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Statement at the UNSC Briefing on Ukraine - Humanitarian

Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Martin for your very stark briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and indeed across the globe.


Ukraine saw this season’s first falls of snow in November. This was just days after Russia launched new attacks on energy infrastructure and caused widespread blackouts across the country. Now, at the star of December, these attacks have continued as the harsh cold winter we feared is beginning to set-in.


It brings with it new dimensions to the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s war.


Rather than herald the beginning of a peaceful and joyful season, this year’s winter threatens the lives of millions of men, women and children across Ukraine. Millions of civilians who are forced to endure plummeting temperatures without the basic necessities of heat, food or light.


Ireland strongly condemns the attacks by the Russian Federation on critical civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. We do so in the strongest possible terms.


We recall, yet again, basic principles of international humanitarian law, which must be respected.  These include the prohibitions against indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and the obligation to take all feasible precautions in attack.


Russia often tells us, and we have heard it again today here, that these attacks have been on military targets, or on infrastructure supporting the Ukrainian military. But the images of people living in the dark, queuing for life-sustaining food, and huddling together to stay warm, tell a very different story.


Ireland regrets that insecurity and obstacles imposed by Russia continue to restrict humanitarian access along the frontlines and in areas not under Ukraine’s control. These actions are simply inhumane and unacceptable.


President, the level of damage or destruction to other civilian infrastructure, including homes, hospitals or schools, creates further challenges this winter and may well provoke a new wave of displacement. 


Ireland is deeply concerned by reports from the UNHCR that this unjustified war has led to 6.9 million internally displaced people in Ukraine, and over 7.8 million refugees. 


These are not merely statistics – each person has had their life upended. We are talking about children, the elderly, the infirm, those with disabilities – vulnerable people in a situation beyond their control, seeking shelter and safety.


As we know from our work in the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, children in war suffer most, often with life-altering consequences.


Millions of children across Ukraine are being robbed of their childhoods and of their futures by this war. Forced to leave their homes and communities. Their educational facilities destroyed by Russian missiles.


Their right to education denied. This will have profound impacts on their development, but also on society as a whole. The reverberations of this war reach far beyond Ukraine’s borders; they will also reach beyond this generation of children in Ukraine.


President, a new wave of displacement would exacerbate concerns for the protection of women and children, who we know are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse as highlighted by USG Griffiths earlier today.


As this Council has heard before from SRSG Patten, conflict-related sexual violence, including mass rape and the rape of children, has been a consistent feature of this war. But rape is not an inevitable by-product of war, it is an act that may constitute a war crime and which leaves victims and their communities with life-long effects and trauma.


Ireland strongly supports SRSG Patten’s calls for swift and rigorous investigations, to ensure accountability as a central pillar of deterrence, prevention, and non-repetition, because, as she has previously told us here, the failure to acknowledge and investigate such crimes is the surest sign that violations will continue unabated.


I conclude, Madam President, as I always do in our discussions on Ukraine, in the unfailing demand that one day our Russian colleagues will stop this senseless war. Russia is the sole party that has brought war, terror, conflict and hunger to Ukraine since its illegal invasion in February.


I speak to Russia directly therefore when I say that it is never too late for dialogue and diplomacy. Ireland therefore renews our calls on Russia to immediately cease hostilities, withdraw its forces, and commit to resolving all outstanding issues peacefully and in line with the UN Charter. 


Thank you.

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