New York, 21 November 2023
Thank you, Mr. President,
I thank USG Jenca and Mr. Hollingworth for their briefing.
While the world attention remains glued on the ongoing dramatic developments in Gaza, with hope that some of the so much awaited good news will come soon, the aggression of Russia against Ukraine continues unabated, with terrible humanitarian consequences and profound detrimental impact on human lives, including for many around the world.
We like it or not, the world media and public attention have their own patterns, they can only focus on one event at a time. Nothing can or should diminish the tragedy unfolding in Gaza. But we cannot forget that civilians are dying every day in a disastrous war in Sudan; that a horrible civil war is going on almost in silence in Myanmar and the cruelty of Russia in Ukraine has not stopped, to mention just e few human miseries of our world.
This is why this meeting is important as a very much needed reality check.
Briefers shared the latest information on several key aspects. In the course of almost two years, Russia has reduced whole Ukrainian cities to rubble, has conducted indiscriminate attacks, with shelling, missiles and drones against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals; has caused a massive humanitarian crisis and is guilty of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The reports established by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine based on numerous missions to Ukraine and other evidence, show beyond any doubt that the Russian authorities have committed a wide range of violations, many of which amount to war crimes.
They include willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and sexual violence, as well as forced transfers and deportations of children.
Just a few days ago, Ukraine commemorated the 90th Anniversary of Holodomor, otherwise known as the Great Famine.
In 1932-1933, millions of Ukrainians were starved to death in a man-made famine engineered by the Soviet government of Joseph Stalin.
In 2023, in a man-made war, Kremlin continues to weaponize food against the same country and the same people, this time with reverberating effects around the world.
As part of its efforts to subjugate its neighbor, Russia killed the grain deal annihilating a much-needed food security relief worldwide. It continues to deliberately bombard and destroy Ukraine’s export facilities and grain silos; it has wrecked and heavily mined vast parts of agricultural land inflicting huge damage to the country’s economy at its output.
What Russia doesn’t want, Ukraine is making now possible thankfully. The food corridor is vital for Ukraine but also for millions in the world.
As we approach the 22d month of uninterrupted brutal war, let’s take a moment and look at some key aspect that this war – probably a culmination of incompetence in strategic decision and political blunder – has brought, for Ukraine, for Russia and the world.
It was meant to be a three-day promenade; it has been going on for over 620 days with no end in sight, bringing death and destruction for Ukraine but also extraordinary costs for Russia.
It promised to save and liberate Ukrainians; it has only brought misery and suffering, killed 10 thousands innocent people and has displaced more than 10 million others.
It was meant to bring Ukraine closer to Russia; it has instead created a more unified, nationally conscious country and society than before the war. Ukraine has become a candidate country to the European Union, has strengthened its European credentials and is making its choices free from Russian dictate;
It was meant to show the Russian strength and grandeur; It has instead proved a disastrous example of overreach. It has isolated Russia which stands now as a weak pariah, perceived as a threat to democracies, to the European Security Architecture and the international security system.
By invading its smaller neighbor, Russia showed its contempt for the rules based-international order. It has upset and challenged it but the world, as shown by the UNGA, has not followed Russia; It has openly opposed and condemned it.
A war based on bogus pretexts and alternate realities they have created and keep repeating, has only revealed how little respect a Permanent Member of the Security Council has for the UN Charter, the international law and the Security Council resolutions despite unsuccessful attempts to preach otherwise.
History can always be of good advice to learn from the past and understand the present.
In 1792, Maximilien Robespierre would warn about – I quote – “the most extravagant idea taking root in the head of a politician who believes that it is enough for one people to invade a foreign people to make it adopt its laws and constitution. No one likes armed missionaries; and the first advice given by nature and prudence is to repel them as enemies.”
As incomprehensible as it may be, 231 years later, that extravagant idea and that kind of politicians are still around.
Except that today, Robespierre’s advice to repel enemies is enshrined in the UN Charter, in the International Law and is embodied in the worldwide solidarity with Ukrainians, in their right of self-defense and their heroic resistance. It means that we have learned from past mistakes, at least some of us.
This is why we will continue to support Ukraine’s right and ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggression, to uphold the foundational principles of multilateralism, and to help the Ukrainian people build the secure, prosperous, and independent future they deserve.
Because, for Ukraine, the defense efforts are a matter of survival; for Russia, the war has been and remains a matter of caprice and imperial design.
Therefore, it is crucial not to allow Russia to go away with crime, the crime of changing borders by force; the crime of illegal annexation of territory; the crime of deliberate policy which could bring back anarchy in Europe and instability in the entire world.
This is why, standing with Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial integrity means defending the democratic values, the international rules-based order, the UN charter, all of us and what we stand for.