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Escalation of Ukraine war is direct threat to regional stability and international security, warns ASG Jenča





New York, 11 April 2023


Madam President,

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launched in blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law, continues to inflict a heavy toll on the people of Ukraine.

Since our last briefing to this Council almost a month ago, Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns have become a daily destructive pattern. This includes intense and systematic targeting of Ukrainian energy infrastructure across the country.

We are appalled by the increase in civilian casualties as a result of these relentless attacks.  

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 126 civilians were killed and 478 injured in March.

This is a 20 per cent increase compared with the previous month.

It is particularly disturbing that at least 57 children were killed or injured in March alone, doubling the number from February.

The deadly trend has continued this month with daily drone, missile, rocket and artillery attacks reported across the country.

Overnight and this morning we saw additional countrywide attacks targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, with some reportedly resulting in casualties, including fatalities.

On Monday, five people were reportedly killed in attacks in Zaporizhzhia, Sumy and Poltava regions of Ukraine. Several more, including children, were reportedly injured.

Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine also continue to suffer persistent attacks.

Since February 2022, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 10,810 civilians killed, including 600 children, and 20,556 civilians injured, among which 1,357 were children.

This is unacceptable.

We are also witnessing hostilities spreading across Ukraine’s borders, with regular cross-border strikes into the Russian Federation.

Attacks on civilians and on civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law. They must cease immediately, and we continue to condemn them, wherever they occur.

Madam President,

The intensifying attacks come with a heavy toll on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure.

Since March, the large-scale coordinated attacks on critical infrastructure destroyed or damaged more than two dozen energy facilities throughout the country, including the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant. These attacks have disrupted access to electricity for millions of Ukrainians in large cities and in rural areas. Water supply was also disrupted in some locations.

We are concerned about the humanitarian consequences, given reports that the disruptions may last for many months due to the extent of the widespread damage.

In March, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also recorded a total of 12 medical facilities and 32 educational facilities destroyed or damaged.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ms. Edem Wosornu, Operations Director) will brief in more detail about the humanitarian situation and the UN response in Ukraine.

Madam President,

In a disturbing reminder of the serious risks posed by this war, on Sunday, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant - Europe’s largest and currently under the military occupation of the Russian Federation - was directly targeted in military action for the first time since November 2022. Three people were reportedly injured in the attack. Subsequent drone attacks were also reported on Monday and Tuesday.

According to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, these attacks represent a serious threat to nuclear safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and are a clear violation of the five basic principles of the International Atomic Energy Agency for protecting the facility.

We join Director General Grossi in his call for the immediate cessation of such inexcusable attacks to avoid a major nuclear accident.

No one can benefit – neither militarily nor politically – from attacking nuclear facilities. Instead, the consequences of a nuclear accident – whether intentional or not - could be catastrophic to us all.          

Any action violating the basic principles that protect these sites must be avoided.

Madam President,

We welcome the renewal of the mandates of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

Monitoring and reporting on the scale of human rights violations is an integral part of steps towards accountability.

It is therefore of utmost importance that these bodies can continue their crucial work to report on human rights and humanitarian law violations resulting from Russia’s invasion. We continue to urge the Russian Federation to fully cooperate and grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and independent monitors to areas of Ukraine it occupies. OHCHR continues to have a daily presence near frontline and in conflict-affected areas, which allows OHCHR to document firsthand accounts of the human rights situation. 

We continue to call for accountability for all violations of human rights, in line with international norms and standards.

Madam President,

The current trajectory of escalation of this war is a direct threat to regional stability and international security. Most of all, it is an existential threat to the people of Ukraine.

As we have repeatedly stated, we need a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in Ukraine, in line with the Charter, international law and resolutions of the General Assembly, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

We therefore reiterate the call made by the General Assembly in support of de-escalation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, in its resolution Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, adopted in February last year.

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

Thank you.