It is with great concern and sadness that I brief the Council this evening on the unfolding dangerous situation in and around Ukraine.
In his statement today, the Secretary-General was clear: He considers the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize the independence of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. We very much regret this decision, which risks having regional and global repercussions.
We also regret the order today to deploy Russian troops into eastern Ukraine, reportedly on a “peacekeeping mission”.
These developments follow the decision to order a mass evacuation of civilian residents of Donetsk and Luhansk into the Russian Federation.
We are concerned by the escalating shelling across the contact line, reportedly leading to a number of casualties. OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission has recorded a total of 3,231 ceasefire violations in the Donbas area from 18-20 February: 1,073 ceasefire violations, including 926 explosions in the Luhansk region, and 2,158 ceasefire violations, including 1,100 explosions, in Donetsk region.
We remind all involved of their responsibilities under international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Although the United Nations is not in a position to verify the numerous claims and allegations made by various actors, we are deeply concerned about the reports of civilian casualties, targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, and ongoing evacuations.
We are extremely concerned about the possible implications of the latest developments for the existing negotiation frameworks. Amid the current risks and uncertainty, it is even more important to pursue dialogue.
Negotiation is the only way to address the existing differences among the key actors regarding regional security issues, and the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in accordance with Security Council resolution 2202 (2015).
Before the current, already dangerous conditions escalate further, we call on all relevant actors to focus their efforts on an immediate cessation of hostilities. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected, and actions and statements that may worsen the situation must be avoided.
Over the past few weeks, key actors have been engaged in intense diplomatic efforts to avert a new eruption of conflict in the heart of Europe. The Secretary-General fully supports these efforts and has deplored even the possibility that a new conflict could break out.
We are committed to our long-term partnership with Ukraine – a founding member of the United Nations – as it continues to pursue the democratic reform agenda 30 years after independence.
And once again we reiterate the full commitment of the United Nations to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders, in accordance with General Assembly resolutions.
Throughout the eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations has continued to provide life-saving humanitarian support to all in need as well as human rights-related work. During this difficult period, we are committed to stay and deliver and remain fully operational in Ukraine, including in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The safety and security of all our staff must be respected by all parties.
The next hours and days will be critical. The risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs. I can assure you of the full commitment of the Secretary-General to work toward a diplomatic resolution of the current crisis.
Thank you, Mr. President