The statement was delivered by the Permanent Representative of Lithuania on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
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.
On 2nd March, 141 countries voted for the resolution entitled “Aggression against Ukraine.”
We deplored in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter and demanded that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State.
We also demanded that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
Instead, Russia has continued the war against Ukraine, causing extensive human suffering and many civilian casualties, including those of children. The devastating humanitarian consequences and rapidly deteriorating situation are obvious. When millions of people globally stand on the brink of famine, we are deeply worried about the impact of the invasion and the risk of increased food insecurity.
This is an unprovoked act of aggression and Russia – together with its accomplice, Belarus - are responsible for the tremendous suffering inflicted upon the Ukrainian people. Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and the principles of the UN Charter and undermines European and global peace and security.
All parties in armed conflict must comply with international law, including international humanitarian law, and ensure protection of civilians. In this respect, Russia’s disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL) and attacks against civilian populations and civilian infrastructure are appalling. Civilians must not be targeted. Russian forces’ attacks on health care and schools are serious violations of IHL and must cease immediately.
Since the General Assembly passed its resolution, the list of alleged war crimes and reported atrocities have mounted.
Russia has bombed civilian infrastructure and objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools, residential buildings and churches. Russia has continued shelling peaceful, densely populated cities. Several, like Volnovakha and Mariupol, have been almost completely destroyed.
According to reliable sources, Russia is not only using cluster munitions, but also thermobaric and phosphorous bombs in populated areas.
These are not standalone cases, but an illustration of the systematic manner in which Russia is waging its war on Ukraine. These inhuman and immoral actions embody Russia’s disregard for international law, including international humanitarian law, and the principles upon which the UN is based.
More than 10 million people – nearly one quarter of the population of Ukraine - have been forced to flee their homes. 3.6 million people left Ukraine, mostly women and children. We commend those neighboring countries that have kept their borders open to those seeking protection outside Ukraine, without discrimination.
Current obstructions of humanitarian access and rapidly changing frontlines hinder the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Russia also has an obligation to allow rapid, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to reach all those in need of lifesaving assistance including food, water, healthcare, protection, and shelter, wherever they are. Safe, voluntary, passage for civilians and humanitarian actors must be guaranteed and respected, including through the opening of humanitarian corridors.
Last week, the International Court of Justice explicitly ordered Russia to stop its so-called “military operation”. An investigation has also been opened by the ICC prosecutor.
There will be no impunity for violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. All perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is necessary to ensure justice for victims, but also to prevent and deter future violations. Ensuring accountability is an integral part of our obligation to respect and ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.
We encourage all UN member states to vote for the resolution L.2 on the humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine. In doing so, we send a clear message to Russia.
· We demand respect for international law, including international humanitarian law.
· We demand that every effort is taken to protect civilians at all times wherever they may be.
· We demand safe, timely and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, and to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.
· We demand safe humanitarian passage for those who decide to leave voluntarily and protection for those who decide to stay. Agreements for safe humanitarian passage must be respected fully.
But first and foremost, we demand that Russia ends this war now. Russia, with Belarus as an accomplice, bears the sole responsibility for the war and the humanitarian crisis.
I wish to conclude by expressing our admiration and deep solidarity with the people of Ukraine who are fighting, not only for their country, but for universal, democratic values. Your courage is truly an inspiration for us all. We stand with you.