Statement by the Republic of Estonia on behalf of the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania
Delivered by H.E. Mr. Rein Tammsaar, Permanent Representative of Estonia
UN Security Council Briefing on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine
8 September 2023, New York
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the three Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and my own country, Estonia. We also align ourselves with the Statement of the European Union.
Thank you for convening today’s Security Council briefing. I would also like to thank Assistant-Secretary General Miroslav Jenca for your valuable insight and principled positions.
The so-called elections held by Russia in the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine are yet another grave violation of the UN Charter and the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Let me remind you that last year the General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian regions.
Whether Russia likes it or not – Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, along with Crimea and Sevastopol are and will remain an integral part of Ukraine. By organising elections on Ukrainian territory, Russia makes a shameless mockery of its position as a permanent member of the Security Council.
Kremlin is following a playbook they have used in other occupied territories. They threaten and intimidate civilians to vote in sham elections with hopes to legitimize their occupation and suppress Ukrainian resistance. These elections organised by the occupying power violate international humanitarian and human rights law, including the Geneva Convention.
All of the territories where the so-called elections are being conducted have witnessed Russian war crimes. Ask yourself how you would vote in such elections if your family members had been held at gunpoint and your home occupied by the Russian armed forces or mercenaries with criminal track record while you are also witnessing new atrocities on a daily basis. On Wednesday, 16 innocent civilians were brutally killed and many more wounded by a Russian shelling against a market in Kostiantynivka, a town in Donetsk oblast just 30 kilometres from the frontline.
Russian aims to portray the so-called elections as a triumph of democracy in occupied territories, in reality there is nothing more undemocratic. The strict occupation regime is upheld by Russian military and Russian special services. FSB officers placed in leadership positions organise the occupied territories’ forced integration into Russia according to Moscow’s instructions.
The people in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine are experiencing extrajudicial killings, large-scale repressions, deportations and severe regression. Ukrainians are being forcibly Russified and stripped of local resources. A Russian tactic that the Baltic States know all too well. Credible reports, including by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights found evidence of widespread violations of the rights to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly and of new sanctions for criticising the Russian military.
In conclusion, Ukrainians living in the occupied territories have staunchly continued to resist to the occupied forces or are looking for ways to leave. It is our obligation to support and speak up for them. We will never recognise the holding of these sham elections nor their results and we will make sure that those involved, including the Russian criminal leadership, will be held accountable.
We once again call upon Russia to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. This is the fastest and only viable route to lasting peace.