Joint Statement on behalf of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the Security Council briefing on Ukraine: Incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes

Delivered by H. E. Mr Rytis Paulauskas, Permanent Representative of Lithuania

Mr President,

I am delivering a statement on behalf of the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia, and my own country, Lithuania. Thank you for convening this timely meeting, I also thank the briefers for their information on this very important topic.

We support all the UN efforts in taking prompt and effective action in response to situations where populations are at risk of atrocities or where crimes are being committed. States have the responsibility to address and counter incitement to violence and mitigate the risk of atrocity crimes.

Unfortunately, today we witness Russia’s unprovoked large-scale military aggression against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the democratic state of Ukraine with support by co-aggressor Belarus. For years Ukraine has been among key targets of pro-Kremlin disinformation, attempting to build justification for Russian invasion. Further, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is accompanied by Russia’s highest officials’ and Kremlin owned and controlled media radical and toxic language on Ukraine and Ukrainians leading to atrocities committed by Russian forces and their toleration by Russian society.

High-level Russian officials and State media commentators have repeatedly denied the existence of a distinct Ukrainian identity. A range of false narratives have been employed implying that those who identify themselves as Ukrainians, threaten the unity of Russia or are Nazis, and are therefore deserving of punishment or even elimination.  Putin and Russian officials have been employing so called “mirroring” tactics by accusing the victim of the crimes they are committing. False claims have been made that Ukraine had committed genocide or exterminated the civilian population in Russian-backed separatist-controlled areas and used as a pretext for invading Ukraine. Russian officials and State media have repeatedly invoked “denazification” as one of the main goals of the war that Russia has waged against Ukraine.

Russian authorities have not only denied atrocities committed by its forces, but have rewarded the soldiers suspected of mass killings in Ukraine, enabling soldiers to commit, and the Russian society to condone further atrocities, including mass executions, killings of civilians, shelling of residential areas, hospitals, kindergartens, use of prohibited weapons, destruction of critical infrastructure, sexual violence, use of rape and torture as a weapon of war, forced deportations of civilians, including Ukrainian children to Russia. All these atrocities display clear signs of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Mr. President,

We condemn in the strongest terms these crimes and urge Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.

Russian bellicose rhetoric unveils its true imperialistic intentions. If there is no clear and strong international response to stop it, the aggression against Ukraine will be just the beginning.  Kremlin talks openly about land grabs and threatens to “take back” territories of the neighboring countries. Russian authorities are directly inciting the public by funneling and amplifying their propaganda through a controlled media and extreme censorship around the war. Highly influential political, religious, and State-run media figures are used for propaganda and incitement to violence.

Audience of Russian propaganda is twofold: Russian society and the global audience. Messages to the Russian society seek to raise hate against other nations, inviting and justifying violence and aggression. Due to heavy repressions and crackdown on civil society, independent media, journalists and media workers in Russia, Russian society are left in the abyss of Russian propaganda.

Russia’s information manipulation and interference has also global effects. Russia’s aggression has been causing growing food insecurity in the world. Cynically, such actions are also accompanied by a global disinformation campaign aiming to deflect attention from Russia’s responsibility in destabilizing food markets and undermine global support for Ukraine. It is important that we set the facts straight – it is the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, Russian shelling of arable land and food storage sites in Ukraine and not the Western sanctions that are causing the food shortages.

Mr. President,

Let me reiterate that amid this despicable war we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and that Baltic countries will continue providing strong support to Ukraine, including humanitarian and other material support to withstand Russian aggression.

Those who incite and commit atrocity crimes in Ukraine must and will be held accountable. We will continue to engage in accountability mechanisms to address the mass atrocities being committed in Ukraine.