Security Council Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine
Statement by the Republic of Lithuania on behalf of the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
15 May 2023, New York
I am speaking on behalf of the Baltic states – Latvia, Estonia and my own country, Lithuania. We fully align ourselves with the Statement of the EU. I thank the Under-Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths, for his briefing.
We highly value the work of the UN and its agencies in their efforts to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by Russia’s unprovoked and premeditated war against Ukraine, as well as in their close monitoring and documentation of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. We also appreciate their active engagement in numerous diplomatic efforts, including the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Over the past 15 months, Russia has inflicted immense suffering upon Ukraine and its people through its full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine. The humanitarian consequences of Russia’s attacks on the civilian population have been devastating:
- Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes, leading to displacement and the loss of livelihoods.
- Thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed or injured, front-line towns have been reduced to rubble. Non-combatants, many of them women and children, have been killed or injured in indiscriminate shelling and other attacks.
- Russia is inflicting significant damage to infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and other essential services. Russian attacks on civilian areas have also made it difficult for humanitarian organizations to provide for people in need.
- Many people are experiencing the trauma and stress of displacement and violence. The impact of Russia’s war has spared no one, including vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Each additional day of aggression prolongs the toll of human suffering.
Russia, responding to its military losses in Ukraine, is terrorizing the civilian population by conducting massive missile and UAV strikes at critical infrastructure and residential areas, including in Kyiv and Odessa. These horrific attacks, which result in significant casualties and destruction, are designed to erode the will of ordinary Ukrainians to resist. However, launching attacks with the sole purpose of terrorizing civilians is a war crime.
The Parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and the European Parliament declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its targeted attacks and atrocities in Ukraine that violate human rights and international humanitarian laws.
The UN and the OSCE have published extensive reports indicating atrocities committed by Russia and its armed forces against civilians in Ukraine. These acts have been classified as war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of the Geneva Conventions. We highlight the large-scale attempts by Russia to abduct and transfer children from Ukraine. International humanitarian law must be upheld collectively, with international organizations leading the way. In this regard the recent arrest warrants issued by the ICC for V. Putin and M. Lvova-Belova, the OSCE Moscow Mechanism mission of experts on the situation of Ukrainian children, and the UNHRC Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine are all welcome, concrete steps towards accountability and safeguarding international humanitarian law. We strongly condemn Russia’s attempts to intimidate the ICC and undermine international efforts to secure justice.
On May 8th, Russian strikes destroyed 1,000 square meters of humanitarian aid stored in a large warehouse of the Ukrainian Red Cross for the Odessa region. By attacking agricultural infrastructure and restricting maritime exports, Moscow seeks to instrumentalize the vulnerabilities of other countries. It is estimated that Ukrainian agricultural produce feeds 400 million people around the world. Despite the full-blown war on its territory, Ukraine remains one of the world’s top-5 agricultural exporters. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Grain from Ukraine, and the EU Solidarity Lines have played an instrumental role in this by alleviating the global food crisis, severely exacerbated by Russia’s illegal war of aggression. If Russia were serious about countering food insecurity, it would stop its threats to unilaterally leave the Black Sea Grain Initiative and put an end to delaying the inspection of vessels.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Kremlin and Russian diplomats continue spreading disinformation, making threats, and disseminating dehumanizing propaganda, while also repeating false narratives about the ongoing invasion. The undeniable reality is that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, and launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24th of last year. No one has attacked Russia.
Russia must realize that it cannot win in Ukraine. Ultimately, it is Ukraine that will prevail. With unwavering support from the international community, Ukraine will continue to demonstrate its remarkable courage, determination, and moral strength as it fights to liberate its homeland. A peace will be achieved when Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence are fully restored, enabling its people to thrive and prosper.
The Baltic states are making significant efforts to support Ukraine, providing humanitarian, economic, and military aid. Together with Poland, we are among the top four bilateral aid donors to Ukraine as a percentage of our GDPs. It is important to recall that all the support being provided to Ukraine is in addition to, rather than at the expense of, aid and development cooperation to other countries around the world.
Russia must end this war by fully withdrawing its forces from all occupied territories of Ukraine. This is the most effective way to end the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. It is also the only path towards alleviating the suffering caused by this aggression for the most vulnerable nations and people globally.
We reiterate our support for President Zelenskyy’s efforts to promote a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace, in line with the UN Charter, and we support the basic principles outlined in his Peace Initiative. We, the international community, must unite and commit ourselves to ensure the full accountability for the core international crimes in connection with Russia’s war against Ukraine, including through the establishment of Special International Tribunal for the prosecution of the crimes of aggression.