Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
May 15, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths, for your sobering remarks.

First, let me underscore, that every day Russia obstructs and threatens to suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia raises global food prices around the world. This means higher prices for everyone – poor and middle-income countries, and the UN, which also procures food on the global market.

We heard the UN say many times – as we heard from Under-Secretary-General Griffiths just now – that the Initiative is critical to stabilizing global food prices and getting food to the world’s hungry.

Despite this, Russia has stopped discharging its commitments to the United Nations and Türkiye. Russia has deliberately slowed the pace of vessel inspections and severely reduced the amount of grain leaving Ukraine’s ports to help meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable. In recent weeks, on more than one occasion, the Russian Federation’s delegation at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul has refused to allow any inspection of ships.

Now Russia is threatening to end its cooperation on May 18. And while Russia keeps Ukrainian grain supplies from feeding the hungry, Russia is successfully exporting its own bumper crop of grain.

The Russian government regularly cites the need to implement its MoU with the UN on the export of Russian food and fertilizers. In that very MoU, Russia committed to “facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers” from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia must implement its own commitments. Russia must stop holding global food security hostage to its cynical power plays and profit-taking.

While we are all paying the increased price for Russia’s actions – no one is paying more dearly than Ukraine. After 15 months and countless briefings, unfortunately we are no closer to ending the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine. Instead, the death toll rises from Russia’s missile and drone strikes on Ukraine’s civilian population centers.

From May 1 through 4, Russia launched more than 145 airstrikes across Ukraine. That translates into an average of more than one missile, drone, or bomb every hour, 24 hours a day, three days straight. In just those three days alone, Russia’s attacks have killed and injured more than 100 civilians, including at least five children.

Humanitarian organizations have reported worsening conditions in the frontline areas and necessities such as electricity, food, and fuel are in short supply.

President Putin’s escalating attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure threaten us all. Russia’s obstruction of the Black Sea Grain Initiative impacts the world’s hungry. Russia has no interest in mitigating the spillover effects of its war against Ukraine, just as Russia has shown no genuine interest in negotiation or meaningful diplomacy.

We call on Putin to stop holding the world’s hungry hostage and extend and fully implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative. We again call on Russia to end its attacks on the people of Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s territory completely. Russia alone has the power to end the war it senselessly started.

Thank you, Madam President.