The statement was delivered by the Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the UN, H.E. Ambassador Rytis Paulauskas, on behalf of the NB8 countries.
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the eight Nordic-Baltic countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and my own country Lithuania.
Despite the repeated calls for serious de-escalation by the UN Secretary General and recent intensive diplomatic efforts at all levels, Russia keeps dramatically escalating its aggressive actions against Ukraine.
We strongly condemn the decision by President Putin to recognize the non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities and the ensuing decision to send Russian troops into these areas under the pretext of so –called “peacekeeping”. We call on Russia to reverse these decisions.
As clearly stated by the UN Secretary General and political leaders of our countries, these illegal acts further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and constitute a severe breach of international law and international agreements, including the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, Paris Charter and Budapest Memorandum. We underline that Russian forces in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine would be nothing else than an invasion of a sovereign state. Calling them peacekeepers, to quote the Secretary General, is the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.
By these illegal acts, Russia is breaking its commitment to work within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group in finding a peaceful settlement to the conflict. It is also violating UN Security Council Resolution 2202, which requires full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
The Russian Federation’s use of force against Ukraine is completely unjustified and unacceptable, and must be met with unity, firmness and determination, including through additional sanctions, in solidarity with Ukraine.
Russia’s continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine and its recent unprecedented and large-scale military build-up in Ukraine and near its borders, including through the deployment of combat forces in, and the joint drills with, Belarus pose a threat to not only European, but also global security. In addition, Russia’s increased military presence in the Black Sea and in the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula, as well as the closure of large parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, add to the threat of escalation also in the maritime sphere.
Non-adherence to international law and its fundamental principles undermines the rules-based international order and effective multilateralism. We underscore the crucial importance of upholding these principles, including to the right of all States to the sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence, as well as the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements.
The Nordic and Baltic countries stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognized borders.
Russia has a clear and direct responsibility under international law to work to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict. We call on Russia to respect the principles of the UN Charter, to deescalate and to choose to engage in meaningful diplomacy.
In three days, we will mark the 8th anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation. The Nordic and Baltic countries continue to condemn this blatant violation of international law and remain committed to implementing the EU’s non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures. We call on UN Member States to consider similar measures in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution 68/262.
We continue to condemn the increasing militarization of the Crimean Peninsula and the severe deterioration of the human rights situation there. We recall the obligation of all states not to recognize as lawful any territorial acquisition or special advantage resulting from the use of armed force.
The Russia instigated conflict has resulted in around 14 000 deaths, 1.5 million displaced, countless damages and suffering of those living on the both sides of the contact line. Furthermore, we are witnessing Russia’s continuous efforts of de-facto integration and systemic demographic changes of the illegally annexed Crimea as well as non-government-controlled areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, including through accelerated issuing of Russian passports on a massive scale to Ukrainian citizens, and forced conscription to the Russian Armed Forces. Such moves are making the conflict resolution efforts even more difficult.
We are concerned about reported arbitrary detentions and arrests, especially of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian speaking minorities, increasing pressure on journalists and media workers, human rights defenders and other members of civil society. Russia must fully respect international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We call for the immediate release of all illegally detained and imprisoned persons in the Crimean Peninsula and in Russia. It is essential that international organisations and human rights actors have an unhindered access to the areas currently not under the control of Ukraine, and the Crimean Peninsula, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 76/179 of 16 December 2021.
We urge Russia to withdraw its forces and materiel from within Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula and non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, as well as from areas adjacent to its borders, and to immediately stop fuelling the conflict.
We reiterate our full support to the efforts towards peaceful and sustainable resolution of this conflict through the established international mechanisms. We commend Ukraine for its constructive approach and urge Russia to assume its responsibility as a party to the conflict, uphold its commitments, abide by international law and return to the discussions within the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group.
It is essential that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission have free and unhindered access throughout Ukraine including the Crimean Peninsula and non-government-controlled areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine - in accordance with its mandate. We are deeply concerned regarding the continued restrictions to the SMM’s freedom of movement, including security incidents involving its staff and assets.
The position of the Nordic and Baltic countries is clear. It is our duty as members of the UN to defend the rules-based international order. Challenges to this order clearly affect the international community as a whole.
We urge Russia to abide by international law and uphold its international commitments. Like the Secretary General, we recall the obligations under the UN Charter of all members to refrain from the threat or use of force and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.
We thank the Secretary General for his clear message on Russia’s aggressive actions and call for the UN to continue efforts to restore respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
Thank you Mr. President.