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Russia’s termination of its participation in the Black Sea Initiative and its bombardment of ports will compound crisis in Ukraine, USG DiCarlo tells Security Council


New York, 21 JULY 2023


Madam President,

On Monday, when speaking to this Council, I reiterated the Secretary-General’s deep regret over the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate its participation in the Black Sea Initiative – including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the north-western part of the Black Sea.

As a result, food prices are rising around the globe, adding to existing agricultural, energy and financial crises that are already severely impacting the world’s most vulnerable people.

We have now witnessed a further blow to global food security, as Russia for the fourth consecutive day struck Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Mykolaiv with missiles and drones, destroying critical port infrastructure, facilities and grain supplies.   

These attacks have also resulted in civilian casualties.

Yesterday, in Odesa, one person was reportedly killed and at least eight others were injured. In Mykolaiv, Russia’s attack reportedly killed two, while 19 more were injured.

We strongly condemn these attacks and urge Russia to stop them immediately. 

As the Secretary-General stated yesterday, the bombardment of the Black Sea ports in Ukraine contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations, which states that “the Russian Federation will facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil and fertilizers from Ukrainian controlled Black Sea ports.”

The new wave of attacks on Ukrainian ports risks having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries.

Furthermore, as we have repeatedly stated, attacks against civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.  

Madam President,

Threats regarding potential targeting of civilian vessels navigating in the Black Sea waters are unacceptable.

We are also concerned about the reports of sea mines laid in the Black Sea, endangering civilian navigation.

We strongly urge restraint from any further rhetoric or action that could deteriorate the already dangerous situation.

Any risk of conflict spill over as a result of a military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or by accident - must be avoided at all costs, as this could result in potentially catastrophic consequences to us all.

Madam President,

Attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure are not a new trend in this conflict, but rather its tragic pattern.

The World Health Organization has documented damage to over one thousand health care facilities, resulting in 101 deaths and 139 injuries.

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, UNESCO has verified damage to 270 cultural sites, including 116 religious sites, 27 museums, 95 buildings of historical significance, 19 monuments, 12 libraries and one archive.

Moreover, 3,467 educational institutions have also suffered from bombing and shelling with 335 of them destroyed.

According to UNESCO, 12 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of the war.

Also, children in Ukraine continue to be disproportionately affected by the appalling high level of grave violations in this conflict. Children are being killed and maimed by explosive weapons with wide area impact in populated areas.

Millions of Ukrainians, including nearly two-thirds of Ukrainian children, have been forced to leave their homes.

For those who remain, the damage and destruction of critical infrastructure continues to cause hardships, as access to basic services are disrupted.

The destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June and the subsequent flooding have far-reaching, long-term environmental and humanitarian consequences.

According to Ukraine's Agriculture Ministry, almost 600,000 hectares of farmland no longer have access to irrigation water following the dam destruction.  This compounds the existing challenges that Ukrainian farmers face, in addition to mines and unexploded ordnance.

The flooding also worsened the already volatile situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continue to closely monitor the availability of cooling water for the Plant. Ensuring its safety and security remains of utmost importance not just to Ukraine, but to the broader region.  

Madam President,

Land mines will continue to pose dangers to civilians for years to come as almost one third of the country is reportedly contaminated with unexploded ordnance, landmines and cluster munitions.

We are working with the Government of Ukraine and other partners to tackle this threat of unexploded ordnance. So far, our mine action efforts have reached almost 3.5 million people.

But these figures are not the whole story.  The war has impacts that are harder to measure.

A generation of Ukrainian children has been traumatized, and the impacts of the war on the mental health of children and adults will be long-lasting.

Madam President,      

When I briefed the Council on Ukraine earlier this week, I did not foresee that I would be returning to this Chamber again today.

The events of the past week are but the latest developments in the Russian Federation’s senseless war against its neighbour, a war with consequences that can be felt around the world.

Russia’s termination of its participation in the Black Sea Initiative, coupled with its bombardment of crucial ports, will further compound the crisis.

The Secretary-General has been clear: we will not stop our efforts to facilitate the unimpeded access to global markets for food and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

Madam President,

The only way to halt the catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine is to forge an end to the war based on international law and the principles enshrined in the Charter, and in line with General Assembly resolutions.

Thank you, Madam President.