The statement was delivered by the EU Ambassador Olof Skoog, on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, Norway and other European countries
As we speak, the inhabitants of Mariupol have been under siege for 24 consecutive days. They are bombed both day and night. Almost 90 percent of the city’s residential areas have been razed to the ground. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic and Russia is blocking the delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation of the civilian population to other parts of Ukraine.
It is heartbreaking to see yet another humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our eyes, adding to the dire humanitarian situations identified by the UN in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan, not to mention other parts of the world. Instead of joining international efforts to heal existing wounds, Russia is opening new ones.
Nearly every day we witness Russian attacks against Ukraine’s civilian population and infrastructure. We have heard about attacks on evacuees escaping besieged cities, and shelling of innocent people queuing to buy their bread. We have seen shelling of more than 500 schools, at least 52 hospitals, more than 1500 residential buildings and a theatre in Mariupol sheltering civilians, including many children. We have received reports of cluster munitions being used in populated areas. In less than a month, 10 million people have fled their homes. More than 12 million are in direct need of humanitarian assistance.
The deliberate attacks on civilians are shameful, reprehensible and constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law. The EU continues to advocate full compliance with International Humanitarian Law and to avoid civilian suffering.
On the 2nd of March, this Assembly adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution deploring in the strongest terms the Russian aggression against Ukraine, condemning all violations of international humanitarian law and demanding the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. Despite this overwhelming call by the international community, Russia has not implemented the resolution. On the contrary, it has intensified its hostilities, causing further devastation and suffering.
These are dark days not only for Ukraine and its people, but for the whole world.
We are witnessing the fastest growing refugee crises in Europe since World War Two. More than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries. At least another 6.5 million are internally displaced within Ukraine. In addition to the millions of Ukrainian citizens, there are also thousands of people from other parts of the world (students, workers, migrants) who are caught in the conflict. Many have been instrumentalised by Russia in its disinformation campaign. Destruction and displacement is happening on a huge scale: the numbers of displaced people have exceeded in four weeks the numbers displaced in four years by the terrible conflict in Syria.
EU Member States have kept their borders open for everyone fleeing the war. We are committed to provide safety and shelter for all people fleeing Ukraine, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion or race.
Beyond Europe, this conflict is putting millions of people at risk of food insecurity, in particular in the Least Developed Countries, often adding to existing humanitarian crises. In this regard, we support the Secretary General’s initiative to set up a Global Crisis Group to identify concrete measures in addressing these risks. The EU and its Member States are also responding to the food insecurity caused by the conflict. The European Commission has today announced new measures to address global food insecurity, not least in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.
The EU is actively mobilising the international community to urgently scale up multilateral action, also beyond humanitarian assistance. This includes ensuring that UN bodies with mandates relevant to food security are able to take the necessary actions. For example, food security is central to FAO’s mandate. It has a key role to play in analysing and addressing the impacts that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having on international food systems and in preventing further deterioration, with a particular focus on protecting the most vulnerable. The EU is also working to ensure that food security is integrated in the efforts of the whole UN system, including the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, to reassert international peace and security.
This is in addition to urgent humanitarian assistance that the EU and its Member States are providing to the Ukrainian population. We have committed significant funding to the UN Humanitarian Flash Appeal and Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine and we have activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism. So far, the EU Commission has announced €500 million in emergency aid, of which over €93 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Moldova this year. And the EU has been a solid supporter of Ukraine over the last years. Since 2014, the EU and its Member States have provided €2.4 billion in humanitarian, emergency and early recovery assistance to Ukraine.
I also want to stress here that in parallel to our assistance to Ukraine, we will continue to provide assistance to people fleeing other conflicts around the world or affected by other crises, as we already do in Yemen, Ethiopia and the Sahel. The Russian aggression against Ukraine will not shift our attention from other pressing crises.
In light of the tragedy that is unfolding, the General Assembly has to take its responsibility to address this humanitarian catastrophe and urgently call on Russia to respect the basic principles of International Humanitarian Law:
First, civilians and civilian infrastructure must never be targets. This includes hospitals, schools, water and electricity infrastructure, no matter where they are;
Second, sustained, unimpeded humanitarian access must be granted in both directions: civilians fleeing areas of violence must be able to do so, and humanitarian convoys must be granted access to enter conflict areas. It is urgently needed to establish safe passage, especially from besieged cities such as Mariupol to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Humanitarian and medical workers should be able to work safely.
We need a GA resolution which accurately reflects the situation and its causes, which urges the respect of the most basic humanitarian principles that all states have signed up to. We also need the General Assembly to come together in unity and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and in defending the UN Charter and International Humanitarian Law. This resolution, presented by the Ukraine and a large cross-regional group of countries, addresses not only the most acute situation in the Ukraine, but also calls for protection of all those fleeing the war, without discrimination. It also addresses the serious global consequences of Russia’s attack on a major agricultural producing country, with risks for food security in many countries, including developing countries.
Russia must stop this war and end this unnecessary suffering. The European Union reiterates the demand of this General Assembly, that Russia cease its military action and withdraw all forces from the entire territory of Ukraine immediately and unconditionally, in line with the resolution passed on the 2nd of March and in line with the order of the International Court of Justice of the 16th of March.
Let me conclude by reiterating our solidarity with the millions of people affected by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.