DiCarlo: War in Ukraine Threatens Global Institutions of Peace – Security Council Briefing on Ukraine by Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs – Ukraine

Madame President,

Since my last briefing to the Council on 17 March, the security situation in Ukraine has seriously deteriorated. The number of Ukrainian civilians killed has more than doubled. Ukrainian cities continue to be pounded mercilessly, often indiscriminately, by heavy artillery and aerial bombardment.

And hundreds of thousands of people, including children, the elderly and the disabled, remain trapped in cordoned off areas in nightmarish conditions. The devastation inflicted on Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities is one of the shameful features of this senseless war.

The horror deepened last weekend as shocking images emerged of dead civilians, some with their hands tied, lying in the streets of Bucha, the town near kyiv once held by Russian forces. Many bodies were also found in a mass grave in the same locality.

Reports from non-governmental organizations and the media also point to summary executions of civilians, rapes and looting in the regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv.

Madame President,

Away from the fighting, diplomatic efforts to end this war, including direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives, have continued. We commend the Turkish Government for hosting these discussions, as well as the efforts of many others engaged with Russia and Ukraine to contribute to peace.

We welcome the willingness of the parties to continue to engage to achieve mutual understanding. This requires good faith and serious effort. Any progress in the negotiations should quickly translate into action on the ground.

Although there has been a reduction in Russian troops and attacks around kyiv and Chernihiv, such moves should not be merely tactical, repositioning forces for further attacks on Ukrainian towns elsewhere. The General Assembly has twice called on Russian forces to withdraw entirely from Ukrainian territory and to cease all military operations.

We also take note of the reported withdrawal of Russian forces around the Chernobyl nuclear site. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that this development will hopefully allow it to conduct an assistance and support mission to provide technical advice and deliver equipment, if required, as soon as possible.

All nuclear sites in Ukraine must be fully protected and secured. Military operations in or around these locations should be avoided.

Madame President,

The numbers tell a tragic, if still incomplete, story. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 1,480 civilians were killed and at least 2,195 injured between February 24 and April 4, 2022. OHCHR estimates that the actual numbers are considerably higher.

We are gravely concerned by the continued use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas. These weapons cause the most civilian casualties as well as massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, hospitals, schools, water stations and electrical systems.

OHCHR received credible allegations that Russian forces used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times. Allegations that Ukrainian forces used such weapons are also under investigation.

As noted by the High Commissioner, indiscriminate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes. The massive destruction of civilian objects and the high number of civilian casualties clearly indicate that the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution have not been sufficiently respected.

In besieged cities, a significant increase in death rates among civilians can also be attributed to the disruption of medical care and basic services. People with disabilities and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. As of April 4, 2022, the World Health Organization has reported a total of 85 attacks on healthcare facilities, resulting in at least 72 deaths and 43 injuries.

Madame President,

We are gravely concerned by reports of cases of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances of people who have spoken out against the Russian invasion.

As of March 30, OHCHR has documented the arbitrary detention and possible enforced disappearance of 22 journalists and members of civil society in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions. 24 local officials were also detained in areas under Russian control, 13 of whom were later released.

We call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, including journalists, local officials, civil society activists and others.

Also as of March 30, the OHCHR has identified seven journalists and media professionals killed since the outbreak of hostilities. Fifteen others were the target of armed attacks, nine of whom were injured.

Allegations of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces have also emerged. These include gang rape and rape in front of children.

There are also allegations of sexual violence by Ukrainian forces and civil defense militias. The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine continues to seek to verify all of these allegations.

We are also concerned about disturbing videos showing POW abuse on both sides. All prisoners of war must be treated with dignity and with full respect for their rights in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Madame President,

The many credible allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in areas recently recaptured from Russian forces, must not go unaddressed.

We support efforts to investigate these allegations and gather evidence. Securing accountability and justice for acts committed during war will not be easy, but it is essential.

Madame President,

We are encouraged by the generosity of neighboring countries that have taken in millions of refugees and the solidarity of the Ukrainian people in welcoming their displaced compatriots.

With more than 10 million people displaced within Ukraine or abroad as refugees, around a quarter of the population, the United Nations is gravely concerned about the increased risk of human trafficking.

Indeed, suspected and proven cases of human trafficking are surfacing in surrounding countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Madame President,

This war is devastating Ukraine today, but it also threatens its future. Early UNDP assessment projections suggest that if the war continues until 2022, Ukraine risks seeing 18 years of lost socio-economic progress.

It would set the country – and the region – back decades and leave deep social and economic fissures in the long run.

United Nations agencies, including UNDP, are working to preserve Ukraine’s hard-won development gains. This involves supporting the government to maintain essential governance structures and basic services, including emergency measures to maintain livelihoods, such as cash assistance.

Madame President,

The war in Ukraine has damaged Europe’s security architecture. Its economic repercussions are already being felt far from the battlefield. The longer the war drags on, the greater the risk that it will further weaken global institutions and mechanisms dedicated to preserving peace and security.

The war began by choice. There is no fatality in this or in the suffering it causes. The United Nations stands ready to do everything in its power to help end it.

Thank you, Madam President.

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