MR. MIROSLAV JENČA
ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR
EUROPE, CENTRAL ASIA AND THE AMERICAS
DEPARTMENTS OF POLITICAL AND PEACEBUILDING AFFAIRS AND PEACE OPERATIONS
Remarks at the Security Council meeting on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine
21 November 2023
Last weekend, we reached a new grim milestone in the war in Ukraine.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed that to date, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed, and more than 18,500 injured, since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in violation of the UN Charter and international law.
Hundreds of children are among the victims.
The full toll of this war is likely to be much greater - as there is no sign of an end to the violence.
Instead, there are indications that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure may escalate further during the upcoming coldest season. The impact for millions of Ukrainians will be dire as they brace themselves for the second war-time winter.
Since I last briefed this Council less than two weeks ago, Russian aerial attacks across the country have continued to inflict death and destruction to areas near and far from the frontlines.
On 11 November, Kyiv was attacked by missiles - first time in two months. While the capital was spared from casualties that night, attacks on Kyiv and its region have continued. The city was attacked by drones just this weekend.
On the same day, strikes killed four people: two in Kherson, one in Dnipropetrovsk, and another in Zaporizhzhia region, according to local officials.
The city of Kherson, recaptured by Ukraine over a year ago, has continued to suffer regular intense bombardments, resulting in civilian deaths.
Last week, at least nine people were reportedly killed in the region, and 25 more, including a two-month-old child, injured.
In the Black Sea, the risk of escalation and spillover remains.
On 9 November, in Odesa, a missile reportedly hit a cargo vessel - killing a port worker and wounding crew members of the ship. Landmines posing risks to civilian navigation have been reported.
A military incident in the Black Sea – whether intentional or not - could result in a dangerous escalation.
Global food security depends on the ability of food exports to move safely and predictably through international waters, including in the Black Sea.
We once again stress that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law.
Wherever they occur, they are unacceptable, and must stop immediately.
Amidst fresh waves of attacks against energy infrastructure and in anticipation of frigid weather conditions, humanitarian needs are on the rise.
Last Friday’s drone strikes alone resulted in power cuts in more than 400 towns and villages in the south, southeast and north of the country. They also damaged an oil depot in Odesa.
This year’s Winter Response Plan, developed by the United Nations and its partners in full cooperation with Ukrainian authorities, is already in full swing.
International solidarity and support for winter and beyond, including through timely donor contributions, remains essential. Some 360,000 people have already received winter support. But 435 million US dollars are still urgently required to deliver house repair materials, winter clothes, heating appliances, fuel and repairs to district water and heating systems for 1.7 million people in need.
Continued contributions are also needed for the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Ukraine - currently only 54 per cent funded.
UN agencies have provided humanitarian assistance to over 10 million people this year. We aim to reach 11 million by the end of 2023.
Regrettably, around four million Ukrainians in need cannot be reached in Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine due to lack of access. They receive only minimal aid through local actors, in partnership with the UN and international non-governmental organizations.
Humanitarian partners are ready to expand operations in these areas - if given access and adequate support.
The destruction wrought on the country will take years, decades to overcome. The United Nations is actively working towards long-term recovery and rebuilding of the country’s energy sector.
We focus on infrastructure support for energy generation and transmission for the functioning of basic utilities - heating, water, and sewage - in war-affected areas.
In collaboration with the Government of Ukraine, the World Bank, and the European Union, the United Nations has initiated the Third Ukraine Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment. It will guide the Ukrainian Government’s investment priorities for recovery and reconstruction next year.
The previous assessment had estimated recovery costs for Ukraine at over 400 billion US dollars.
We are committed to advancing an inclusive recovery, based on rights and local needs, in communities affected by the war - leaving no one behind.
Regrettably, this war continues to cause often irreversible damage to Ukraine’s education sites and hinder children’s right to education. The Ukrainian authorities have reported that 365 educational institutions were destroyed and at least 3,428 damaged.
We are also concerned about the disregard of international law in the regions of Ukraine currently under Russian control. Russian officials are holding so-called elections, appointing Russian judges, and applying Russian law, even retroactively. Policies aimed at forcefully changing or imposing institutions and identities have far-reaching consequences and are unacceptable.
The UN Human Rights Office has also continued to document cases confirming that the use of torture has been widespread in the context of arbitrary detention in territories of Ukraine that are currently under Russian control.
Accountability for all violations of human rights must be ensured, in line with international norms and standards.
In September, the Secretary-General urged all countries to do their part to prevent further escalation in Ukraine, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace. Instead, attacks have increased and conditions on the ground deteriorated.
While prospects for peace may seem distant, and the risk of further escalation looms, urgent efforts must be undertaken to minimize the impact on civilians.
Amidst global challenges and crises, the international community must sustain its focus on Ukraine and end the suffering caused by this war.
As the Secretary-General underlined, peace in Ukraine must remain a priority - a just and lasting peace, in line with the Charter, international law, and the resolutions of the General Assembly. We remain ready to support all meaningful efforts to that end.