Speakers Accuse Russian Federation of Using Winter as Weapon of War.
Ongoing attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the onset of frigid winter temperatures portend danger and worsening hardships for millions of Ukrainians, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, urging all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that more than 14 million people remain forcibly displaced from their homes in Ukraine, including 6.5 million internally displaced and more than 7.8 million across Europe. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as of 1 December, 17,023 civilians have been killed since 24 February, including 419 children. Since February, 1,148 children have been killed or injured while millions have fled, been uprooted from their homes, separated from their families or put at risk of violence.
“In Ukraine today, the ability of civilians to survive is under attack,” he said, noting that temperatures are expected to drop to below ‑20°C. Since October, sustained attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have left millions without heat, electricity and water, he said, adding that Kyiv needs enhanced international support beyond what humanitarians can provide.
“Objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population must be protected and constant care must be taken to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout all military operations,” he added, emphasizing that international humanitarian law must be respected. Underscoring Member State and other donor support to the Ukraine Flash Appeal, he pointed out that more must be done, however, to close the funding shortfall.
In the ensuing debate, speakers once again deplored the Russian Federation’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, urged compliance with international humanitarian law and appealed for unimpeded access for humanitarian relief supplies. Several welcomed the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but voiced alarm at soaring food prices and growing food insecurity worldwide.
France’s representative, among many others, said the Russian Federation is using winter as a weapon of war. He called on Moscow to respect the order issued by the International Court of Justice on 16 March to end the war and noted that France is co-organizing a conference in Paris on 13 December to mobilize international assistance for Ukraine.
The United States’ representative, commending France’s initiative, said that aid agencies in Ukraine have implemented the largest humanitarian cash assistance programme in history, transferring more than $1 billion to 6 million people. However, more assistance will be needed, she said, adding that her country has provided over $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance.
Mexico’s representative, noting that 70 per cent of the attacks against health infrastructure around the world in recent months have occurred in Ukraine, said health care workers have had to abandon their posts due to internal displacement made worse by the energy crisis. He called once again for greater efforts to rebuild Ukraine’s power grid to supply electricity to priority services, along with guaranteed energy supplies for nuclear power stations to avert a nuclear disaster.
The United Arab Emirates’ representative said that winter brings new and unforeseen dangers, with snow and ice concealing landmines and unexploded munitions. Pointing to the impacts of war on education, he said that while an estimated 2.6 million children have been learning online since September, even that remote access has been disrupted by blackouts and power cuts.
Kenya’s representative warned that food security in Africa could worsen if fertilizer costs remain high due to the war. Warning that rising food prices could lead to widespread humanitarian suffering, she said that countries through which those food commodities are shipped must reflect their humanitarian responsibility and remove all measures blocking food exports.
The Russian Federation’s representative, giving a different perspective, said the root cause of the crisis is Ukraine’s many years of crimes against civilians and children in Donbass, something that the West is shamefully trying to hide. Moscow is willing to negotiate, but if its aims cannot be achieved peacefully, and if Ukraine cannot become a normal, good-neighbourly State, then it will use all available logistical and military means to protect its interests, he said.
Ukraine’s representative said that while the Russian Federation is trying to convince the Council of its desire for peace, it launched 70 missiles on 5 December to harm Ukrainian infrastructure. Nonetheless, the aggressor will be defeated, the Moscow dictatorship will fail and war criminals will be held to account, he said. He added that the United Nations and the international community must not remain silent on the deportation of 12,300 children to the Russian Federation or occupied territories.
Representatives of countries in the region, including Latvia, Poland and Germany, spotlighted ways in which they are assisting Ukraine. Latvia’s delegate, also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania, added that a special international tribunal for the punishment of the crime of aggression against Ukraine must be established to hold the Russian Federation to account.
Also speaking today were representatives of Gabon, Brazil, China, Norway, Ireland, Ghana, Albania, United Kingdom and India, as well as the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.