Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports”

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 16, 2022


QUESTION: Joining me now, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield. Thank you so much, Madame Ambassador. It is very good to see you again. I know this is a very busy time for you, so thanks for taking time to talk to us. I want to your reaction to finding 400 bodies so far in this mass grave.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Andrea, all I can say is that we’re horrified to hear this news. It’s not the first time – we saw this coming out of Bucha as well. And the Russians will be held accountable. We’re working with the Ukrainians, working with the UN, and other organizations, to make sure we help them gather the evidence that will be needed to bring the Russians before the world and hold them accountable in the International Court of Justice or ICC. These are war crimes, and the Russians keep committing them. People are suffering and there’s just no excuse – there’s no justification – for what they are doing, particularly when it involves children.

QUESTION: And you’ve also spoken about the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians forcibly detained, the filtrations and so forth, and deported to Russia or other far eastern regions of Ukraine under Russian control. So, what can the Ukraine do about this?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we held a meeting last week at the United Nations, where we call the Russians out for these filtration operations, where they are moving Ukrainian citizens – including children – to the far reaches of Russia, taking their identity away, forcing Russian passports on them. And again, this is a situation where the UN and the rest of the world, needs to come together to hold them accountable. We have asked the Russians to allow the UN into these camps so that they can provide protection and support to the Ukrainians. And as you know, we have made an effort to also hold them accountable – we just issued yesterday sanctions against some of the Russians who had been engaged in these activities. One for example, was against the person who was involved in providing adoptions of Ukrainian children.

QUESTION: It’s just so horrific. And the war, even though the Ukrainians have a major advantage in the east, the projection is for most experts that this war is going to continue. That Vladimir Putin is not going to back down. And meanwhile this food, the global food shortage, this crisis, the war exacerbating famine, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, about a quarter of the grain came from Russia and Ukraine before the war. And now we’ve got the ships finally moving that was a great advance from the international community including the Secretary General of the UN, right?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That was. As you know, we have been focused on food insecurity for quite some time. I started this when I arrived in New York last year, when we hosted a food security issue during our Presidency in February of 21. And this year in May, we also hosted a food insecurity event, and the Secretary of State hosted a Ministerial in which we got 103 countries to sign on to a roadmap, on ways that we can move forward to address these issues.

We will also be hosting a food insecurity event here, in New York, during High-Level Week, where we will be bringing key countries together to again look at how we can address these issues moving forward. And it’s particularly important, as we look at the impact of food insecurity in countries in Africa and the Middle East, where, as you noted, more than 20 percent of the wheat coming from Russia and Ukraine went to these countries and we’re working diligently with the United Nations. The Black Sea initiative certainly was a major, major help to addressing these issues, but this is a long-term issue that’s going to require long term solutions. And that’s the purpose of bringing nations together to talk about this, but also to find solutions moving forward.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about the U.S.-Russia relationship because it’s arguably at the worst level at any time since the Cold War. Level of hostility, tension, lack of engagement. And is this having a direct impact on the detention of Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan, actually others? Of course, the Griner and Whelan families today are meeting with the President for the first time, and they’ve been saying wrongfully detained Americans are being held longer than at any time in history? So how do we get them home?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first and foremost, the President will be meeting with the families to assure them that this is front and center of our efforts. We will work diligently to get their family members brought home safely. And that’s the message he will pass to them today. There’s not good news in the sense that we wish we could tell them today that they were being brought home. We wish the Russians would accept the offer that we put on the table for them – they should accept it today and release them. Unfortunately, they have not done that.

So, what will happen with in terms of our relationships and discussions in New York next week: it will not be business as usual with the Russians. They have provoked an attack, an attack on the very core of the UN Charter, by their attack on Ukraine. And their actions related to American citizens are unacceptable. And we will continue to put pressure on them until, one, they release our citizens, but at the same time they end this unprovoked aggression against the people of Ukraine.