Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 18, 2023
Thank you, Madam President.
Colleagues, we express appreciation to Ukraine for organizing this important debate every year since 2014, when Russia brazenly seized and attempted to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. It was a violation of international law then and remains so today.
Nine years later, Russia has moved its armed forces deeper into Ukraine’s territory. But its objectives remain the same: the brutal subjugation of its neighbor. The seizure of another UN Member State’s territory by force.
Today, Russia is using the same playbook in Ukraine as it did in 2014. It resorts to the same attempts to annex additional areas of Ukraine through sham referenda. It attempts to further subjugate the people living in those regions through “passportization,” the installation of Russian occupation authorities in regional governments, the conscription of Ukrainians into Russia’s forces, and other illegitimate methods.
Since February last year, Russia has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian men, women, and children. It has caused the displacement of millions of people from their homes and destroyed more than half of the country’s energy grid. Russia has bombed more than 700 hospitals and 2,600 schools, and forcefully relocated as many as 20,000 Ukrainian children. Some of these children as young as four months old.
In areas under Russian occupation, Russia’s forces have arrested and detained tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, many of whom have been subject to sexual violence or torture and held incommunicado.
We can all recount stories of the human faces behind these horrifying statistics. Last week in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights presented OHCHR’s latest findings. He called them shocking. Among the many gruesome findings, OHCHR has documented several cases that suggest Russia’s armed forces have used detained civilians as human shields.
Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine has also resulted in danger to surrounding nuclear plants and other critical infrastructure. Let’s be clear: Russia’s militarization of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, including its military presence on top of reactor buildings, jeopardizes global nuclear safety and security.
Last October, this General Assembly came together to affirm the fundamental principles of the UN Charter in the face of Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory. One hundred fifty-three* countries condemned Russia’s attempted annexations via sham referenda.
And as we did last year, the international community must continue to make clear it will not tolerate an attempt by any UN Member State to seize land by force, and that it will not tolerate crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The effects of this war have been devastating, not only for the people of Ukraine, but also for people across the world as energy and food prices have increased.
Russia’s suspension of its participation from the Black Sea Grain Initiative was yet another selfish blow to the world’s most vulnerable. This arrangement helped bring stability to global food markets and lowered prices, especially in regions suffering from food insecurity. We call on all Member States to urge Russia to reverse its decision, resume negotiations, and to extend, expand and fully implement this Initiative.
Colleagues, this war must end. But as this General Assembly made clear last February, a just and lasting peace must be based on the principles of the UN Charter.
Any so-called “peace” that legitimizes Russia’s seizure of land by force or gives the aggressor time to rest, re-arm, and re-launch its aggression, would send a dangerous message that aggressors everywhere can invade countries and get away with it.
Russia’s war against Ukraine is a clear violation of the UN Charter. We once again call on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s sovereign territory and end this war.
Thank you, Madam President.