Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Ukraine by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo
The war in Ukraine is now in its third week. Fighting continues unabated.
The Russian armed forces are pursuing their offensive operations and laying siege to several cities in the south, east and north of the country.
A large concentration of Russian forces is reportedly massed along several approaches to the capital, Kyiv.
The situation is particularly alarming in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv, where there is shelling of residential areas and civilian infrastructure, resulting in an increasing number of civilians killed and injured. The utter devastation being visited on these cities is horrific.
The numbers bear out the conclusion that civilians are paying the highest price for the conflict. As of 11 March, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded a total of 1,546 civilian casualties, including 564 killed and 982 injured, since the start of the invasion on 24 February.
OHCHR believes the real casualty figures are likely considerably higher, as information from locations where intense hostilities are ongoing has been delayed and reports are still pending corroboration.
Most of the recorded civilian casualties, which include children, have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.
OHCHR has received credible reports of Russian forces using cluster munitions, including in populated areas. Indiscriminate attacks, including those using cluster munitions, which are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction, are prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages, are also prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.
As of 10 March, the World Health Organization has verified 26 attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances, causing 12 deaths and 34 injuries. This includes the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital on 9 March. We condemn such attacks without reservation. They cause not only death and destruction: they also deprive people of urgently needed care and endanger more lives.
We cannot emphasize it enough: The targeting of civilians, of residential buildings, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, is inexcusable and intolerable. All alleged violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and those found responsible held accountable.
Millions of people in Ukraine need urgent assistance. This includes 2 million internally displaced people.
We are scaling up humanitarian aid in areas where security permits. More than half a million people are now receiving assistance, including life-saving food, shelter, blankets and medical supplies.
The United Nations and our partners have developed operational plans to meet humanitarian needs where they are most acute.
This work needs funding. Over $1.5 billion was pledged to the appeals last week. We are grateful for this generosity and encourage donors to release the funding quickly.
It is critical to urgently achieve a cessation of hostilities to allow for the safe passage of civilians from besieged areas and to ensure that life-saving humanitarian supplies can reach those who remain.
On 9 March, over 51,000 people were reportedly evacuated through five out of six agreed-upon safe passages. These safe passages must continue. They should be implemented with clear principles and modalities. Civilians should be duly and timely informed of the possibility to leave the concerned areas and on a voluntary basis and in the direction they choose.
To expand life-saving assistance and services to those most in need humanitarian actors must also have safe, rapid, unimpeded and sustained access to all areas.
We commend the humanitarian actors on the ground who are staying and delivering in a highly volatile situation.
The number of refugees from Ukraine has reached 2.5 million people These numbers continue increasing by the day.
We also commend the countries that have kept their borders open to welcome and support refugees. All people fleeing Ukraine, including third country nationals, need access to safety and protection, in line with the principle of non-refoulement and without any form of discrimination.
The need for negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine could not be more urgent. We note the three rounds of talks held thus far between Ukrainian and Russian delegations. We call for such efforts to intensify, including to further secure humanitarian and ceasefire arrangements as a matter of priority. We urge the sides to build on their contacts, such as the meeting yesterday between the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and the Russian Federation in Antalya, Turkey. The logic of dialogue and diplomacy must prevail over the logic of war.
The Secretary-General is grateful to the many Member States working in pursuit of a diplomatic solution to this dangerous conflict. He is in regular contact with regional and other leaders and his good offices remain available.
Let me reaffirm the UN’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, within its internationally recognized borders.
As the war grinds on, there is already much reflection about its implications, beyond the tragedy it represents for Ukraine. We increasingly hear the use of terms such as “turning point”, “defining moment”, “end of multilateralism”. I believe this is not an exaggeration. Indeed, some consequences are already being felt, economically and politically. Perhaps most alarming are the risks the violence poses to the global framework for peace and security.
We must do everything we can to find a solution and put an end to this war. And we must do it now.
Thank you, Madam President.