Daily attacks continue to batter Ukrainian cities. Many are reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Between 24 February and 15 March, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 1,900 civilian casualties. The total consists of 726 people killed, including 52 children, and 1,174 injured, including 63 children. The actual number is likely much higher.
Most of these casualties were caused by the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with a wide impact area. Hundreds of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, as have hospitals and schools.
OHCHR continues to monitor reports of civilian casualties in the whole country, including in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics”. 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.
It is the responsibility of all sides to fully abide by their obligations to protect the lives of all civilians everywhere.
OHCHR is gravely concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of civilians, local authorities and civil society activists in Russian-controlled areas. We call for their immediate release.
This week, there were positive signals reported regarding the ongoing direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives.
We welcome all such engagements.
However, we note that these signals have so far not translated into the cessation of hostilities that is so desperately needed.
The situation in the southeastern 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. Uncollected corpses lie on city streets.
Yesterday’s strike on the Mariupol theater, which reportedly served as a bomb shelter for displaced civilians, adds to the list of attacks against civilian structures. While early reports indicate that the worst may have been avoided, ongoing fighting is hampering the rescue work and assessment of the situation.
The devastation and suffering in Mariupol and Kharkiv raise grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks.
International humanitarian law is crystal clear. Civilians are entitled to protection against the dangers arising from military operations. Direct attacks on civilians are prohibited.
Yet, the magnitude of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied. This demands a thorough investigation and accountability.
The priority for the UN and its partners is to reach the people trapped by the ongoing shelling, including in eastern Ukraine. To that end, we continue to scale-up our operations on the ground, as circumstances permit.
The needs of the population are growing by the day. The UN calls for safe passage for civilians from, and humanitarian supplies into, encircled areas.
We are grateful to neighbouring governments for their generosity in receiving refugees and enabling the provision of assistance to Ukraine.
The UN is requesting all donors to fast-track funding against pledges made toward the Ukraine Flash Appeal. The Appeal, which seeks $1.1 billion to help 12 million people in need, is 36 per cent funded.
UNDP projects that 90% of the Ukrainian population could be facing poverty and extreme economic vulnerability should the war continue, setting the country – and the region – back decades, and leaving deep social and economic scars.
As the Secretary-General highlighted, dangerous ripple effects of the conflict are already being felt across the globe.
Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat. Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted.
All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and potentially creating instability around the globe.
The Secretary-General announced on 14 March the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance to lead an effort with Member States to deal with the complex fallout of the war. The Deputy Secretary-General will lead an inter-agency steering committee with partners to oversee this effort.
The Secretary-General welcomes all ongoing diplomatic contacts. He remains actively engaged with leaders who are trying to bring about an end to this war.
There will be no winners to this senseless conflict. The tremendous loss it is causing, on the other hand, is heartbreakingly clear.
And it is going to get much, much worse the longer the fighting continues. The Secretary-General urges intensified and coordinated political efforts for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
There must be a meaningful sustained political process to enable a peaceful settlement. The lives of millions of Ukrainians and the peace and security of the entire region, and possibly beyond, depend on it.
Thank you, Mr. President.