukrainian authorities have identified 19,393 children deported or abducted to the Russian Federation or the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by that country.
In this context, he welcomed the conclusions of the reports by the Commission on Inquiry on Ukraine that have confirmed the enormous scale of violations and crimes committed by the Russian Federation, in particular against children. He also called on the Secretary-General and the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to give a proper assessment of the gravity of violations against children in Ukraine by Moscow in the upcoming annual report. On mine contamination, he said that 170,000 to 180,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory are contaminated with mines and other explosive ordnances. Unfortunately, those who risk their lives to clear Ukrainian lands from mines are also a target for the Russian Federation troops. Describing the mine contamination in Ukraine as an issue for global food security, he said his country remains a reliable contributor to global food security by implementing the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Together with the United Nations and Türkiye, Ukraine is striving for the extension of the Initiative. “Lasting peace can only be possible if evil is defeated and is not able to continue its aggression”, he stated, adding that Ukraine is committed “to stop this modern evil of 'Russism’.”
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that, for 15 months, the Russian Federation leadership has struggled to find any justification for its illegal war of aggression. He also strongly condemned cases related to sexual and gender-based violence, and the killing and maiming of children, amid attacks on schools and hospitals, adding: “Russia’s practice of forcibly transferring and deporting Ukrainian children is a violation of international humanitarian law.” Further, he deplored the Russian Federation’s attacks on journalists, noting that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had reported that 12 journalists had been killed in Ukraine since the start of the invasion. He welcomed the creation of the new International Centre for Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine in the Hague and reiterated his support for the investigations of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Further, he voiced support for an international mechanism to register the damages the Russian Federation has inflicted, in line with the General Assembly resolution adopted on 15 November 2022.
Turning to global food security, he noted that the Russian Federation’s aggression had driven up food and fertilizer prices worldwide. Against this backdrop, he underscored the need to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, to provide continuity and predictability needed by operators and to avoid a discontinuation in shipments of grains to countries in need. “We must not forget that there would be no need for the Initiative if it were not for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” he pointed out. He also outlined other efforts to ensure food security, including the bloc’s Solidarity Lanes, which have allowed the export of more than 32 million tons of Ukraine’s food and agricultural goods and the provisioning of €18 billion for food security needs in 2021-2024, focusing on regions most affected by food insecurity. He called for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in line with the United Nations Charter and the General Assembly resolution adopted in February.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania) welcomed the continued efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and those of Türkiye in keeping the Black Sea Grain Initiative alive, stressing that: “We need this Initiative to move forward. We need predictability. We need responsibility.” His country will continue to facilitate the export of grains from Ukraine to reach those in need via the European Union Solidarity Lanes, he said, noting that, so far, over 16 million tons of grain crossed Romanian territory. In line with the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 23 February, he said that Romania will also continue to call for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine. He also noted that the March report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry recommends to the Russian Federation to limit the use of private military and security companies as they are “generally less accountable than regular forces”. Justice must be ensured with regard to all core crimes committed in the context of this war, including the crime of aggression, he stressed.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) took note of the “new distressing facts” presented on the humanitarian impact of the Russian Federation’s aggression on Ukraine, which is soon to surpass 500 days. Russian military failures on the battleground have been accompanied by stepped-up brutal aggression on civilians, he said, condemning the targeting of critical infrastructure by rockets and civilian deaths. The strategy of the Russian Federation at the United Nations entailed ignoring appeals to stop its aggression and flooding the forum with misinformation and propaganda, he said, calling on Member States to never be indifferent, or get used to the war even if it disappeared from breaking news headlines. He also urged that Member States continue to defend the Charter of the United Nations. Underscoring the need for help to be lent to Ukraine on the ground, he highlighted his country’s contributions in this regard, including in the form of social benefits for Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Poland, which amounts to $1.2 billion this year. Poland will continue to support Ukraine at the United Nations and on the ground and will not be worn down by hybrid attacks on it, which have been upscaling recently, he added.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), also speaking for Estonia and Latvia and associating himself with the European Union, said that, as a result of the full-scale war, millions of people have been forced to flee their homes, leading to displacement and the loss of livelihoods, thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed or injured, and many are experiencing the trauma and stress of displacement and violence. “Each additional day of aggression prolongs the toll of human suffering,” he asserted, adding that Moscow is terrorizing the civilian population through its massive missile strikes at critical infrastructure and residential areas. These attacks are designed to erode the will of ordinary Ukrainians to resist. However, launching attacks with the sole purpose of terrorizing civilians is a war crime, he said, also highlighting the large-scale attempts by Moscow to abduct and transfer children from Ukraine. In this regard, he cited the recent arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for President Vladimir V. Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine as “concrete steps towards accountability”. Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he said that, if Moscow was serious about countering food insecurity, it would stop its threats to unilaterally leave the Initiative and put an end to delaying the inspection of vessels.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), speaking also for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said their countries are committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a cornerstone of international humanitarian law. Noting the Russian Federation’s continuing indiscriminate missile attacks across Ukrainian cities, he welcomed the establishment of a register of damage that documents claims of damage caused by the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as recommended by the General Assembly resolution. Condemning in the strongest terms attacks on humanitarian operations, including one on a Ukrainian Red Cross warehouse in Odessa and on medical facilities in Mykolaiv, he called on the Russian Federation to allow full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors. Until the Russian Federation ends its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative remains imperative to avoid a worsening of the global food crisis, he stressed. He welcomed the active engagement by the Secretary-General and Türkiye and urged the Russian Federation to ensure a long-term rollover of the Initiative, in line with the Istanbul agreement, and to immediately suspend its military operations.