Statement by the Republic of Lithuania on behalf of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia
Delivered by H.E. Mr. Rytis Paulauskas, Permanent Representative of Lithuania
UN Security Council Briefing on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine
24 August 2023, New York
Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement to the Council on behalf of Estonia, Latvia, and my own country Lithuania.
As we congratulate Ukraine on its Independence Day today, we continue to witness ongoing Russia’s aggression aimed at taking this independence away. Deliberate attacks increasingly target civilians and civilian infrastructure, which is a war crime. Destruction of civilian and critical infrastructure deprive the people of access to water and food, heating, health and other essential services, destroy livelihoods of entire families, particularly affecting children, women and the elderly. Yet another heinous attack on civilians in Chernihiv killed seven people, including a six-year-old girl Sophia Holynska and wounded 144 people, among them people celebrating an Orthodox Christian holiday.
Children are particularly suffering in this war: according to office of the UN Human rights commissioner, up to August 541 have been killed, 1,139 injured. Many more are forced to flee their homes, lost their families and friends, are unable to attend school or receive proper medical care. Since the beginning of Russian aggression millions of children and their caregivers have been exposed to hostilities along the frontlines and missile strikes in the cities. At least 3, 281 education institutions have been impacted by fighting, with 262 destroyed and 3,019 damaged, 54 percent of them in the eastern frontline areas. The psychological effects of this trauma on children will have far reaching consequences on the future of Ukraine. For these cruel acts Russia was added to the list of parties committing grave violence against children by the UN Secretary General.
The situation of Ukrainian children forcefully deported to Russia and Belarus, subjected to pro-Russia re-education and militarization training, turned into Russian citizens and illegally adopted, deserves our immediate attention. We must ensure the children’s repatriation and accountability of perpetrators. The ICC arrest warrants issued for president Putin and Lvova-Belova is the first step in the right direction and we encourage continued international scrutiny to ensure full accountability and repatriation of the children.
In this regard we welcome recent signing of Ukraine and UN joint preventive plan to prevent and stop grave violations of children’s rights in Russia’s armed aggression. I also would like to thank the UNICEF and other UN agencies assistance efforts: according to the recent report there are over 17,6 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, of these 4.1 million are children. At the same time UNICEF urgently requires 90.6 million USD to continue these activities. We all must contribute to close those gaps and allow assistance to reach those in the need.
Furthermore, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are an estimated 5.1 million internally displaced persons within Ukraine, many Ukrainian refugees abroad. More than 4 million of refugees having sought shelter in the EU, including over 100 000 in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Only in Lithuania’s schools there are over 8000 pupils form Ukraine.
Russia continues to destroy living-houses, hospitals and other healthcare establishments, schools and nurseries – all clearly civilian infrastructure. Russian military strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has led to power outages that affect Ukrainian agricultural sector, interrupts water networks and denies access to essential services, such as health and education. The destruction of Kakhovka Dam on 6 June caused an unprecedented ecological catastrophe, further deepening civilian suffering. Over 200 000 people in flood-affected areas rely on water distribution due to water contamination or drop of water levels in the reservoirs.
Russia’s war of aggression, enabled by Belarus, is a manifest violation of the UN Charter. Moreover, by abusing its veto power as a Security Council permanent member, Russia has rendered the Council paralysed to act. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. The international community has a responsibility to ensure full accountability of the perpetrators of atrocity crimes in order to bring sustainable peace, justice to the victims, and prevent the recurrence of such crimes anywhere in the world in the future. That is why need to support Ukraine in establishing a Special international tribunal for the crime of aggression
I thank you.