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“Our repeated calls for protection of civilians appear to fall on deaf ears,” ASG Khiari tells Security Council in briefing on Ukraine




New York, 8 March 2024

Mr President,

Two weeks ago, the Secretary-General joined this Council in marking two years since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, launched in blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law.

On this grim milestone, we heard a loud and clear message from the broad membership of the Organization - the escalatory trajectory of this war and its enormous human cost are unsustainable and dangerous, particularly for Ukrainian civilians.

In this Council and at the General Assembly, we heard numerous urgent calls for de-escalation, peace and respect for the principles of the UN Charter.  

However, the past two weeks have instead witnessed an intensification of attacks on civilians across different regions of Ukraine. Strikes have also been reported inside the Russian Federation, including today in the Belgorod region, reportedly leading to casualties.

Regrettably, our repeated calls for protection of civilians appear to fall on deaf ears.   

Mr. President,

The Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Odesa has become a frequent target of missile and drone attacks in recent days and weeks, with deadly consequences.

Two days ago, a Russian missile strike hit Odesa, reportedly killing five people and wounding several.. Further drone attacks were reported last night.

On Saturday, 2 March, 12 people were reportedly killed in a drone attack on an apartment block. Five of those killed were children, majority under the age of three, making it the deadliest incident for children in more than nine months.

This heartbreaking incident followed two consecutive nights of drone attacks on 22 and 23 February that claimed the lives of four people.

Since February 2022, Odesa – an important hub for Ukrainian agricultural exports - has also suffered repeated strikes on its infrastructure. The cultural heritage sites of the city have not been spared.

Odesa is far from being the only Ukrainian city under constant fire.

In recent days, civilian casualties have been reported in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine.

Last night, two people were reportedly killed as a result of a missile attack on the city of Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region.

Yesterday afternoon, a reported Russian missile strike on the city of Sumy injured one civilian, damaged the central city hospital and the region’s emergency medical centre.

These are only a few of the recent incidents.

We are particularly concerned by the reports that the fighting is spreading to new residential areas in the east of Ukraine.

Throughout this war, fighting that came to Ukrainian villages, towns and cities led to complete or near complete destruction at the hands of Russian forces. This has been witnessed in Mariupol, Bakhmut, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Volnovakha and most recently in Avdiivka. This horrific pattern must not be perpetuated.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has already resulted in the death of 10,703 civilians, including 594 children. 20,146 more, including 1,316 children, have been injured.

We condemn all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure - they are prohibited under international law.

They are unacceptable and must stop now.

Mr. President,

The Secretary-General has emphasized in his recent remarks to this Council that territorial integrity and political independence of states are fundamental principles of the UN Charter. They are at the heart of our multilateral order. 

Therefore, the reports of the Russian Federation’s plans to organize and hold its March presidential elections in the territories of Ukraine currently under its control are deeply disturbing.

The attempted illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory have no validity under international law, as also declared by the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations remains fully committed to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.

Mr. President,

Today is International Women’s Day.

I wish to pay tribute to the courageous Ukrainian women and girls who, despite the unspeakable horrors they have endured, continue to work to support their communities and to build a better future for their country.

Yet, economic turmoil caused by the war is disproportionately affecting Ukrainian women’s livelihood. Their wellbeing is at risk due to restricted access to essential services. They face heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

We continue to work to ensure that the needs of women and girls are addressed in our efforts to mitigate the impacts of the war. We are also committed to partnering with Ukrainian women leaders and Women, Peace and Security champions to promote women’s full and equal participation in decision-making, recovery and peace efforts.

Mr. President,

The past two years of war have come with a heavy price for Ukraine, Europe and the world.

We must not allow for this war to bring further loss of life, destruction and suffering.

In the Secretary-General’s words: “It is high time for peace – a just peace, based on the United Nations Charter, international law and General Assembly resolutions.”

The United Nations remains ready to support all meaningful efforts to this end.

Thank you.