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SC/14834
17 March 2022
8998th Meeting (PM)

Political Affairs Chief Demands Accountability, Investigation in Ukraine, Telling Security Council Civilian Casualties Cannot Be Denied

Children Deliberate Target, Permanent Representative Says, Accusing Russian Troops of Torture, Abductions, Extrajudicial Killings

The magnitude of the civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied, the head of United Nations political affairs told the Security Council today, demanding accountability and a thorough investigation.

“Civilians are entitled to protection against the dangers arising from military operations,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, as she briefed the Council on the latest developments in Ukraine.  “International humanitarian law is crystal clear.”

Daily attacks continue to batter Ukrainian cities, many reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, she said.  Between 24 February and 15 March, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,900 civilian casualties — with 726 people killed, including 52 children, she reported, noting that most were caused by the use of wide-impact explosive weapons in populated areas.

She went on to say that residents in the south-eastern port city of Mariupol who have been unable to safely evacuate now lack food, water, electricity and medical care, adding that “uncollected corpses lie on city streets”.  The priority for the United Nations is to reach people trapped by the shelling.  Urging safe passage for civilians out of, and humanitarian supplies into, encircled areas, she expressed gratitude to neighbouring Governments for their generosity in receiving refugees.  “There will be no winners to this senseless conflict,” she said.

Raouf Mazou, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), broadly agreed, noting that in less than three weeks, the number of people fleeing Ukraine into neighbouring countries has risen from 520,000 to over 3.1 million, in what has become the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.  “We are humbled by the remarkable resilience of the refugees, many of whom have left their homes with nothing but a plastic bag, and by the extraordinary hospitality of the host authorities and host communities,” he said.

With close to 2 million refugees from Ukraine, Poland has quickly become one of the world’s largest host countries, he said.  Another 490,000 people have fled to Romania, 350,000 to the Republic of Moldova, 280,000 to Hungary, and 228,000 to Slovakia, while others have moved to the Russian Federation or Belarus, he added.  Given the current pace of refugee outflows, the capacities of the neighbouring countries are being “tested and stretched”, he noted, calling for greater support.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the devastating health consequences of the war on Ukrainians will reverberate for years or decades to come.  National health services have been severely disrupted by the widespread destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure — and, increasingly, health facilities.  Noting that WHO has verified 43 attacks on health care, with 12 people killed and 34 injured, he underlined that “attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law — anytime, anywhere”.

Whereas WHO has established supply lines from its warehouse in Lviv to many other cities, it faces challenges, he said, noting that critical supplies are ready for United Nations joint convoys to enter difficult areas, “but so far, we have not been successful”.  The convoy to Sumy, which included a WHO truck carrying medical supplies, was unable to enter, while loads ready for Mariupol remain in staging areas, he said, emphasizing:  “Access to these, and other areas, is now critical.”

In the ensuing discussion, the delegates of Albania and the United Kingdom denounced the Russian Federation’s “unprovoked” and “illegal” war of aggression against Ukraine, while the representative of the United States emphasized that Moscow will be held accountable for its atrocities.  “Russia, and Russia alone, bears the sole responsibility for the war, and humanitarian crisis,” Norway’s representative added.

Poland’s representative described Moscow’s actions as “100 per cent a war of choice”, saying his country has seen first-hand its dramatic humanitarian consequences.  Warsaw will continue to admit refugees in a spirit of solidarity, regardless of their nationality, race or religious creed, he emphasized.

The Russian Federation’s representative accused Western capitals of providing Kyiv with weapons, thereby fuelling the conflict.  He said that his delegation will request an emergency Council meeting on Friday to discuss biolaboratories in Ukraine, using new documents obtained during the special military operation.  He went on to refute the claim that Russian forces shelled a maternity hospital and mosque in Mariupol, blaming the readiness of “Ukrainian radicals” to drag civilians in Mariupol into the grave, like the Nazis in Berlin in 1945.

Ukraine’s delegate responded by saying that the 726 civilian killings confirmed by UNHCR, and the fact that 90 per cent of Mariupol’s infrastructure has been destroyed, reveal the Russian Federation’s plans to raze Ukrainian cities to the ground.  “Children are a deliberate target,” he added.  Accusing the Russians of breaking into houses, throwing people into the streets and taking their food, as well as engaging in torture, local abductions and extrajudicial killings, he pressed the Council to exercise its duties under Article 94.2 of the Charter of the United Nations to decide on measures related to the Russian Federation’s failure to uphold its obligations.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, Ireland, India, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Brazil, China, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 5:18 p.m.

Briefings

ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefed the Council, reporting that daily attacks continue to batter Ukrainian cities.  Many are reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure, she added.  Between 24 February and 15 March, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,900 civilian casualties, with 726 people killed, among them 52 children, and 1,174 injured, including 63 children, she said cautioning that the actual numbers are probably much higher.  Most of those casualties were caused by the use of wide-impact explosive weapons in populated areas, she pointed out.  She went on to state that OHCHR staff in Donetsk are closely following developments regarding the 14 March incident in which 20 civilians were reportedly killed by a Tochka-U missile that may have contained cluster munitions.  All such instances must be properly investigated, she emphasized.

Whereas positive signals have been reported about the ongoing direct talks between representatives of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, she noted that they have not translated into a cessation of hostilities, stressing that the situation in the south-eastern port city of Mariupol is particularly alarming.  “Many of the Mariupol residents who have not been able to safely evacuate lack food, water, electricity and medical care,” she said, adding that “uncollected corpses lie on city streets”.  Wednesday’s strike on the Mariupol theatre, which reportedly served as a bomb shelter for displaced civilians, adds to the list of attacks against civilian structures, she affirmed.

“International humanitarian law is crystal clear,” she said, underscoring that “civilians are entitled to protection against the dangers arising from military operations”.  Yet, the magnitude of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied.  The priority for the Organization and its partners is to reach the people trapped by the ongoing shelling, including in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the United Nations calls for safe passage for civilians out of, and humanitarian supplies into, encircled areas.  She went on to express gratitude for the generosity of neighbouring Governments in receiving refugees and enabling the provision of assistance to Ukraine.

The United Nations requests that all donors fast-track funding against their pledges towards the Ukraine Flash Appeal, she said, noting that the $1.1 billion appeal is 36 per cent funded.  Citing the Secretary-General, she said dangerous ripple effects from the conflict are already being felt across the globe, pointing out that the Russian Federation and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 per cent of its wheat.  Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing, she noted, recalling that on 14 March, the Secretary-General announced the establishment of the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance to lead an effort with Member States to deal with the complex fallout from the war.  “There will be no winners to this senseless conflict,” she emphasized.  The tremendous loss it is causing is heartbreakingly clear and there must be a meaningful, sustained political process to enable a peaceful settlement.

RAOUF MAZOU, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), noted that it has been less than three weeks since High Commissioner Filippo Grandi addressed the Council.  In that short time, the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine into neighbouring countries has risen exponentially from 520,000 to more than 3.1 million today, in what has become the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, he said.  With close to 2 million refugees from Ukraine, Poland has quickly become one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in the world, he said, adding that another 490,000 have fled to Romania, 350,000 to the Republic of Moldova, 280,000 to Hungary and 228,000 to Slovakia.  Others have moved to the Russian Federation or Belarus.

“We are humbled by the remarkable resilience of the refugees,” many of whom have left their homes with nothing but a plastic bag, he continued, also noting the extraordinary hospitality of the host authorities and host communities.  That solidarity illustrates the foundations of the global refugee protection architecture and the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees, he said.  Strongly commending Governments for keeping their borders open, he also welcomed bilateral and other support extended to refugee-hosting countries and the funding committed thus far in support of the $1.1 billion Flash Appeal for the response inside Ukraine, as well as the $550.6 million directed to the UNHCR-led Regional Refugee Response Plan.  With those funds, efforts are under way to help the refugee population and support host countries by providing shelter, emergency relief items, cash assistance and mental health and psychosocial support, he said.

Noting that UNHCR has scaled up its response by deploying more than 200 experts and established a field presence in all countries, he said its staff on the ground are undertaking regular protection monitoring at main border crossing points, reception centres and other central locations.  “However, with the current pace of refugee outflows, the capacities of the neighbouring countries are being tested and stretched,” he said, calling for greater support.  Funding, while critical, is just one of the many forms of support that are urgently needed, he emphasized, hailing in that regard the recent launch of the European Union Solidarity Platform.  Designed to ease the pressure on the countries neighbouring Ukraine by transferring vulnerable refugees to other member States, it is an innovative example of the responsibility-sharing outlined in the Global Compact on Refugees, he affirmed.

He went on to note that 90 per cent of refugees fleeing Ukraine are women and children, stressing the heightened risk of gender-based violence and other forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking.  UNHCR is deeply concerned about media reports of such incidents and is supporting efforts by Governments to scale up prevention and risk mitigation measures, he said, underlining the agency’s commitment to stay and deliver, and its support for those who remain trapped in areas of escalating conflict.  In many locations, such as the city of Mariupol, residents face a critical and potentially fatal shortage of food, water and medicines, he warned, noting that persons living with disabilities or serious medical conditions are particularly impacted.  Against that backdrop, UNHCR is closely tracking the negotiations on safe passage and preparing to send humanitarian supplies as soon as conditions allow.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), predicted that the war’s devastating health consequences on Ukrainians will reverberate for years or decades to come.  Health services and access to basic commodities have been severely disrupted as a result of the widespread destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure — and increasingly, health facilities, he said.  WHO has verified 43 attacks on health care, with 12 people killed and 34 injured, including health workers, he noted, emphasizing:  “Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law — anytime, anywhere.”  And yet, “that is what we are seeing in Ukraine”, he said.

The disruption of services and supplies is posing an extreme risk to people with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and tuberculosis, he continued, describing the ailments as among the leading causes of mortality in Ukraine.  Meanwhile, displacement, poor shelter and overcrowded living conditions caused by the conflict are likely to increase the risk of diseases such as measles, pneumonia and polio.  Mental health services and psychosocial support are urgently needed, he said, adding that the 35,000 mental health patients in Ukraine’s psychiatric hospitals and long-term care facilities are facing severe shortages of medicines, food, heating and blankets.

He said the war is also exacerbating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the decline in testing since the start of the conflict will probably lead to “significant undetected transmission”.  With less than 40 per cent of adults fully vaccinated, large numbers of people risk developing severe disease, he warned.  Meanwhile, critical oxygen shortages will impact the ability to treat COVID-19 patients, he said, noting that at least eight facilities for producing and storing liquid oxygen have now closed.  WHO is seeking ways to both access oxygen from neighbouring countries and deliver it safely to where it is needed, he added.

On the ground, the agency is working with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and partners to help the health system provide care to meet immediate needs, he continued.  So far, WHO has sent 100 metric tons of medical supplies, including oxygen, insulin, surgical supplies, anaesthetics and blood transfusion kits — enough for 4,500 trauma patients and 450,000 primary health-care patients, for one month, he noted.  Oxygen generators, electrical generators and defibrillators have also been delivered, and WHO is preparing to send a further 108 metric tons, he added.  While the agency has established supply lines from its warehouse in Lviv to many other Ukrainian cities, access challenges remain.  “We have critical supplies ready for United Nations joint convoys to enter difficult areas, but so far, we have not been successful,” he said, adding that the United Nations convoy to Sumy, which includes a WHO truck carrying medical supplies, was unable to enter.  Loads ready for Mariupol, meanwhile, remain in staging areas and cannot proceed, he reported, stressing that access to those and other areas is now critical.

He said WHO is coordinating the deployment of 20 emergency medical teams — comprising experts from many countries — to deliver care across a range of disciplines, in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, which have been generous in welcoming refugees, but are struggling to meet their own needs.  “Those needs are immense,” he stressed, citing continuity of care for basic illnesses, as well as more complex issues like cancer and renal dialysis, maternal and child health, HIV and tuberculosis, sexual and reproductive health, as well as mental health.  Refugees, and many others who remain in Ukraine, are already very vulnerable — especially women and girls, he noted, underlining the need to make their protection against abuse and exploitation of all kinds a top priority for hosting Governments and all international organizations.

Urging the Security Council to work for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution, he emphasized that prolonged conflict is in nobody’s interest.  “Our ability to support and supply Ukraine’s health system is dependent on being able to fund our operations,” he said, thanking donors who front-loaded WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which enabled WHO to deploy more than $10 million to address immediate health needs.  He called upon donors to fully fund the United Nations emergency appeal so as to sustain the response.  Urging the Council not to lose sight of the world’s many other crises, he pointed to Afghanistan, which is facing widespread malnutrition and a surge in measles; Ethiopia, where the blockade of 6 million people in Tigray for almost 500 days has created a catastrophic food and health crisis; Syria, where more than 12 million people require health assistance; and Yemen, where two thirds of the population — 20 million people — requires the same.  “In every case, the only solution is peace,” he said.

Statements

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said more than 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine, creating a devastating humanitarian crisis.  They are mostly women and children, she added.  “They stuffed their lives into backpacks and left everything they knew behind.”  Many of them know that their apartment buildings and streets have been bombed to rubble.  On Wednesday, a Russian bomb hit a theatre in which hundreds of civilians were hiding, she recalled, noting that local officials have told families to leave their dead relatives outside on the streets because it is too dangerous to hold funerals.  The Russian Federation is inflicting terror across Ukraine and will be held accountable for its atrocities, she emphasized, adding:  “President Putin, stop the killing, withdraw your forces, leave Ukraine once and for all.”  Noting that President Biden pledged $800 million after President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the United States Congress on Wednesday, she expressed gratitude to all allies and partners who have opened their borders and hearts to welcome Ukrainian refugees.  She went on to recall the order that the International Court of Justice issued to the Russian Federation yesterday, urging that country to comply immediately.  It has breached international law by violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she reiterated.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) noted that three weeks into the Russian Federation’s unprovoked illegal aggression, there have been massive civilian causalities, mass graves, ruined homes, schools and hospitals, as well as lives blown away in bombardments.  He said the 3 million refugees created in three weeks is greater than his country’s entire population, warning that the risks of sexual violence and trafficking continue to mount amid continued displacement.  Out of 89 attacks on health systems around the world in 2022 so far, 33 have been in Ukraine, he said, adding that it is becoming a tactic of war in that country.  He went on to point out the ruling by the International Court of Justice that there is no evidence to suggest that Ukraine is committing genocide in Luhansk and Donetsk.  Describing the Russian Federation’s proposed humanitarian draft resolution as a mockery worthy of Guinness World Records for hypocrisy, he declared:  “Russia should not shoot first and come disguised as a doctor.”  The only way to minimize humanitarian consequences for the Ukrainian population is for the Russian Federation to remove its troops and go home, he emphasized.  No one should get confused by a text that is called “humanitarian”, when its only aim is to provide cover for war, he said.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said three devastating long weeks have elapsed since the start of the war, with the people of Ukraine suffering constant bombardments.  President Vladimir Putin’s war is also having consequences around the world as food prices spike, leading developing countries and those suffering from other conflicts to spiral further into misery.  “This is an unprovoked war of aggression waged by Russia,” she stressed, adding that Moscow alone can end it.  Perversely, Moscow has now tabled a resolution calling for the protection of civilians, including women and children.  “This is cynical game playing in the face of human suffering,” she stressed, adding that if the Russian Federation really wanted to protect civilians in Ukraine it would withdraw its troops and cease its bombardments today.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) affirmed that the reality on the ground in Ukraine is one of war waged for three weeks by the Russian Federation, which is also spreading chaos and exacerbating food insecurity across the world.  Alongside its European partners, France will continue to mobilize for the reception of refugees and has released €100 million in humanitarian aid to support Ukrainians in need, he said.  Calling on Moscow to immediately stop its bloody war, he condemned in the strongest terms the siege of several Ukrainian towns, as well as its indiscriminate bombardments targeting civilians.  The Russian Federation must comply with international humanitarian law, protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and allow the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, he emphasized.  Describing attacks on hospitals as war crimes, he also condemned the targeting of journalists, stressing that they must also be protected.  He went on to express concern about reported Russian use of cluster munitions, while denouncing Moscow’s cynicism, claiming in New York to be concerned about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine even as it remains solely responsible for it.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that since the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine three short weeks ago, there has been wanton devastation in a sovereign independent nation, with no regard for human life.  To date, more than 3 million people have had to become refugees in neighbouring countries, she said, pointing out that some 90 per cent of those forced out of their homes and into uncertainty are women and children.  Women and girls face heightened risk of being subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and trafficking, she noted.  With civilian casualties in the thousands, the war’s humanitarian impact is being felt around the world, she emphasized, noting that it will affect the food security of countries heavily reliant on Ukraine’s agricultural products, including some in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.  “It is a damning indictment that this Council has to plead with the Russian Federation not to deprive civilian populations of food and water,” she said.  “It is a damning indictment that we cannot speak with a united voice to save innocent lives in this war.”  The images from a besieged Mariupol are shocking, she continued, deploring the targeting of health-care facilities.  “The residents of Mariupol are melting snow or siphoning water from heating systems to quench their thirst.”  Calling upon the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations to protect civilian health-care facilities, as well as medical and humanitarian personnel, she stressed that it must also facilitate the safe passage and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical and food supplies.  “Surely, the most basic respect for human life must mean something to the aggressor,” she said.

MONA JUUL (Norway) noted that more than 3 million civilians have crossed Ukraine’s borders into neighbouring countries seeking protection, while over 1.8 million people are displaced inside the country.  They are fleeing from “the destructive power of one of the world’s biggest war machines”, she said, pointing out the Russian Federation’s indiscriminate use of explosive weapons and deplorable use of cluster bombs.  Encouraging countries to keep their borders open to all those seeking safety outside Ukraine, without discrimination, she emphasized that many of those fleeing are vulnerable and at risk of sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.  The protection of civilians and humanitarian access are not a matter of choice, but legal obligations under international humanitarian law, she stressed.  “Russia, and Russia alone, bears the sole responsibility for the war, and humanitarian crisis,” she said, underlining the context in which the draft resolution presented to the Council must be understood.  “Make no mistake:  this is not a humanitarian resolution,” she said.  Rather, it is a deliberate attempt by the aggressor to cover its unlawful military invasion of Ukraine.  It has no credibility and Norway will not support it, she added, underlining that political dialogue, negotiations and mediation are the only way forward.

T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), echoing expressions of concern over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, expressed support for United Nations humanitarian activities and hope that the international community will continue to respond positively to humanitarian needs, including by generously supporting the Secretary-General’s Flash Appeal and the Regional Refugee Response Plan on Ukraine.  India has sent more than 90 tons of humanitarian supplies to Ukraine and its neighbours since 1 March and will continue to identify needs with a view to sending further supplies in the coming days, he said.  India has also ensured the safe return of some 22,500 of its nationals and those of 18 other countries from Ukraine, he added.  Emphasizing that humanitarian action must always be guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence — which must never be politicized — he reiterated calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.

KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) called on the Russian Federation to ensure an unconditional and immediate ceasefire and to withdraw all its invading troops from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.  “The cessation of hostilities is critical to save lives,” she said, expressing deep concern over the disproportionate use of unconventional munitions in bombarding Ukraine’s cities and civilian areas.  The parties must urgently commit to a humanitarian pause to enable the evacuation and safe passage of civilians and facilitate the delivery of food and medicine.  She deplored the attacks on medical facilities and called for the protection of humanitarian workers and medical personnel.  She said parties must comply with their commitments under international law, in particular, the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War.  Stressing that the Secretary-General’s good offices should be leveraged to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the conflict, she said the safety of Ukraine’s people must be at the forefront of the Council’s actions.

CHRISTOPHE NANGA (Gabon) noted the intensification of fighting and the deterioration of the living and health conditions of those remaining in Ukraine.  He went on to underscore his concern over the increased risk of disease because of the disruption of basic services.  He called on all parties to ensure respect and protection for populations, including African nationals, as well as medical and humanitarian personnel.  He reiterated the importance of opening up safe humanitarian corridors.  Saving lives must come before any political consideration.  All diplomatic options must be considered, he said.

JAYNE TOROITICH (Kenya) described as “deeply concerning” the reported loss of life, forced displacement and separation of loved ones, citing the millions of refugees from Ukraine in just three weeks.  Commending Ukraine’s neighbours for opening their borders to refugees of multiple nationalities and urging them to ensure that the protections sought are offered with no discrimination, particularly as related to race or religion, she condemned the targeting and destruction of residential homes, hospitals and shelters.  “The parties are obliged to comply with international humanitarian law, as well as resolution 2573 (2021),” on protecting objects indispensable to the survival of civilians, she insisted.  Civilians, including foreign nationals in Ukraine, are not party to the conflict and must not be a target.  The imperative that humanitarian passages are open and functional at all times cannot be overstated, and she underscored the urgent need for a humanitarian resolution that reflects the Council’s unity and the resolve to assist the people of Ukraine.  She urged the parties to ensure a humanitarian pause and to create room for diplomacy and dialogue, including through the Secretary-General’s good offices.  “The whole world has an interest in the urgent resolution of this armed conflict,” she said, pointing to increased food, fertilizer and oil prices already being felt in multiple countries.  If not quickly prevented, this trend — and the effects of unilateral sanctions — will exacerbate State fragilities and fuel conflicts, especially in the global South.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) expressed concern over the growing number of civilian casualties, including children, as well as the increasing flows of refugees and internally displaced people.  Supply chains have been disrupted and access to medical facilities impaired, with medical supplies running low and stockpiles out of reach, he noted.  In response to those pressing needs, Brazilians sent a donation to Ukraine last week, consisting of water purifiers, 9 tons of foods and half a ton of medical items, he reported.  Describing the 31 WHO-verified attacks on health-care facilities as distressing, he said they constitute violations of international humanitarian law.  He went on to reiterate Brazil’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities as the main condition needed to guarantee the passage of civilians from conflict zones to safe areas.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the assessments of Western States are based on Ukraine’s hyped campaign of lies and disinformation, which is reaching new heights.  Today, there is a new slew of accusations that the Russian Federation is not allowing refugees to leave the infamous maternity hospital in Mariupol, that it shelled the Sultan Suleiman mosque in Mariupol and that it used automatic weapons to fire at a bread line in Chernihiv, he said, emphasizing that those assertions have been repeatedly refuted.  To claims by the representative of the United States that the WHO Director-General said the Russian Federation bombed 33 hospitals, he said:  “Please ask him.  He did not say this,” clarifying that, in his understanding, it is not within WHO rules to attribute who conducted a strike against a medical facility.  In fact, the Russian Federation has many questions about who is at fault, he said.

He went on to recall that, in 2014 and 2015, when “Ukrainian warmongers” threw planes and tanks against people in the east, Mariupol was a centre of resistance in the Donetsk people’s republic.  Its people almost unanimously supported independence, speaking out against the Kyiv regime, he said, adding:  “Ukrainian Nazis cannot forget or forgive that.”  Instead, they drowned the city in blood.  Meanwhile, the Mariupol airport had an infamous jail and torture centre, he asserted.  “This is neo-Nazism.  That is why Ukrainian radicals are clinging to the city, standing ready to drag into the grave the entire population, like the Nazis in Berlin in 1945,” he said.  “They hold citizens as human shields and place heavy weapons next to residences, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

It is no surprise that Mariupol has become a lead manufacturer of “fakes”, the most egregious of which is that a Russian missile destroyed the maternity hospital, he continued, noting that his delegation conveyed information on that matter in a letter to the Secretary-General.  A second fake is that the Russian Federation allegedly hit the Mariupol theatre, he said, pointing out, however, that on 13 March, widely available public information stated that Azov was holding people there and preparing a bloody provocation.  Russian armed forces were informed about the situation, he said, insisting that “the theatre was never considered as a target for a strike”.

He went on to describe claims that the Russian Federation is forcing the people of Mariupol and other towns into its own territory as “a bare-faced lie”, clarifying that since the start of the operation, the Defence Ministry has received 2.5 million requests for evacuation into his country, but Ukrainian authorities have been preventing the evacuations.  It has ensured the evacuation of 31,000 civilians, including 89 foreign nationals, he said, adding that, of that total, only 36 people moved to the Kyiv-controlled areas of a certain oblast.  The humanitarian operation was conducted by the Donetsk people’s republic and the Russian armed forces, without any participation from Ukraine, he emphasized.

To Western capitals providing Kyiv with weapons, he said:  “You are fuelling this conflict.”  He noted with regret that Ukraine was always a pawn in the geopolitical struggle against the Russian Federation, stressing that the West “could not care less” about the suffering in Donbas.  Describing the draft resolution sponsored by France and Mexico as “full of political formulas that have nothing to do with humanitarian issues”, he said the Russian Federation has submitted its own draft, which does not contain political assessments, but is being told that it is “not something that satisfies Western countries”, revealing the hypocrisy and cynicism.  Noting that Council colleagues speak of arm-twisting, blackmail and threats by Western countries, he said that while his delegations is not requesting a vote on its draft, it will not withdraw the text either.  Rather, it will request an emergency Council meeting on Friday to discuss biolaboratories in Ukraine, using new documents it obtained during its special military operation, he added.

ZHANG JUN (China), deploring the increase in civilian casualties, called for their urgent protection and for the prevention of a larger-scale humanitarian crisis.  He called for an unimpeded humanitarian corridor, emphasizing that all refugees, regardless of origin or race, must be permitted safe passage.  Noting that Moscow and Kyiv have held four rounds of negotiations to date, he said that as long as talks continue, “there is a chance for a ceasefire and a peaceful future”.  Urging all parties “not to add fuel to the fire”, he also warned against the wanton imposition of sanctions, stressing that they will not solve the problem but only further undermine global supply chains, harming people around the world.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) warned that the needs of people unable to leave or be evacuated from urban areas under siege, especially those lacking access to safe drinking water, food and medicines, have increased and will continue to do so.  There is an urgent need to ensure safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian and medical personnel, he said, noting that WHO has recorded 43 attacks on medical installations.  Emphasizing that attacking health installations is expressly forbidden under international humanitarian law, he also condemned attacks on medical personnel and the equipment they need to do their work.  Noting that the International Court of Justice has ordered the immediate suspension of military operations, he said the cessation of hostilities is the fundamental premise for humanitarian assistance.  The Council is unable to issue an unequivocal call for an end to hostilities, he said, stressing that such a call would be the most significant humanitarian support that the Ukraine’s civilian population could receive.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), President of the Security Council, speaking in his national capacity, said that the number of refugees is increasing at an alarming rate as civilians continue to suffer due to the obstacles hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  Damage to civilian infrastructure continues to exacerbate the humanitarian situation in major cities, he added.  Expressing hope that the ongoing negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine will pave the way for calm and allow humanitarian organizations to meet the needs of civilians, he said concrete steps are also needed to de-escalate the situation and build trust.  He also recognized the need to support countries taking in refugees, especially since the conflict entails successive waves of displacement.  It is important to adhere to international law, in particular international humanitarian law, he emphasized, warning that violating it is a threat to the international order.  A solution to the crisis can only be achieved by intensifying diplomatic efforts.

Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), taking the floor for a second time, said she was momentarily pleased to hear that “the Russians were pulling down the vote on their farcical humanitarian resolution, which was doomed to fail”.  She emphasized that if Moscow truly cares about the humanitarian crisis it has created, it could simply stop its attacks on the people of Ukraine.  Instead, it calls for another Security Council meeting as “a venue for its disinformation and for promoting its propaganda”, she noted, reiterating that the Russian Federation is the aggressor and is creating a pretext for an attack.  The Council can’t be fooled by its efforts, she stressed, pointing out that its troops “are killing people inside of Ukraine”.  That is the reason for the Council to meet, not to deal with Moscow’s propaganda, she said.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) reminded the Council, including the delegate in “the permanent seat of the Soviet Union”, that President Vladimir Putin said on 16 March, three weeks after the unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine, that “the operation is developing successfully and in strict accordance with plans that have been previously approved”.  Questioning why the Russian Federation has behaved like the Nazi Third Reich by attacking its neighbour and plunging the region into war, he drew attention to the killing of Ukrainian children, numbering 108 innocent souls thus far.  “Children are a deliberate target,” he said, citing the 16 March attack on the Mariupol theatre by a Russian aerial bomb.

All civilians and foreign citizens are under threat, he said, citing the 726 civilian killings confirmed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, while emphasizing that the real figures are higher.  “The plan is to raze Ukrainian cities to the ground,” he said, pointing out that 90 per cent of Mariupol’s infrastructure has been destroyed.  Plans to violate the ceasefire and safe civilian passage are being carried out, he added, recalling that on 16 March, the Russian Federation shelled a convoy of civilian vehicles, killing five people.  The plan was to terrorize local residents in territories seized by Russian troops, he said, accusing Russians of breaking into houses, throwing people into the streets and taking their food.  They engage in torture, local abductions and extrajudicial killings, forcing some 3.2 million refugees to leave Ukraine, he said.

Against that backdrop, the Russian Federation dared to submit a humanitarian resolution, he continued, describing that “outrageous” effort as “an appeal by a serial killer” while cautioning:  “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”  Emphasizing the urgent need for humanitarian action, he called upon countries to support efforts in the General Assembly and to join the Friends of Accountability — co-founded by Albania, Colombia, Denmark, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and Ukraine — which will act as a forum for the promotion of accountability in Ukraine following the Russian military aggression.

He went on to recall that, despite the binding order by the International Court of Justice on 16 March that the Russian Federation immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine, launched on 24 February, the Kremlin stated today that it cannot take the order into account as there is no “agreement” between the two sides.  Encouraging the Council to exercise its duties under Article 94.2 of the Charter of the United Nations, he urged it to decide on measures related to the Russian Federation’s failure to uphold its obligations.  Its military aggression and mass atrocities, ordered by President Putin and defended by Moscow’s diplomats, will be examined for years by experts in psychiatry, theology and other disciplines, he said, asking:  “Do the eyes of Ukrainian children, women and elderly killed by the Russians flash before you?”  He went on to note that Italy is ready to rebuild the theatre in Mariupol.

KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), noting that the Council is meeting against the backdrop of the fastest-growing humanitarian and refugee crisis since the Second World War, described the Russian Federation’s brutal actions in Ukraine as “100 per cent a war of choice”.  Earlier today, he noted, Moscow rejected an order by the International Court of Justice, the highest tribunal of the United Nations, to cease its attack.  Urging the Russian Federation to change its military modus operandi and allow full and unimpeded humanitarian access and relief to those in need, he spotlighted the situation in the city of Mariupol, where some 350,000 residents remain trapped as food, water and medicines dry up.  Poland has seen first-hand the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the war and will continue to admit refugees in a spirit of solidarity, regardless of their nationality, race or religious creed, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.