Norway has aligned with the statement made by the EU, but allow me some remarks in my national capacity.
I thank Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, for the briefing to the Permanent Council. He put the dire consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine in an even bigger perspective.
Three weeks ago, the Russian President chose to wage an outright war against its peaceful neighbour Ukraine. Norway reiterates its condemnation of this act of aggression, which we find to be in blatant violation of international law.
The Russian invasion was preceded by fabricated claims and unfounded allegations. New lies come out of Moscow by the day.
Russia has now made the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine was preparing aggressive action with the use of biological weapons. Similar allegations have also been made regarding chemical weapons production. We fear that these allegations are put forward because the Kremlin may be preparing to use chemical weapons as part of a false flag attack.
Norway remains a staunch supporter of the Biological Weapons Convention. It remains one of the pillars of disarmament, and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – together with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
We would like to remind that Russia must – as a party to both conventions – uphold its international obligations just like all state parties must. Chemical and biological weapons cannot, and must not, be used in war.
We are deeply concerned by the growing humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine. And we are appalled by the lack of respect for international humanitarian law displayed by the Russian military forces.
They totally disregard their obligation to protect the Ukrainian civilian population. Every day there are reports of hospitals, maternity wards, schools, water and sanitation facilities, and orphanages being under fire. There are several reported cases of shelling of educational facilities and other critical civilian infrastructure. The attack on the theatre in Mariupol is yet another example.
This is unacceptable and must stop.
According to the information of the UN Human Rights Office from Tuesday (15 March), more than 691 civilian deaths in Ukraine have been confirmed since the Russian invasion began on 24 February, and more than 1143 civilians have been injured. These numbers are appalling, but we are afraid that the reality is much worse.
Norway strongly condemns any breaches of humanitarian ceasefires. We are shocked by reports of targeted attacks on civilians fleeing war.
We urge Russia to assure safe and immediate passage for those who want to escape Mariupol and other war-affected areas inside Ukraine.
The space for humanitarian action must be restored, and it must be protected in a way that ensures continuous and sustained humanitarian access.
Russia must end this war now. Russia must withdraw all forces. And engage in good faith towards a political solution.
We are pleased to see that the mission of experts under the OSCE Moscow Mechanism has started its work. Our organization is now contributing to document and gather evidence of possible human rights abuses or violations, breaches of international humanitarian law, and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces, with the support of Belarus, on the territory of Ukraine. Russia and Belarus should take note that this mechanism will meticulously establish facts and result in a written report so that cases can be brought before other international institutions with the aim of holding individuals at all levels to account.
Finally, let me also thank the secretary general and other staff of the OSCE structures and institutions for the efforts to meet this situation. We should make all relevant competence within our organisation available to meet this situation.
The OSCE is as good as its participating States allow it to be. Let us – all of us – use this organisation the way it was meant. It is not acceptable that one participating State in particular seems only to want to hamper and limit the OSCE’s chair and structures. This council is not a channel of propaganda.
Let us all contribute to restore peace and stability in the whole OSCE area.