Statement by the Republic of Lithuania on behalf of the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
UN Security Council Meeting on Ukraine
17 March 2023, New York
I am speaking on behalf of the Baltic states – Latvia, Estonia and my own country Lithuania. I thank the Under-Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths, for his briefing.
For more than a year, Russia has pursued its barbaric war of aggression against Ukraine. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured. Millions forced from their homes. Their jobs and livelihoods destroyed, with many left struggling to access food, water, health care, education, and a safe place to live.
The humanitarian toll of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine continues to mount. The situation in Ukraine remains a massive humanitarian crisis, with almost 18 million people in need of humanitarian aid. Nearly 6 million are internally displaced, forced to flee their homes in search of safety and shelter. 8 million people have sought refuge in Europe and other countries.
We have seen, day after day, cynical disregard by the Russian Federation of international humanitarian law. Russian missiles and drones destroy Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, kill and injure civilians, damage roads, homes, schools, medical facilities, farmland, and power systems. Attacks on energy infrastructure in the depths of winter caused an energy crisis, testing the entire country’s resilience and deepening the humanitarian crisis.
According to the WHO, a staggering amount – 859 – attacks on health-care facilities have been reported since February 24th, 2022.
The war has severely impacted children, with massive destruction of schools and displacement imposing immense challenges to the education system. It is estimated that since the outbreak of the war, Russia has deported thousands of children from the newly occupied Ukrainian territories. Credible reports have shown that this operation is centrally coordinated by Russia’s federal government in an effort to erase Ukraine’s identity and future. The UN HRC “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine”, released March 15th 2023, recognizes that the forced deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is a plain violation of the Genocide Convention. In this regard, we welcome the warrants of arrest issued today by the ICC for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova.
Russia must return these children to their parents and guardians, provide registration lists of the children it has removed and allow independent observers to access facilities within Russian-controlled or occupied areas of Ukraine and in Russia.
As Ukraine continues to defend itself against this aggression, it is important to remember what Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine means for the people: filtration operations; summary executions and torture; rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence.
Russia’s war has also greatly exacerbated the global food security crisis. We support the “Grain from Ukraine” and “Black Sea Grain Initiative”, as well as EU Solidarity lanes that help reduce the global cost of food and provide food supplies to the most vulnerable populations. Russia must allow the unrestricted movement of grain from Ukraine’s ports and extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative beyond March 18.
The international community came up with much-needed aid, with UN agencies and local and international civil society organizations working tirelessly to ease the suffering of Ukrainian people. Humanitarian aid must reach those in need safely and without impediments. Providing support for Ukraine is at the heart of our foreign policy. The Baltic states, together with Poland, make up the top 4 donors of bilateral aid to Ukraine as a percentage of GDP. We are proud to be among the first to provide military assistance, grant protection to nearly 200 000 Ukrainian refugees and give humanitarian relief. Behind these efforts are private citizens and businesses who have been welcoming Ukrainians into their own homes and donating millions of euros to support Ukraine’s armed forces.
We fully support President Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan and Ukraine’s efforts to secure a just and sustainable peace in line with the UN Charter, international law, and the General Assembly resolution. Until then we stand with Ukraine as it exercises its inherent right to self- defence against Russia’s war of aggression, in accordance with international law, notably Article 51 of the UN Charter, and will continue doing so for as long as it takes.
Russia must end the war by fully withdrawing its forces from all occupied territories of Ukraine. It is the most effective way to end the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
There must also be full accountability for the perpetrators. The International Criminal Court, regional bodies and individual states must prosecute those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide in Ukraine. Today’s arrest warrants represents a powerful first step in this direction.
An International Special Tribunal should be created to prosecute the crime of aggression.
Lastly, we should explore all legal means to ensure that Russian assets are used to compensate for all material and moral damage caused by the aggression.