When I last briefed this Council on 5 April, it hardly seemed possible that the devastation being wrought on Ukraine and its people could get any worse.
In the 12 weeks since, countless more Ukrainian civilians have been killed in indiscriminate attacks, cities and towns continue to be levelled, and much of the country’s arable land has been horribly disfigured by shelling.
And this horrific conflict, an open source of instability in Europe, shows no signs of abating.
The depravity of the war was again on full display yesterday following the missile strike in Kremenchuk, in the central Poltava region.
Hundreds of people, perhaps even some trying to get a respite from the daily horrors of the war, suffered one of the most shocking attacks of the conflict when a shopping center was hit by what are reported to be Russian missiles.
Eighteen civilians were reportedly killed and 59 injured. The final toll may be much higher.
This incident, which should be investigated, was the latest in a new wave of airstrikes and missile attacks in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv and other cities far from the frontlines, with many civilians killed or injured.
Presently, the most intense fighting is in and around the towns of Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk and Sloviansk in the Donbas. Heavy fighting is also reported around the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson.
In scenes reminiscent of the World Wars, large-scale artillery duels are devastating industrial areas, with thousands of civilians forced to hide in basements or flee for their lives. Large military casualties are claimed on both sides.
Civilians continue to pay too high a price in this war. As of 26 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 10,631 civilian casualties in the country: 4,731 killed and 5,900 injured. These are figures based on verified incidents; the actual figures are considerably higher.
Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area. Many of these weapons are inherently indiscriminate when used in populated areas and, therefore, result in increased civilian casualties and devastating humanitarian impacts.
The Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine concluded earlier this month its first mission to the country, including visits to Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Though only in the initial stages of its work, the Commission received information and visited cities that quote “may support claims that serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, perhaps reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed” end quote.
The work of the Commission of Inquiry, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and other fact-finding efforts are essential for establishing accountability for the crimes and atrocities committed during this war.
This work must lead to justice. It is imperative for the people of Ukraine. It is also crucial if we hope to be able to prevent such violations in the future, wherever they threaten to occur.
Since 24 February, over 8.8 million people across Ukraine have received some form of humanitarian assistance and protection services. At least 16 million people need such aid.
Needs are increasing, especially ahead of winter. Humanitarian partners are working on a winterization assistance plan and revising the Flash Appeal, which runs through August, to cover the needs through the end of 2022.
Women, in particular, are facing immense hardship when it comes to health, safety, and access to food. A Rapid Gender Analysis by UN Women and CARE in April revealed that women are increasingly becoming heads of households and leaders in their communities as men are conscripted.
They must be included in formal decision-making processes related to humanitarian efforts, peace-making, and other areas that directly impact their lives.
Perilous conditions are hampering efforts by humanitarian partners to reach civilians, or for them to access the support they need. One statistic sheds light on this concern: since 24 February, the World Health Organization has recorded 323 attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel, resulting in 76 deaths.
We strongly remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law: All adequate measures must be taken to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Ukraine is suffering the largest human displacement crisis in the world today. Since the start of the Russian invasion, more than one-quarter of the country’s population – 12 million people – have been forced from their homes.
Within Ukraine, over 7.1 million people remain displaced by the war. UNHCR estimates there are over 5.2 million refugees present across Europe. Over 3.5 million refugees from Ukraine have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe.
The UN remains committed to provide support for the Government-led responses in host countries.
Also, given the increasingly protracted nature of the conflict, we must not neglect Ukraine’s long-term recovery and rebuilding needs.
Using early socio-economic assessments, UNDP launched a new Resilience and Recovery Programme to support the Ukrainian Government’s emergency response, its commitment to public services, and to keeping the economy running, as well as to help assess priority needs to deliver for the people of Ukraine.
The war is having devastating consequences not only on the country and the immediate region, but far beyond Ukraine’s borders. As the Secretary-General noted on 8 June during the launch of the second brief of the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, the war is exacerbating the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
Price shocks in the global food, energy and fertilizer markets are escalating - in a world already grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
To address this multi-dimensional threat, strong political will across the multilateral community and a comprehensive approach is foremost necessary.
We have run out of words to describe the senselessness, futility and cruelty of this war.
As the Secretary-General warned, “for those on the ground, every day brings new bloodshed and suffering. And for people around the world, the war, together with the other crises, is threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake”.
No country or community will be left untouched.
The cycle of death, destruction, dislocation, and disruption must stop. For the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the entire world.
Thank you, Mr. President.