Threats to international peace and security- Security Council, 8998th Meeting

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17-Mar-2022 02:37:44
Political affairs chief demands accountability, investigation in Ukraine, telling Security Council civilian casualties cannot be denied.

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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.

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