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Ukrainian port cities are "the latest casualities in this senseless, brutal war", ASG Khiari tells Security Council in briefing on Ukraine


New York, 26 JULY 2023

Madam President,

Members of the Council,

As we return to this Chamber for the third time in ten days to address the crisis in Ukraine, we continue to witness the widespread destruction and suffering caused by the war. This week, the port city of Odesa has been the target of a devastating wave of air strikes.

On Sunday, a Russian missile attack damaged the UNESCO-protected Transfiguration Cathedral and other historical buildings in the Historic Centre of Odesa, a World Heritage site. In this shocking attack, one person was reportedly killed, and several others, including children, injured. The attack also caused extensive damage to an important place of worship with religious and cultural significance to Ukraine and beyond.

Sites like the Cathedral are protected under the World Heritage Convention. Attacks against them are a violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Sunday’s attack followed several successive nights of deadly Russian missile and drone strikes targeting Odesa and other cities in southern Ukraine including Mykolaiv and Chornomorsk, killing at least three people and injuring dozens of others.

I reiterate the Secretary-General’s strong condemnation of these attacks.

Unfortunately, Sunday’s attack was not the first targeting Ukrainian culture and heritage. In fact, since 24 February 2022, UNESCO has verified damage to 274 cultural sites in Ukraine, including 117 religious sites. 

As the Secretary-General stated this weekend, we are concerned about the threat that this war increasingly poses to Ukrainian culture and heritage, and we urge the Russian Federation to immediately cease attacks against cultural property protected by widely ratified international normative instruments.

Madam President,

As was underscored by Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo and Under-Secretary-General Griffiths in this Council last Friday, attacks against Ukrainian Black Sea port facilities risk having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries.

We have now seen disturbing reports of further Russian strikes against port infrastructure, including grain storage facilities, in Reni and Izmail ports on the Danube River – a key route for shipment of Ukrainian grain, not far from Ukraine’s borders with Moldova and Romania.

Deliberately targeting infrastructure that facilitates the export of food to the rest of the world could be life-threatening to millions of people who need access to affordable food.

These attacks targeting Ukraine’s grain export facilities, similarly to all attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, are unacceptable and must stop immediately. I must emphasize that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.  

The Secretary-General stated last week that he would “not relent in his efforts to ensure that Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizer are available on international markets” as part of his ongoing efforts to fight global hunger and ensure stable food prices for consumers everywhere.

Madam President,

The humanitarian response plan for 2023 is 29 per cent funded. We are grateful to donors for ensuring that the humanitarian community in Ukraine can continue to support Ukrainians whose lives have been so brutally disrupted by this war. But further funding is desperately needed to help all of those in need.

In the first six months of 2023, some 7.3 million people have received humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. 

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners remain committed to providing life-saving humanitarian assistance and safeguarding the lives and dignity of persons affected by the war.

Madam President,

In the wake of Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative, these latest attacks signal a calamitous turn for Ukrainians and the world. Port cities that allow for the export of grain such as Odesa, Reni and Izmail, are a lifeline for many. Now they are the latest casualties in this senseless, brutal war.

As long as the war continues, civilians continue to suffer. Ukrainians have suffered enough. The world has suffered enough. I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call for just and sustainable peace, in line with the UN Charter, international law and relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.

Thank you.