A year ago, Russia launched an unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign and independent neighbour. Ukrainian men, women and children have now been suffering 12 months of full-scale assault. Loved ones have been lost, families separated, and lives torn apart. Russia has deliberately targeted cities and critical infrastructure, including energy facilities. These attacks deprive civilians of life-saving heat and electricity during harsh winter months.
However, the Russian regime has consistently underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people. At the start of the invasion, Russia thought it would overwhelm and seize Ukraine in just three days. In the past year, the Ukrainian armed forces have pushed Russia back further than anyone expected. Ukraine has now liberated over half of the additional territory Russia seized since 24 February 2022. Russia is losing more troops daily than it has since the first month of the invasion. It is clear that the invasion has stalled.
Russia has also underestimated international unity in support of Ukraine. The global community heard Ukraine’s call and, last October, 143 UN members stood on the side of freedom, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. These principles are, after all, the bedrock of the UN Charter and AU principles: the international order on which our collective peace and security depend. Across the globe, we know that a world in which aggressors can redraw national borders by force would be a disaster. The African continent, with its many disputed boundaries, would be particularly at risk. In response, countries across the continent and the globe have stood together in condemning Russia’s invasion. Today, the UN General Assembly will gather to vote on a resolution calling for a just peace in Ukraine based on the core principles of the UN Charter. We hope that Sudan will vote in favour.
Russia’s assault has also caused the citizens of many other countries to suffer. In Sudan, 15.8m people – almost a third of the population – are projected to need humanitarian assistance this year. Certainly, the domestic political and economic crisis has led to significant price increases. However, these challenges have been exacerbated by the global food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion. Before the war, African countries imported more than 12% of their wheat from Ukraine. However, Russia’s continued targeting of Ukraine’s key agricultural infrastructure, including grain silos, has significantly disrupted Ukraine’s food exports.
The war has also disrupted Ukraine’s ability to export fertilizer, casting a shadow on future harvests. If farmers are not able to access or afford fertilizer, there is a risk that the food crisis of 2022 will deepen and continue this year and beyond. The African Development Bank estimates that Africa could lose 20% of food production over the next two harvesting seasons.
Given the global food crisis, we have deliberately refrained from sanctioning food or fertilizer exports from Russia to third countries. We have also supported the UN-brokered deal to unblock grain exports across the Black Sea. Since this initiative came into force, over 700 ships carrying 20 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuff have left Black Sea ports, delivering to Africa, Europe and the Middle-East. In November 2022, Ukraine announced that its Grain from Ukraine initiative would provide wheat to Sudan, alongside Ethiopia, Kenya, and others.
The only sustainable way forward is to end the war, and the uncertainty and suffering it has caused. The shortest route is for Russia to stop its unlawful aggression against Ukraine. If Russia ends its assault, there would be no more bloodshed – but if Ukraine ceases to defend itself, there would be no more Ukraine. Ukraine and its partners continue to seek a diplomatic solution to that end. However, so far, Russia has not indicated any willingness to engage in a genuine diplomatic process. Instead, Russia has increased its attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure – in clear violation of international humanitarian law.
Allowing Russia to drag the war out would guarantee further aggression, further food insecurity, and extend the global economic downturn. Today, at the UN General Assembly, the international community must defend the core principles of the UN Charter against Russia’s aggression – for Ukraine and for all of us who strive to live in a stable, peaceful world.
The Heads of Mission of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Union Delegation