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Russia-Ukraine war has weakened international security, USG DiCarlo warns





New York, 23 June 2023


Madam President,

As we are all only too aware, the killing, destruction and suffering continue unabated in Ukraine. Sixteen months since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, the prospects for peace remain desperately dim.

Indeed, since the last time I briefed the Council on Ukraine, the war has escalated and become more fluid and unpredictable.

The impact of the intensifying violence on civilians remains our gravest concern. Russian missile barrages and drone attacks across Ukraine nearly tripled in May.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 24,862 civilian casualties to date.

The breakdown is as follows: 9,083 civilians killed, including 530 children, and 15,779 injured, including 1,086 children.

Since my last briefing, then, 2,131 civilians have been confirmed killed. The actual figures are likely considerably higher.

Since February 2022, OHCHR has also verified a total of 1036 attacks impacting educational and medical facilities. 649 attacks occurred on territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine, 301 on territory occupied by the Russian Federation and 86 on territory that was contested at the time of the attack.

The World Health Organization has verified over a thousand cases of attacks on health care with 101 deaths and 139 injuries.  Of these, 898 incidents have affected health facilities, and 273 impacted health supplies. Most attacks involved the use of heavy weapons.

Also, UNESCO has verified damage to 260 sites since February 2022, including 112 religious sites, 22 museums, 94 buildings of historic significance, 19 monuments, 12 libraries and one archive.

Madam President,

The most significant destruction on civilian infrastructure to date took place on 6 June when the Kakhovka Dam was damaged.

While the exact circumstances remain unclear, this is a catastrophe that will have massive adverse consequences. 

Some 80 communities along the Dnipro River were reportedly flooded, with tens of thousands of people directly affected. Dozens of people have lost their lives.

The Kakhovka Reservoir – one of Europe’s largest and a source of drinking water for at least 700,000 people – has lost 70 per cent of its capacity, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Concerns continue to mount that the floodwaters could shift landmines into previously cleared areas, further endangering lives.

Damaged sewer systems and the lack of clean water heighten the risk of waterborne diseases.

Inundated farmland is a further blow to the already beleaguered agriculture and food production sector. The UN is already engaged in assessing the extent of the environmental and ecological needs stemming from this human-made catastrophe.

As reported by the IAEA, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is planning to resume pumping water that remains accessible despite a major loss of water in the Kakhovka Reservoir. However, the safety and security situation at the plant is extremely fragile.

Any threat to the plant and other sensitive infrastructure is dangerous and unacceptable.

Madam President,

As part of our immediate response to the incident, the UN and humanitarian partners have rushed to deliver supplies and evacuation support for hundreds of thousands people in the affected area.

The UN Country Team has been fully mobilized in this vital effort, in close cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities and local partners. We are deeply disturbed by reports that evacuating civilians and emergency personnel have been shelled.

There are still people we are unable to reach, especially in low lying communities under Russian control. The Russian Federation has so far declined our request to go to these areas.

The UN will continue to seek the necessary access. We urge the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure safe and unfettered access to all areas in need. Aid cannot be denied to people who need it.

We are also concerned about the reported damage to the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world's largest ammonia conduit, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. The circumstances of the incident remain unclear.

Let me say it again: Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law. All such attacks must stop immediately, whether they be on Ukrainian or Russian territory.

Madam President,

The United Nations continues to monitor and report on human rights violations and to support efforts toward accountability.

To date, OHCHR has documented 158 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, with the majority committed by members of Russian armed forces and penitentiary system personnel.  

We remain deeply concerned about the cases of forcible transfers of protected persons, including children, to territories of Ukraine under Russian control and consequent deportations to Russia.

This critical issue impacting the most vulnerable needs to be addressed urgently, prioritizing the reunification of families.

Separately, we welcome the continued efforts by the parties to enable the return of prisoners of war and urge the sides to fulfill their obligations regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and other detainees.

Accountability for all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law remains of paramount importance.  

Madam President,

Since its signing in July last year, the Black Sea Initiative has enabled the safe transportation of over 32 million metric tons of foodstuffs, helping to drive down global food prices. More than half of what has been exported has gone to developing countries.

We are, however, disappointed by the slowing pace of the implementation of the Initiative.

Food exports through the maritime humanitarian corridor have dropped from a peak of 4.2 million metric tonnes in October to 1.3 million metric tonnes in May, the lowest volume since the Initiative began.

We urge all obstacles to be removed to ensure the continuation of this agreement.

The United Nations is also fully committed to supporting the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Russian food and fertilizer exports.

Before war began, we consistently warned about the impact a major conflict in Ukraine and what it could have on the region and beyond. Recent developments are not reassuring in this regard.

The announced deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, for example, and the accompanying rhetoric have raised regional tensions further. We urge all involved to act responsibly and in accordance with international obligations.

We reiterate that any threat to use nuclear weapons is unacceptable.

As the conflict has intensified, there have also been increased diplomatic efforts and initiatives by Member States seeking de-escalation and calling for a peaceful settlement.   

The UN stands ready to support all meaningful efforts to bring a just and sustainable peace to Ukraine. In this we are guided by the UN Charter, international law and relevant General Assembly resolutions, as the Secretary-General emphasized during his visit to Ukraine in March and as I reiterated last week in Moscow.

Madam President,     

This war has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children and accelerated the global food and energy crises. 

It has weakened the international collective security system we have all pledged to uphold. We cannot discount further dangerous knock-on effects.

An end to the war founded on international law and the Charter is the surest way to ensure that the tremendous suffering of the last sixteen months will cease.

Thank you, Madam President.