In the past few days, Ukrainians have been subjected to some of the most intense bombardments of the nine-month-old war. Russian missiles and drones have rained down on Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv, Lviv, Poltava and elsewhere, destroying or damaging homes and severely disrupting critical services.
The impact of such attacks can only worsen during the coming winter months.
As of 14 November, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 16,631 civilian casualties: 6,557 persons killed and 10,074 injured since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The recent barrages will alas add to horrific toll the war has already taken.
I must say it again: attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international humanitarian law.
The military dynamics on the ground continue to evolve. In the past week, the city of Kherson returned to Ukrainian Government control. Heavy battles also continue in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Indeed, there is no end in sight to the war. As long as it continues, the risks of potentially catastrophic spillover remain all too real.
Yesterday’s incident in Poland near the Ukrainian border was a frightening reminder of the absolute need to prevent any further escalation.
I wish to join the Secretary-General in extending condolences to the families of the two Polish civilians killed in the incident.
The ongoing bombardment of Ukraine has already damaged an estimated 40 per cent of the country’s power-generation capacity. Kyiv has been hit hardest. Most parts of the capital are now without electricity for 12 hours a day.
As the Ukrainian Government focuses on repairing damaged infrastructure, the United Nations has made it a priority to ensure that the most vulnerable receive winter supplies and services. More than 185,000 people have already received essential basic winter supplies.
Humanitarian partners are setting up “heating points” near the front lines. Some 525 generators were provided or are being distributed, to priority institutions, including hospitals, collective centers, clinics.
Humanitarian access has resumed in the areas back under Ukrainian Government control, including in Kherson. However, it is still extremely difficult to reach people in need in areas of the east and south under the control of the Russian military and across the front line.
Mine contamination - particularly in areas close to the front or where control has recently shifted – are putting more lives at risk, impeding the movement of civilians and hampering humanitarian efforts.
I remind the parties that international humanitarian law requires them to facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need.
The allegations of atrocities and human rights violations in Ukraine during this war are extensive.
Today I would like to highlight grave concerns about the rights, safety and security of the youngest Ukrainians. Over 400 children have been killed, and many more have been injured, lost their family members, or been forced to leave their homes.
According to the Government portal “Children of War,” 279 children were considered missing as of 12 November.
There are also disturbing reports of forced transfers of children, including of some under institutionalized care to Russian-occupied territory, or to the Russian Federation.
OHCHR has documented several individual cases, including of unaccompanied children, that appear to amount to deportations to the Russian Federation – in violation of international humanitarian law.
OHCHR also continues to document other types of human rights violations, including 57 verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Forty-eight of these cases are attributable to Russian armed forces and affiliated groups; nine are attributable to Ukrainian armed forces and law enforcement authorities.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine continues its work towards accountability for alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law with ongoing investigations in and out of Ukraine.
The Commissioners are planning another visit to Ukraine before the end of the year.
Another issue of concern is the conditions of prisoners of war. I welcome the continued prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine, including most recently on 11 November. We encourage the sides to continue releasing POWs.
I call on the parties to ensure humane treatment of prisoners of war, in line with their obligations under international law, in particular, the Third Geneva Convention. I also call on the Russian Federation to grant OHCHR and ICRC unimpeded access to detainees.
The extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative remains vital to help avert a food crisis for millions of people. More than 10 million metric tons of foodstuffs have now been moved under the Initiative, reaching, or on the way to, some 40 countries.
The impact of the Initiative extends far beyond immediate ports of arrival, helping to lower global prices for key food commodities around the world.
The Secretary-General has continued his engagement with all parties in support of the renewal and full implementation of the Initiative.
He has also emphasized his commitment to removing remaining obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports. These products are not under international sanctions but suffer indirect impacts.
It is important and critical to get them back to world markets – the sooner, the better.
The risk of a nuclear incident in the context of the open hostilities in Ukraine remains an unacceptable danger. I wish to echo the serious concerns expressed by numerous Member States in this regard.
The IAEA Director-General has recently briefed this Council on the organization’s latest efforts, including ongoing discussions regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant as well as assessments of activities and materials at other sites in Ukraine.
The IAEA has reported that, in the coming weeks, it will send nuclear safety and security missions to three more operating nuclear power plants, as well as to Chernobyl, at the request of the Ukrainian Government.
I reiterate the imperative to avoid any military activity that could risk compromising the safety and security of any nuclear facility.
Since before the invasion of 24 February, the United Nations and many others in the global community warned of the consequences of a wider war in Ukraine, for Ukrainians, first of all, but also for much of the world.
Those fears have amply borne out.
One significant casualty of the war has been the international collective security system we have all pledged to uphold.
The damage to the structures built to resolve or manage tensions and conflict is significant, making it, in turn, even more difficult to chart a path out of the hostilities in Ukraine.
There is only one way to stop the death, destruction and division. The war must end. And it must end in line with international law and the UN Charter, as called for by the UN General Assembly.