The war triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine is over five months old and shows no signs of ending. Instead, the fighting is intensifying.
In the face of such a grim prospect, the agreement signed on 22 July in Istanbul to facilitate the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny constitutes a “beacon of hope” for humanity, as the Secretary-General put it.
This humanitarian agreement, together with the understanding between the Russian Federation and the UN Secretariat on promoting access of Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets, will help bridge the global food supply gap and reduce high prices.
Member States received yesterday a virtual briefing on these efforts from Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, and Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe.
The grain agreement is a sign that dialogue between the parties is possible in the search to ease human suffering. The UN is now making every effort to support the parties in operationalizing the initiative, starting with the inauguration of the Joint Coordination Center two days ago.
As the Secretary-General has stated, all parties made clear commitments to ensure the safe movement of grain and related products to global markets. Avoiding incidents such as recent strikes on Odesa and creating enabling conditions will be key for the initiative to succeed.
It is, therefore, imperative that the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Türkiye work in partnership to effectively implement the agreement.
Since I last briefed this Council on 28 June, the number of civilians killed, wounded or maimed by fighting continued to grow. Deadly missile, air and artillery attacks by Russian armed forces have continued unabated, reducing many Ukrainian cities and towns to rubble.
The streets of Kharkiv, Dnipro and Mykolaiv have been repeatedly targeted. The port city of Odesa and the surrounding region have also suffered multiple attacks. The capital of the Kirovohrad region (Kropyvnystkyi) was reportedly struck yesterday, as was the town of Liutizh just north of Kyiv. Cities in the Donbass, including Donetsk and Bakhmut, are also reported to be under fire. Renewed heavy fighting is now anticipated in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
At the same time, reported efforts to alter administrative structures on the ground, including attempts to introduce local governing bodies in Russian-controlled areas, raise serious concerns about the political implications of the war.
As the conflict enters a more protracted phase, attention is increasingly turning to its longer-term humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction, and socio-economic impact. As summer wanes, the need for winterization planning is also becoming pressing.
Regrettably, political dialogue has virtually ground to a halt.
The war has taken an unacceptably heavy toll on Ukrainian civilians. As of 27 July, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded 12,272 civilian casualties in the country: 5,237 killed and 7,035 injured.
This represents at least 1,641 new civilian casualties since my last briefing. These are figures based on verified incidents; the actual numbers are considerably higher.
As we have reported, most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area. Many of these weapons are inherently indiscriminate when used in populated areas, where they invariably have devastating humanitarian consequences.
OHCHR, WHO and UNESCO continue to document damage and destruction of civilian housing, educational and healthcare facilities, as well as places of worship.
The impact of war on Ukraine’s health sector is particularly alarming. As of 25 July, there have been 414 attacks on health care in Ukraine, resulting in 85 deaths and 100 injuries. This includes 350 attacks on facilities in areas of conflict, where on average around 316,000 patients were treated per month.
Also, UNESCO has verified conflict-related damage to 168 cultural sites since 24 February, including 73 religious buildings and 13 museums. Some 2,129 educational institutions have also reportedly suffered from bombing and shelling.
Indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are a clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. We reiterate our urgent call to all parties to respect these laws, including the rules of distinction, proportionality and precaution and to avoid the use of heavy weapons in populated areas.
As of 20 July, the humanitarian community has provided aid to 11 million people.
Some 9 million people have received food and livelihood assistance, and more than 4.5 million people have benefitted from protection services, including legal assistance, mine clearance and mine-risk reduction.
More than 4.2 million people have also been able to access safe water and proper sanitation, while nearly 2.3 million people have received cash assistance.
Despite difficulties in reaching people in need in the non-Government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, humanitarian partners have provided aid to up to 125,000 people and to over 30 health, education, and social institutions in the area.
As of 19 July, 5,984,263 refugees from Ukraine were recorded across Europe.
Border crossings from Ukraine since 24 February have totaled over 9.5 million. Crossings to Ukraine numbered 3.8 million.
We are concerned that winter will make it harder for the displaced or the returnee community to have access to shelter and health care.
To address these risks, the humanitarian community is focusing on supporting the national and local systems to respond with housing solutions, social protection, and economic inclusion.
We cannot ignore the specific way the war is affecting women and girls.
While access to food has significantly declined across Ukraine, women-headed households in Ukraine are twice as likely to experience food insecurity as those headed by men.
Women’s access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, is rapidly deteriorating, as is access to new-born and child health.
With access to education also largely hindered, women are taking on the primary responsibility of home-schooling children.
Further, women in Ukraine face significantly increased safety and protection risks. Incidents of gender-based violence, including allegations of sexual violence in conflict have increased, but services for survivors are not provided in full. It is also likely that many victims and survivors are currently unable to report their cases.
Especially for these reasons, women must meaningfully participate in discussions and initiatives to shape the future of the country, including peace negotiations, recovery efforts, peacebuilding and accountability efforts.
The impact of the war globally is glaringly clear. The consequences will only become more pronounced the longer the conflict lasts, particularly with the onset of winter.
Despite the encouraging developments on grain and fertilizers, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of prospects for a shift towards a meaningful resumption of diplomatic efforts to end the war.
Escalatory rhetoric from any side, including about expanding the conflict geographically or denying Ukraine’s statehood, is not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated in Istanbul.
Here, let me state once again the commitment of the United Nations to Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence within its internationally recognized borders.
We are all aware of the horrors of this war.
In both Government and non-Government controlled areas, ordinary people bear the brunt of attacks and counterattacks.
Two weeks ago, the city of Vinnytsia became the scene of another atrocious attack. Missiles fired from the Black Sea killed over 20 people, including three children.
Among those brutally cut down in the attack was a 4-year-old girl, Liza, who had been strolling through a park with her mother. We know the heartbreaking story of her killing, but there are many other children, fathers and mothers dying in similar circumstances every day in Ukraine.
This incident and the long list of attacks devastating Ukraine stand as the ultimate indictment of the utter senselessness and brutality of this war.
Thank you, Mr. President.