Preventing Diversions of Arms to Ukraine Crucial for Country, Region Security, Stability, Senior Disarmament Official Tells Security Council
Preventing the diversion of arms transferred to Ukraine is essential for security and stability in that country and beyond, a senior United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today, as members alternately called for dialogue over proliferation or underscored Ukraine’s right to defend itself from the permanent member that requested the meeting.
Adedeji Ebo, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, reported that information about transfers of weapons systems and ammunition to Ukraine — which has continued since the Council last met on this topic — is available in open sources. The large-scale influx of arms and ammunition into any situation of armed conflict raises concerns, he said, stressing that measures to address the risk of diversion are essential to prevent further instability and insecurity in Ukraine, the region and beyond. Such measures include pre-transfer risk assessments, end-user certification and post-shipment verifications.
Noting that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms remains a key tool as it helps track the influx of weapons into conflict zones, he also pointed out that States have established several arms-control instruments to prevent the diversion of such arms and regulate the international arms trade. He therefore called on States to join relevant treaties and implement their obligations pursuant to instruments to which they are party. Beyond addressing arms transfers, however, all parties to the conflict have a duty to protect civilians. “Attacks against civilians and infrastructure must stop,” he emphasized, appealing to all Member States to make every effort for peace.
In the ensuing discussion, some Council members spotlighted the Russian Federation’s status as the aggressor and underscored that arms transfers to Ukraine support Kyiv’s right to defend itself pursuant to Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. Others expressed concern that arms proliferation risks escalating the conflict and diverting weapons to unintended destinations or recipients. Still others spotlighted the conflict’s toll on civilians, stressing that negotiation is necessary for peace as transfers of lethal weapons only fuel violence.
The representative of the Russian Federation, voicing concern over the transfer of powerful weapons systems to Kyiv, underscored that the collective West is using Ukraine as a testing site, “dragging out the conflict to the last Ukrainian in their effort to impose a strategic defeat on the Russian Federation”. Citing the much greater amount of money allocated to Ukraine’s armed forces than spent on food security between 2021 and 2023 as an illustration of the collective West’s “real priorities”, he also said that Western weapons have ended up in the hands of criminal, terrorist and armed groups — not only in Europe but also in other regions around the world.
Ecuador’s representative, while also spotlighting increasing global military expenditure, noted that some defence materials and anti-aircraft systems can mitigate infrastructure destruction — when used appropriately. Export-control efforts must focus on protecting civilians, and — condemning violations of arms embargoes and sanctions regimes — he called on the Russian Federation to end its military occupation.
The representative of China, recalling “painful lessons” from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia that showed how weapons and explosive remnants of war pose security risks and burden reconstruction, stressed there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis. The constant feeding of weapons to the battlefield will only lead to escalation, more civilian casualties and, if such weapons are diverted to terrorists or armed groups, to new turmoil elsewhere, he said.
On that point, Ghana’s representative highlighted how Africa is still grappling with the consequences of arms influx, including from the Sahel region. Reaffirming the need for tracing and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that supplied arms serve their purpose, she further called for compliance with non-proliferation agreements. The sovereign rights of Ukraine can be best assured in the context of peace, she stressed, emphasizing the need for efforts towards this end.
The representative of Japan, however, joined others in stressing that, amidst Moscow’s efforts to divert public attention from its own violations of the Charter, “we must not confuse victims with perpetrators”. While the Russian Federation requested today’s meeting to discuss the provision of lethal weapons to Kyiv, he observed that “this illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine was initiated by Russia in the first place”.
Ukraine’s representative, meanwhile, warned that his country will continue to exercise its right to self-defence pursuant to Article 51 of the Charter, certain General Assembly resolutions and the relevant order by the International Court of Justice. Noting that a formula for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace already exists in the relevant 2023 General Assembly resolution, he recalled that its main elements include the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity. As such, he urged the Russian Federation to “get back across the 1991 border”.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:32 p.m.
ADEDEJI EBO, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, reported that the provision of military assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine has continued since the High Representative’s last briefing on this topic. Transfers of weapon systems and ammunition — information about which is available in open sources — have included battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, combat helicopters, large-calibre artillery systems, missile systems, uncrewed combat aerial vehicles, remotely operated munitions and small arms and light weapons. There have also been reports of States transferring — or planning to transfer — weapons such as uncrewed aerial combat vehicles and ammunition to Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine.
Further, media outlets have reported on the transfer of major conventional arms — including artillery rocket systems — to non-State groups involved in the war against Ukraine, he continued. Underscoring that the large-scale influx of weapons and ammunition into any situation of armed conflict raises concerns for peace, security and stability, he stressed that measures to address the risk of diversion are essential to preventing further instability and insecurity in Ukraine, the region and beyond. Such measures include pre-transfer risk assessments, end-user certification, effective legal and enforcement measures and post-shipment verifications.
Preventing diversion also requires cooperation and information-exchange between importing, transit and exporting States, as well as effective accounting practices, physical safeguarding of arms and ammunition and customs and border-control measures, he emphasized. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms remains a key tool in this regard and Member States should participate in this mechanism because, among other things, it helps track the influx of weapons in conflict zones. States have also established several arms-control treaties and instruments to prevent the diversion of conventional arms and regulate the international arms trade.
Offering several examples, he called on States to consider joining relevant treaties and to implement their legal obligations and political commitments under relevant instruments to which they are party to minimize the risk of diversion of arms and ammunition. Beyond addressing arms transfers, however, he underscored that all parties to the conflict have a duty to protect civilians and ensure compliance with applicable international law.
After almost 15 months of the Russian Federation’s military offensive into Ukraine, suffering, loss, displacement and destruction “continue to form part of an unbearable routine”, he stressed, observing that, in addition to the thousands of civilians killed and injured, the destruction of essential critical infrastructure and services is particularly alarming. “Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop,” he urged. Adding that the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine — a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations — is causing massive suffering and devastation to Ukraine and its people, he appealed to all Member States to make every effort for peace.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) noted that Western countries insist that they are not party to the conflict, but simply helping Ukraine defend itself. However, he pointed to a proxy war being waged with the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The influx of Western weapons to Ukraine is growing and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries are not interested in any peaceful solution to the conflict. Echoing the European Union’s High Representative, he said that, in order to end the war quickly, Western countries must stop providing military assistance to Ukraine. Voicing concern over the transfer of powerful weapons systems to Kyiv and training of the Ukrainian armed forces, he underscored that the collective West is using Ukraine as a testing site, “dragging out the conflict down to the last Ukrainian in their effort to impose a strategic defeat on the Russian Federation.” Further, pumping Ukraine with weapons is costing billions of dollars from the pockets of taxpayers, he said, citing the United States Congress’s allocation of $48 billion for military assistance and the European Union’s assistance of €16 billion. As well, Germany plans to send so-called assistance of €2.7 billion, including armoured and logistical support vehicles, hundreds of guided missiles and intelligence drones.
NATO’s Secretary-General reported that more than €65 billion has already been allocated to Ukrainian armed forces, he continued. In comparison, between 2021 and 2023, €18 billion was spent on food security. “Those are the real priorities of the collective West,” he asserted. While Ukraine is being used by the West as a testing site, the Kiev regime’s attacks on civilian infrastructure is a day-to-day reality and the Donbas and Donetsk has been living under constant shelling since 2014. Western countries are fully aware of these practices, he said, pointing to the use of Washington’s weapons on civilian targets. In addition, independent journalist Seymour Hersh reported that even in the early stages of the special military operation, West-provided weapons in Ukraine were found flooding Poland, Romania and other neighbouring countries. This was a result of Ukrainian commanders on various levels personally reselling the weapons or leaving them behind. Thus, western weapons ended up in the hands of organized crime, terrorist and armed groups, not only in Europe but also in other regions around the world. Moscow reserves the right to take any necessary measures to neutralize the threat to its security, he said, stressing that the aim of the special military operation will be fulfilled.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) said that the sovereign rights of Ukraine can be best assured in the context of peace. Arms proliferation in conflict areas poses a risk of escalation and arms diversion to unintended destinations or recipients. Africa is still grappling with the consequences of arms influx, including from the Sahel region. In this context, she reaffirmed the need for tracing and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that arms supplied serve their purpose and called for compliance with non-proliferation agreements. The international community should take into account risks associated with the elevated military expenditure globally and “pull the plugs” to keep the situation under control. Recognizing that States still face post-pandemic economic and fiscal challenges, she called for ending the war and reversing the tides of the tri-crisis of food, energy and fuel. She further voiced concern about the conflict’s military posturing, adding that diplomacy and dialogue offer the opportunity of a political settlement. To this end she urged both parties to commit to such a solution and emphasized the need for peace efforts.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) noted that the present meeting has been called by a Permanent Member of the Council who has violated international law in order to condemn those supporting the victim of their attacks. That country has invaded a sovereign State and is deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. “There is only one truth: the Russian Federation is the aggressor, and Ukraine is trying to defend itself,” she stressed, adding that it is, therefore, everyone’s moral duty to support Ukraine in defending its freedom. Military support extended to Ukraine is in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, she said, adding that, by contrast, the Russian Federation has illegally transferred weapons from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in violation of paragraph 4 annex (b) of Council resolution 2231 (2015). On accountability, she spotlighted the recent legally binding decision at a summit by the Council of Europe to create a “register of damage” to document the damages incurred by Russia’s brutal war. Welcoming the agreement to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative by 60 days, she also called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates), noting that the development of security and defence capabilities is integral to the right to self-defence, said that such activities come with risks to be mitigated. She underscored the importance of appropriate management of weapons during transfer, storage, and deployment, to prevent weapons stockpiles and supplies from being diverted to terrorist groups or other malign actors. In this regard, she spotlighted the work of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and its International Tracing Instrument, supported by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Recalling a Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, where civilians bear the costs of conflict, she said that the recent agreement to continue the Black Sea Grain Initiative illustrates how much more is to be gained through peace, and voiced support for dialogue to bring the war to a just end, consistent with the United Nations Charter.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that, since the beginning of the conflict, the willingness to dialogue and the “abandonment of the illusions of military victory” are not visible. Only a negotiated solution can bring lasting peace. Noting that transfers of lethal weapons can undermine a peaceful outcome, he said that flow of weapons to Ukraine will fuel more violence. He also echoed concerns about the risks of arms and ammunition diversion and the lack of proper accounting for lightweight, man-portable, and untraceable dispatched weapons, among others. In the conflict aftermath, weapons and capabilities — originally intended for a State’s use — retained by paramilitary groups and militias might lead to harmful consequences. “We must not underestimate the historical precedents of these capabilities being turned against their original providers,” he stressed. In this context, he underscored the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty in regulating arms transfers and urged States parties to adopt measures to ensure compliance, while encouraging other States to adhere to the agreement or — at least apply its main guidelines.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), noting that the Russian Federation requested today’s meeting to discuss the issue of supplying Kyiv with lethal weapons, observed that “this illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine was initiated by Russia in the first place”. Further, he stressed that, while Moscow has repeatedly attempted to divert public attention from its own violations of the Charter, “we must not confuse victims with perpetrators”. Underscoring Ukraine’s right to self-defence, he said that the international community is supporting Ukraine to maintain international peace and security. “On the contrary, no nation should support the aggression,” he stated. Condemning the transfer of unmanned aerial vehicles from Iran to the Russian Federation, he said that Japan will support efforts by the Secretariat to investigate the potential use of Iranian drones by the Russian Federation in its war against Ukraine, in accordance with resolution 2231 (2015). He added that the international community “will repeat the same condemnation” for as long as the Russian Federation continues to evade accountability for its aggression.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said that the war in Ukraine continues to fill the exodus routes within and outside of Ukraine with millions of displaced persons and refugees. In February 2022, the human toll of this deadly war among civilian populations was estimated at around 8,000 dead and nearly 12,000 injured. On the military front, she voiced concern about the concentration of fighting in certain cities or densely populated regions, leading to more civilian casualties. She also pointed to the proliferation of weapons, to be delivered in the coming weeks and months, and the difficulty of tracing these weapons. This is accompanied by the risk of diversion to the benefit of armed groups or mafia networks. She called on all parties to respect international law, in particular their treaty obligations on provision of weapons, and to strengthen measures for monitoring and control of arms. Further, she underlined the particularly destructive effects of certain weapons that indiscriminately target populated areas and civilians, warning of their humanitarian consequences. As well, she urged the belligerents to come together to consider ways to end this war and the suffering of millions of innocent civilians.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) reiterated his rejection of armed violence, militarization and arms races. While recognizing Member States’ rights to exercise defence of their territorial integrity, he underlined the need for increasing marking registration standards and traceability of weapons and ammunition to protect civilians. He pointed out that Ukraine’s prolonged invasion is feeding these risks, while spotlighting the increasing global military expenditure that exceeded $2 trillion in 2022. Reiterating the urgency of terminating the use of explosives in populated areas, he reported that explosive weapons with a wide impact area account for 92.5 per cent of civilian victims in Ukraine. Recognizing the role of some defence materials and anti-aircraft systems that can contribute to decreasing infrastructure destruction — when used appropriately — he underscored that export control efforts must focus on protection of civilians. Parties should also respect the principle of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the use of any arms. Condemning the violation of the arms embargoes and the sanctions regimes, he also called on the Russian Federation to end the military occupation hostilities.
Nicolas de Rivière (France), observing that the Russian Federation is calling a meeting on the issue of the supply of weapons for the fifth time, pointed out that repeating the exercise does not establish a parallel reality to the truth: that the end of the war depends exclusively on the Russian Federation, which has infringed collective security by its act of aggression. That country cannot expect to impose its will and win the war. France and its partners support Ukraine’s right to self-defence in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and is bolstering its anti-aircraft defence to cope with the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure. Such efforts are aimed at rebalancing power relations and paving the way for credible negotiations towards a lasting peace in line with the Charter. However, unlike this legal supply of weapons, the Russian Federation is illegally procuring weapons, including combat drones from Iran and missiles and ammunition from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in violation of Council resolutions, he said, adding that some of these arms are used by the Wagner militia, whose abuses have been documented. Calling for peace, in line with the Charter, he voiced support for Ukraine’s peace plan.
GENG SHUANG (China) said that the constant feeding of weapons to the battlefield will only lead to escalation; cause more civilian casualties and displacement; make it harder to start peace negotiations; and render a ceasefire more elusive. It will also pose serious challenges to post-war reconstruction and, if such weapons are diverted to terrorists or armed groups, likely cause new turmoil in a wider geographic area. Recalling the “painful lessons” from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia illustrating how weapons and explosive remnants of war pose security risks and burden post-war reconstruction, he stressed that there is no military solution to the Ukraine crisis. All parties should promote a political settlement with sincerity and urgency and create conditions conducive to a ceasefire. He also underscored that China is neither the creator of nor a party to the Ukraine crisis, much less a provider of weapons to any party involved therein. Welcoming upcoming visits to the Russian Federation and Ukraine by six African leaders to discuss a ceasefire and detailing similar visits by representatives of his country, he called on the international community to promote peace talks.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) said that regular public announcements about the delivery of arms outside the umbrella of the United Nations arms control and disarmament framework point towards further confrontation and move away from de-escalation and compromise. He expressed deep concern that this trend could lead to strategic miscalculation and to an irreversible widening of the conflict. “The massive deployment of arms and weapons by both sides into an already raging military confrontation is like adding fuel to fire,” he emphasized. The prospect for peace and the settlement of the conflict on one side and the increasing supply of arms on the other side are not mutually compatible. Against this backdrop, he called for diplomatic solution to this confrontation, including for the establishment of diplomatic channels and deployment of good offices of the Secretary-General. “We need to step back from the abyss of war and from the dangerous logic of military solution to the ongoing crisis,” he stressed, adding that the Council cannot remain deadlocked. This crisis remains a divisive issue that is taking away resources from the Council and from security responses to the immediate challenges confronting the international community, he said, noting that peace initiatives put forward by multiple Members should be given a chance.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that Ukraine neither wanted nor provoked the war, while pointing out that the people now face a choice between taking up arms in self-defence and annihilation. Recalling that 449 days into the full-scale war, the Russian Federation continues to attack the civil infrastructure, she noted that these attacks depend on more lethal weapons. “Russia sources weapons for Putin’s illegal war from States such as Iran and DPRK,” she added, urging other States not to provide military assistance to the Russian Federation. Recalling world leaders’ peace efforts, including the recent initiative of South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa to bring Africa’s peace plan to Moscow, she said the Russian Federation still rejects those calls. In this context, she reported that the United Kingdom has provided Storm Shadow missiles and a range of air defence systems, including AMRAAM anti-aircraft missiles, to help Ukraine defend its skies and people. While spotlighting the cost of war and its impact on global food and commodity prices, she welcomed the continuation of the Black Sea Initiative. “Russia can end this war at any time by withdrawing its troops,” she added.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), observing that little has changed since the last meeting was convened on this topic, said it is a “twisted narrative” to allege that the arms provided to Ukraine for its self-defence pose a grave threat, and not the Russian Federation’s invasion of its sovereign neighbour. The Russian Federation is alone in this position, set against other Council members and the Secretary-General, who have spoken out against their violation of the Charter and Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Arm shipments to Ukraine, intended to prevent civilians from being further brutalized, are not the cause of the continuation of the Russian Federation’s needless war. If that country had a genuine desire for de-escalation, it would withdraw its troops and end the invasion. He also spotlighted the hypocrisy of Moscow’s position, given that it is using drones from Iran in violation of Council resolutions, in addition to the Wagner Group’s use of arms procured from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in violation of arms embargos imposed on it by the Council. The United States has safeguards in place to prevent weapons from falling into unintended hands, he said, adding that the Russian Federation has “driven a stake through the heart of the Charter” through its heinous actions.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), emphasizing that the Russian Federation created the circumstances in which Ukraine is forced to defend itself, said that Moscow began this war and could end it at any time. She also expressed concern over recent reports that the Russian Federation seeks to acquire weapons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for use in its war of aggression against Ukraine. Any such deal would violate multiple Council resolutions and undermine the Council’s authority and integrity. She therefore called on all States to refrain from any arms transfers to Moscow. The Russian Federation has wilfully violated the rules-based international order and caused unimaginable suffering for the Ukrainian population. On that, she pointed out that women and girls face heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence, both in Ukraine and while fleeing to safer areas and across borders. Further, reported widespread transfers and deportation of Ukrainian children not only violate international humanitarian law, but also constitute war crimes, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to facilitate such children’s return.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, stressed that Ukraine has the right to ensure its security and defend its territorial integrity. The responsibility for this war and its consequences must not be diverted. The civilian population has been paying far too high a price and suffering the consequences of the military aggression for more than a year, with thousands of people killed or wounded. More than 8 million people had to flee Ukraine while vital infrastructure, hospitals, schools and homes have been destroyed. Deploring the disastrous consequences of the war, she condemned the military aggression against Ukraine, calling on Moscow to cease all hostilities and to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory without delay. This would not only put an end to the suffering of the civilian population but would also allow international support for Ukraine to focus more on its reconstruction needs instead of its defence. “Every day that the military aggression continues is one day too many,” she said, underlining the need to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring about lasting peace. Until then, Switzerland will continue to provide humanitarian aid, welcome refugees and support the reconstruction process in Ukraine, she stated.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said the crimes of Putin’s regime derive from the genocidal practices of his predecessors in the Kremlin. Recalling the Crimean Tatar’s extermination and their deportation by the Stalin regime on this day in 1944, he said “the evil returned in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea”. “If we do not stop Putin’s regime soon enough, there will no free dates in the calendar to commemorate all crimes committed by Moscow,” he noted. Turning to Article 51 of the Charter, General Assembly resolution 3314(XXIX) of 1974 and resolution ES-11/1 of 2022, as well as the Order of the International Court of Justice, he said Ukraine will continue to exercise its right of self-defence. “We will continue to fight until every Ukrainian citizen and every parcel of our sovereign land are liberated and Russia suffers military defeat,” he stressed, adding: “We will continue to forge international solidarity until all Russian war criminals are held accountable.”
Drawing attention to the fact that a formula for comprehensive, just and lasting peace already exists in General Assembly resolution ES-11/6 of 2023, he said its main element includes the principle of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States. He urged the Russian Federation to “clutch to this resolution as a lifebuoy and follow the path to peace it charts”. Also calling on it to withdraw from the occupied territories of Ukraine without any further delay, he said: “Hundreds of thousands of illegal Russian migrants should get out of Crimea.” Noting that “the russist criminal bunker gramps still have two options — either to surrender or to repeat what happened in another bunker on 30 April 1945”, he urged the Russian Federation to “get back across the 1991 border”.