Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 17, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths for your thorough briefing and for the UN’s efforts to secure an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Colleagues, as Under-Secretary-General Griffiths clearly outlined, as long as Russia continues to blockade Ukraine’s ports, the world needs the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The Black Sea Grain Initiative slashes global food prices. It calms market volatility. It ameliorates global food security. It saves lives. It must continue, reliably and sustainably.

The Initiative must be allowed to operate efficiently. It must work at a pace that meets global demand. The delays imposed by Russia have already reduced the number of ships leaving port and increased transportation costs.

We agree with what the Secretary-General said during his visit to Kyiv two weeks ago: The Initiative should enable the greatest possible use of Black Sea export infrastructure. Right now, only three ports are free to operate, while global food prices remain at historic highs.

Ukraine’s food exports are down by more than one-third from last year. Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine has already disrupted the global food supply chain and caused a spike in food prices, pushing many more into extreme poverty. The world needs this grain. It must flow freely.

Since the beginning of the Initiative, more than 24 million metric tons of grain and oilseeds have been shipped worldwide, including humanitarian aid through the World Food Program for the world’s most food-insecure people.

During his trip to Africa this past week, Secretary Blinken saw bags of wheat – gifts from the Ukrainian people – that had been delivered to Ethiopia because of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This is grain that can feed the world. This is the critical assistance that is at stake.

We know, and the rest of the world knows, that Russia’s exports of food are at least as high as their pre-war levels. When we hear the Russian government say they are being held back from exporting grain, from exporting fertilizer, the numbers show it’s just not true.

And when it comes to sanctions, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to communicate the clear carveouts for food and fertilizer to governments and to the private sector. Simply put, sanctions are not the issue.

Beyond the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Council must also focus on the continuing devastation and dire humanitarian needs caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. On February 15, the UN announced that UN agencies and NGOs will need $3.9 billion to bring humanitarian aid those inside Ukraine. That doesn’t include the additional $1.7 billion to support countries hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees.

For our part, since the invasion, the United States has provided nearly $2 billion in humanitarian assistance to those in need in Ukraine and the region. And we have provided nearly $15.5 billion in direct budget support to the Government of Ukraine through World Bank mechanisms. We plan to provide an additional $7.4 billion through September.

We are doing our part. And we are asking the rest of the international community to do theirs. We should all dig deep. And we must do so without sacrificing a single cent to the many other urgent humanitarian crises around the world.

Funding alone, however, is not enough. Security Council members must continue to demand unhindered humanitarian access across Ukraine, just as 141 Member States did last month. And we must call out Russia’s continued missile and drone attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure, and how these attacks are preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching areas temporarily occupied by Russia.

Just last week, massive attacks destroyed residential buildings, electricity infrastructure, and railways, killing at least 11 civilians. This was also the 16th major attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the last five months, showing flagrant disregard for nuclear safety.

Russia’s attacks have even resulted in deaths and injuries of humanitarian workers. And in particular, women and girls have faced scary, dramatic increases in trafficking and gender-based violence as they have tried to flee for their lives. Today, as we wrap up the Commission on the Status of Women, let us all commit to holding Russian forces accountable for these atrocities.

Colleagues, there is, of course, one way to instantly prevent further suffering. Russia can heed the demands of the UN and the world’s Member States to withdraw immediately, completely, and unconditionally from Ukraine. Until then, let us do everything we can to help the people of Ukraine and all those hurt by the fallout of this horrific, unnecessary war.

Thank you, Mr. President.