Hours after the Russian Federation launched a barrage of missile and drone strikes attacks against civilians and critical infrastructure across Ukraine overnight, a United Nations senior official condemned such attacks and demanded they stop, stressing to the Security Council that they are prohibited under international humanitarian law, as that 15-nation organ held an emergency meeting on the matter today.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, reported that widespread attacks against civilians and critical infrastructure are continuing across Ukraine, with devastating consequences. Overnight, a new wave of missile and drone strikes terrorized the people of Kyiv and other cities in the country. Ukrainian officials stated that there were practically no large thermal or hydroelectric power plants left intact in Ukraine, she said, pointing to fears that this winter will be catastrophic for millions of Ukrainians who could be without heating, electricity or water amid freezing temperatures.
“I will say it once again: attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” she emphasized. “The United Nations strongly condemns these attacks and demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease these actions,” she stressed, calling on the international community to ensure that the most vulnerable people in Ukraine are adequately protected and able to cope with the months ahead.
Turning to the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, she called for the immediate cessation of all military activities at, and around, the plant, underscoring that the reported shelling at the plant over the weekend is reckless and deplorable. However, spotlighting a positive development “amid the dark news of today”, she said the parties reported today yet another prisoner exchange and called on them to continue those releases and ensure that they fulfil their obligations under international law.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, addressing the Council via tele-videoconference, said: “When the temperature is below zero outside, and tens of millions of people are left without heat and water as a result of Russian missiles hitting energy facilities, this is an obvious crime against humanity.” He also described the overnight rocket attack on a hospital that took the life of a 2-day-old baby and the 70 rockets aimed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, affecting hospitals, schools and transport.
Although the Russian Federation has been trying to turn the 15-member organ into “a platform for rhetoric and manipulation”, he underscored that Council was created as the world’s most powerful platform for decisions and actions. “It is time to support the Ukrainian formula for peace. There must be no opportunity left for terror in the world,” he stressed, calling on the international community to support that peace proposal and for the Council to provide a clear assessment of the Russian Federation’s actions and consider a resolution condemning any form of energy terror.
In the ensuing debate, Council members denounced the Russian Federation’s latest strikes, voicing concern that the resulting mass power outage will further inflict misery on already suffering Ukrainians. They called on the parties to comply with international humanitarian law and described how their countries are assisting Ukrainians to avert a life-threatening winter.
The representative of the United States, noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “weaponizing winter”, said that if he cannot seize the country by force, he will try to “freeze the country into submission”. There must be a mechanism for accountability, and the international community must do everything in its power to support Ukraine’s people. For its part, the United States has contributed over $250 million in winterization-specific humanitarian assistance that will help provide heating supplies, blankets, shelter-repair materials and generators, she said.
Albania’s representative emphasized that the Russian Federation may use whatever camouflaged language it has used in the past, but it is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. The European Parliament’s landmark resolution confirmed this, recognizing the Russian Federation as a State sponsor of terrorism and as a State that “uses means of terrorism”, he said. The cause and root lie solely with the Russian Federation’s aggression, he said, calling once again on that country to stop, withdraw and engage in diplomacy.
Kenya’s representative, joining other delegations, said: “We cannot overstress the need to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure from attacks”. Noting the roll-over of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the agreement to ensure the unimpeded export of Russian food and fertilizer, he said unimpeded deliveries must be ensured to countries in need, especially those in Africa. The Secretary-General and his good offices must be leveraged further to bring the war to an end and the Council must explore all options that can lead to the war’s cessation, followed by a dialogue for a political solution that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative, countering delegations’ claims about the attacks, emphasized that his country is conducting strikes against infrastructure in response to the “unbridled” flow of weapons into Ukraine and Kyiv’s reckless appeals to defeat the Russian Federation. Over the course of its special military operation, the Russian Federation has had to deal not only with the Kyiv regime’s units, but also the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), who are providing various military support while “conducting a proxy war with Russia”. Thus, to weaken and destroy the military potential of its opponents, Moscow has conducted precision strikes against energy and other infrastructure used to supply Ukrainian units armed with Western weapons. Weakening Ukraine’s military capacity will continue by military means until the Kyiv regime adopts a “realistic position”, he said.
Romania’s representative, drawing attention to the war’s spillover effects, reported that his country is making its own grain available to partners around the world and will continue to help facilitate Ukrainian exports. To that end, Romania, which shares the largest land border with Ukraine, has inaugurated a new crossing point between the two countries. More so, the Russian attacks have not only put millions of Ukrainians’ lives at risk because of no access to heat or electricity, they also created a complete blackout today in the Republic of Moldova. For the past month, Romania has been supplying between 80 and 90 per cent of that country’s electricity needs, he noted.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova, on that point, said today’s event left his country with severely disrupted and unavailable power, water supply, internet and mobile phone connection services. The war should stop now to avoid catastrophic humanitarian consequences, he stressed, calling on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its military aggression, withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s sovereign territory, fully comply with its international law obligations and uphold human rights.
Also speaking were representatives of Norway, France, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Gabon, China, India and Ghana.
The meeting began at 4:05 p.m. and ended at 5:33 p.m.