UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL ROSEMARY A. DICARLO’S
REMARKS TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON
New York, 25 JANUARY 2024
Yesterday, it was reported that a Russian IL-76 military transport plane crashed in the Belgorod region of the Russian Federation, near the border of Ukraine, killing everyone on board.
According to Russian authorities, the plane was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, six Russian crew members and three Russian military personnel.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the plane may have been carrying missiles for Russia’s military system.
We understand both Russia and Ukraine are conducting separate investigations into the incident, and Ukraine has called for an international probe.
The United Nations is not in a position to verify these reports or the circumstances of the crash.
What is clear is that the incident took place in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war. To avoid further escalation, we urge all concerned to refrain from actions, rhetoric, or allegations that could further fuel the already dangerous conflict.
In one month, we will mark the tragic milestone of two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine - in blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law.
And today is already the Security Council’s fourth meeting on Ukraine since the beginning of the year.
In recent weeks, the scale and intensity of attacks against Ukraine have only grown, highlighting the dangerous trajectory of the war.
Shelling and missile strikes on civilian areas continue to kill and maim civilians and cause massive destruction to critical infrastructure.
In total, since February 2022, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 10,312 civilians killed, including 576 children, and 19,530 more injured, including 1,277 children.
These figures continue to rapidly rise. On 23 January, at least 18 civilians were reportedly killed, and more than 130 injured, in Russian missile strikes across Ukraine.
In Kyiv, the latest attacks injured civilians and caused damage to civilian buildings, including next to the United Nations office.
In Kharkiv, 10 civilians were reportedly killed and 66 injured. The city continues to experience repeated air strikes, and the consequences are devastating.
The recent month is the most intense in terms of attacks and civilian casualties that the city has experienced since September 2022.
Aerial assaults also caused loss and destruction in Dnipro and Odesa.
Furthermore, on Sunday, 21 January, 28 civilians were reportedly killed and 30 injured, in shelling on the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
Cross-border strikes are also reportedly expanding inside the Russian Federation, reaching beyond the immediate border regions.
The Secretary-General has been unambiguous in condemning all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, wherever they occur. They are prohibited under international law and must stop immediately.
The recent incident in the Belgorod region, with its claimed link to a planned prisoner exchange, reminds us of the plight of prisoners of war. We remain deeply concerned about their treatment.
Since February 2022, the UN has interviewed over 280 Ukrainian POWs who returned from Russian captivity. Just in the past week, our colleagues in the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine interviewed 31 prisoners of war who returned in early January.
What we hear in these interviews is harrowing.
Only very few had been able to communicate with their families during their internment.
Over 90 per cent say they were tortured.
Many said they did not receive enough food or medical treatment they urgently needed.
We continue to urge the Russian Federation to provide independent international monitors unfettered access to POWs.
The parties must fulfil their obligations under the Geneva Conventions. We commend Ukraine for the progress made in this regard.
Earlier this month, we welcomed the latest exchange of prisoners of war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Notwithstanding the circumstances of yesterday’s incident, the fate of POWs should not be instrumentalized.
We urge the parties to continue pursuing exchanges of prisoners of war.
Families on both sides are waiting to be reunited with their loved ones.
The war in Ukraine is a war of choice. Its tragic consequences are clear for all to see.
The longer it lasts, the more death and destruction it causes, and the more it eats away at the norms agreed to ensure and maintain a peaceful and secure world.
The United Nations remains ready to support any meaningful efforts to lay the groundwork for just, lasting and comprehensive peace – in line with the UN Charter, international law, and resolutions of the General Assembly.
Thank you, Mr. President.