Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 24, 2023
I’m pleased to be here with the Ambassadors from Ukraine and from Albania. But I will be speaking to you in my national capacity.
Today, we mark the 32nd anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence. And I want to congratulate the Ambassador and I want to congratulate the Ukrainian people. Their courage inspires us. But what should be a celebration is marred by one man: Vladimir Putin – who, for a year and a half, has tried to beat the Ukrainian people into submission. But Putin has failed. He failed miserably.
The Ukrainian people have bravely fought to defend their freedom and democracy and culture. And that is something that is worthy of celebrating. And they have bravely fought to defend and return Ukraine’s children – who have been forcibly transferred or deported to Russia, Belarus, and Russian-occupied territories.
Every single Member State must hold Russia accountable for its war of choice – especially because Russia’s attacks on Ukraine are attacks on us all. On the UN’s very Charter. On the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And on the world’s food supply.
From the earliest days of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has weaponized food. This is a deliberate part of its war strategy. And it’s having a devastating impact on people facing acute food insecurity, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.
When I say Russia is waging a war on the world’s food supply, I mean this literally. You can see this in the pictures that we brought here today, which show the damage Russia has done to Ukraine’s ports and grain infrastructure.
Time and time again, Russia has destroyed food and the means to produce it. And just this week, reports indicate Russian drones struck Ukrainian grain facilities at the Danube River port in Izmail. Last month, Russia also unilaterally withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative – an initiative that was helping grain get out to the world, especially the developing world.
This isn’t normal. This is not the behavior of a responsible country. And the international community must continue to call out Russia for its brutality.
Today, I want to send a clear message to President Putin: Cease your attacks on Ukraine. On Ukraine’s children. And on the world’s hungry. Release Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, American citizens who have been wrongfully detained. And end your senseless war of aggression – once and for all.
The Ukrainian people will continue to stand strong – and we will continue to stand strongly behind them.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: A few questions – Pamela Falk from CBS – for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. The pictures you have and what you said about the Danube ports. Attacks on the grain. Was an alternative to the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Is there any plan B after that, over land, or anything, to keep the prices down?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, you know that land routes have already been used but they can never provide the tonnage – the capacity – that was available through the Black Sea. And this attack on the Danube port just shows clearly that Russia has no intention of allowing food to get to the world’s most needy.
QUESTION: And just to both you and Ambassador Kyslytsya, the numbers on children being taken of 20,000 – and you said Russia says it can be up to 500,000 of children who have been taken from Ukrainian territory – is there cooperation by U.S. officials, or intelligence from other countries, to name these children with your prosecutors so that you know what children are where?
AMBASSADOR SERGIY KYSLYTSYA: Well, I would like to refer you to the statement by the Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, where she speaks about the lack of cooperation on the part of the Russian Federation – both in the territories that it temporarily occupies and in the Russia proper. That makes it particularly difficult to establish and to verify information. But Russia itself publicly brags and acknowledges very huge numbers, in many cases higher than the numbers that we have already verified. And we continue our cooperation broadly with everyone – both bilaterally and multilaterally – who is willing to cooperate with Ukraine to establish facts and to verify the information.
QUESTION: Anade Situma, Al-Jazeera English. This is for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. So, you mentioned, along with Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, that the world’s grain production has been impacted directly by Russia. Do you have any reaction to Putin today telling the BRICS Summit that he is a reliable partner to Africa for food and fuel supplies?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Clearly, his actions speak louder than words. He agreed during the Africa summit to provide – and I can’t give you the exact figure, but you probably know – but it was somewhere around 50,000 tons of grain. That’s a drop in the bucket of the need. So if he’s serious, he would allow for the Black Sea Grain Initiative to continue because that was the most effective way of getting food to the rest of the world.