Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia Urmas Reinsalu at the Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year ago, the world watched in horror how Russia launched its full-scale brutal, unprovoked and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. And let us remind ourselves that Russia has held war against Ukraine for almost nine year already. A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council – whose mandate in that seat is rightfully under challenge – demonstrated its complete disrespect for the rules-based international order. By invading its sovereign neighbour Ukraine, Russia has trampled upon the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including the obligation to refrain from using force against another State.
Russia has completely ignored several calls by the General Assembly to stop its aggression and the legally binding order of the ICJ from last March to suspend immediately its military operation in Ukraine. There have been no signs of de-escalation. We see the opposite as Russia’s new offensive is unfolding. Russia continues to punish Ukraine for choosing its own sovereign path.
As we speak, Russian bombs continue targeting critical infrastructure, including energy and water systems with the aim of breaking the Ukrainian will by causing immense pain and suffering to civilians. We have witnessed Russia’s massive airstrikes on civilian sites, often in densely populated areas. Abounding evidence shows that the aggressor has also used sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. This brutal war of aggression has already caused at least 19 000 civilian casualties, approximately 1300 of them children. Nearly 13 and a half million people have had to flee their homes while entire cities have been reduced to rubble. Over 17 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 1.6 million Ukrainians have been deported, among them thousands of children for illegal adoptions.
Therefore, I call on countries worldwide to recognise Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine as a genocide. Putin has not kept secret his intent to annihilate.
Let us be clear, Russia’s full-scale war of aggression impacts us all and therefore, it is our duty to restore peace and justice and not let the aggressor go unpunished. Aggression as an instrument of international relations must be completely discredited. Russia must be held accountable for all atrocity crimes committed in Ukraine, including for the crime of aggression. For this, we need to establish of an international special tribunal to hold Russian political and military leadership to account. The UN can protect the common values of states enshrined in the UN Charter by denying Mr Putin the opportunity to hide in the judicial loophole. As we know, impunity today will only lead to more crimes tomorrow.
So Mr Putin, you will be under tribunal and pay for crimes you have committed.
Ukraine deserves peace – a peace that preserves Ukraine’s territorial integrity and upholds its sovereignty in accordance with the UN Charter and international law. The only way towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace is the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces of the Russian Federation from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. The use of force to redraw national borders cannot be an option. I call upon the international community to support the 10-point peace plan put forward by Ukraine and commit to working together towards its implementation. Today’s resolution is an important building block on this path.
If the international community will not stop the Russian aggression, the global impact of the war on food security, financial system, energy and environment will become even more devastating. To stop that, the victim state also needs power to defend itself. Therefore, Estonia has increased its military aid to Ukraine to 1% of its GDP.
February 24th is symbolic for Estonians – we celebrate the anniversary of the Estonian Declaration of Independence in 1918. Last year’s anniversary reminded us in the most brutal manner how fragile independence and freedom can be. On behalf of the Estonian people, I want to pay tribute to the immeasurable resolve and resilience of the Ukrainian people. They are not only defending their country and people, but also our common values, international legal order and the UN Charter. It is our duty to keep standing behind Ukraine.
After my visits to Ukraine last year I can say that Ukrainians are the bravest people on Earth.
Russia’s destructive and genocidal war of aggression that is fuelled by their imperialist ambitions has to be stopped. Therefore, Estonia votes for the UN General Assembly resolution “Principles underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine“. I call on the whole UN community to do the same.