Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Russia’s War Against Ukraine

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


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo, for your valuable briefing today.

Colleagues, I want to start by noting the tragic explosion that killed two people in Poland near the Ukrainian border. We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those Polish citizens who were killed. As President Biden told President Duda last night, we stand with Poland in this difficult moment and have offered our full support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation to determine exactly what happened. We have complete confidence in the Polish government’s investigation and appreciate the calm, careful, and measured response.

While we still don’t know all of the facts, we do know one thing: This tragedy would never have happened but for Russia’s needless invasion of Ukraine and its recent missile assaults against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.

The UN charter is clear – Ukraine has every right to defend itself against this barrage. Defend its sovereignty. Defend its territorial integrity. The more than 90 missiles that rained down on Kyiv and other targets in Ukraine have devastated civilian infrastructure. In fact, this may have been the widest scale missile attack since the beginning of the war. Now, millions of Ukrainians are without heat or electricity. We extend our solidarity with the Ukrainian people for the fallout of this attack, and our deepest condolences for those lives lost.

This is a deliberate tactic by Putin. He seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze the country into submission. It is hard to overstate how horrific these attacks are.

When I was in Ukraine last week, I saw first-hand the tremendous suffering these kinds of attacks, and this war, has wrought on the Ukrainian people and Europe more broadly. I know we have all seen the photos of cratered playgrounds, bombed-out hospitals, and destroyed homes across Ukraine. But no photograph can capture the real lives affected, the real people suffering the immense human toll of Russia’s war against a fellow UN Member State.

I felt that toll when I spoke with a mother in Kyiv who had to hold her daughter’s lifeless, bloody hand after a Russian attack on her apartment building. Her daughter, in her mother’s words, “just wanted to go to school.”

I felt that toll when I met with a humanitarian aid worker who was detained and tortured by Russian forces. She was so traumatized that she could only share a portion of the horrors she experienced, unable to put the rest into words.

I felt that toll when I met a 10-year-old named Melina, who lived in a facility where displaced families were gathered to prepare for a bitterly cold winter. A facility which itself had once been hit and damaged by Russian missiles.

I was there to announce more humanitarian funding from the United States to provide supplies and support while Russia prepared to weaponize the winter. I made that announcement in the dark, during a blackout caused by Russian attacks.

Afterwards, I asked Melina what she would do when the war was over. And I could tell that this was something that she had given some thought to. She said, simply, she wanted to see her best friend, who she had not seen since the start of the war. And I have to say I wondered if she would someday see her friend again.

Colleagues, when I met with President Zelenskyy, his message was simple: he seeks peace. He told me he seeks a just peace that is based on the UN Charter and its principles, which is what everyone in this Council is here to uphold and defend. We cannot say the same for Russia. As Secretary Blinken has told this Council, “If Russia stops fighting this war today, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”

It is Ukrainian civilians who are in danger. It is Ukrainian civilians whose electricity grids have been targeted, who aren’t sure how they will keep warm throughout the winter. It is Ukrainian civilians who are suffering.

There is one man sitting comfortably in Moscow who can put a stop to this brutal, horrific war right now. This second. But until he does, we must address not only the scale of the humanitarian and human rights crisis unfolding in Ukraine, but also the continued spillover effects of this needless war. Just look at the outsized harm done by Russia’s exacerbation of the global food security crisis.

Colleagues, if you are looking for a practical way to lower tensions and help those in need, it would be by supporting and securing an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. According to the UN’s records, nearly 500 ships carrying over 10 million metric tons of grain and other food items have departed under this initiative. That’s enough to feed tens of millions of people. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped stabilize food markets, with reports that prices have fallen to pre-war levels. Two-thirds of the wheat exported under the Initiative has gone to the Global South. But the deadline for renewing the deal is fast-approaching.

When I was in Kyiv, I visited a granary and heard that farmers need this deal to be extended so they will have the confidence to plant their wheat and continue serving as a breadbasket to the developing world. I could hear the desperation in their voices, and I promised them that I would take their message back to the Security Council.

Russia must extend this essential, lifesaving arrangement. Russia must allow these ships to keep feeding the world. And I call on our fellow Council members to make the same calls, with the same urgency, to keep the deal alive.

In the long run, the only way to ensure food supplies are not impacted further is for Russia to withdraw its troops, stop the atrocities, and end the war. But in the meantime, we are grateful for the efforts of Türkiye and the UN in sustaining and expanding this lifesaving initiative. And I hope, sincerely, that we can continue to strive – with Ukraine in the driver’s seat – toward a just and lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.