ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL MIROSLAV JENČA’S REMARKS
TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON
New York, 8 September 2023
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – launched in violation of the UN Charter and of international law – continues to inflict large scale suffering on the people of Ukraine as they face daily, intensifying attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Since February 2022, the Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified 26,717 civilian casualties: 9,511 killed and 17,206 injured. At least 549 children have been killed and 1,166 more children have been injured.
In a latest illustration of the suffering that Russia’s invasion inflicts on civilians across the country, just two days ago, a daylight missile attack hit a crowded market in Kostiantynivka, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, reportedly killing 16 people, including a child, and injuring dozens of others.
On the same day, a Russian drone attack on the Danube port of Izmail in the Odesa region reportedly killed one person and damaged agricultural and port facilities according to local officials.
The continuing, relentless attacks, targeting Ukraine’s grain infrastructure on the Black Sea and Danube river ports, after Russia decided not to extend the Black Sea Initiative, risk having far-reaching consequences for global food security.
Attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including objects necessary for food production and distribution, are prohibited under international law.
We are now approaching the one-year anniversary of the illegal attempt by the Russian Federation to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, through the organization of illegal so-called “referendums” in these regions in late September 2022. I wish to reiterate that the United Nations remains fully committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.
This clear principled position of the United Nations, underpinned by the UN Charter and by international law, was unambiguously reaffirmed on 12 October 2022, when the UN General Assembly, with an overwhelming majority – 143 Member States having voted for, 5 against and 35 abstained – adopted the resolution A-ES/11/4. The resolution condemned “the organization by the Russian Federation of illegal so-called referendums in regions within the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the attempted illegal annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine” and declared that these actions “have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine”.
Similarly, in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 68/262, adopted on 27 March 2014, Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, remains invalid and unrecognized by the international community. As underlined by the Secretary-General, “any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the Charter and international law.”
In this regard, we are concerned over reports of Russian Federation holding so-called elections in areas of Ukraine currently under temporary military control of the Russian Federation.
These so-called elections in the occupied areas of Ukraine have no legal grounds.
We also recall that, as the occupying Power, the Russian Federation is obligated under international humanitarian law to respect, unless absolutely prevented, the laws of Ukraine in force in the areas that it occupies.
We continue to condemn any actions that could further escalate or deteriorate the situation. We remain concerned about the humanitarian needs and the human rights situation in, and the lack of access to, the areas of Ukraine currently under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation.
Last year, the Secretary-General warned that the decision by Russia to go forward with its attempt to illegally annex Ukrainian territory would further jeopardize the prospects for peace.
Regrettably, one year later, amidst continuing intense fighting and unacceptable attacks against Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure, these latest illegal attempts to organize new so-called electoral processes in the occupied areas of Ukraine further undermine the prospects for peace.
As the Secretary-General has repeatedly stated, now more than ever, we need just and lasting peace in Ukraine, in line with the UN Charter, international law and resolutions of the General Assembly. The United Nations remains ready to support all meaningful efforts to this end.