Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on Ukraine
Statement17 March 2022
Thank you President,
I would also like to thank Under Secretary-General DiCarlo, Assistant High Commissioner Mazou, and Director-General Dr Tedros for their very sobering briefings. Their messages are grim, very grim. We commend all humanitarian organisations working to alleviate the man-made catastrophe being visited on Ukraine.
The cause of this catastrophe is clear. Three short weeks ago, as we sat in this very Chamber, as the Secretary-General pleaded for peace, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. Since then, we have witnessed wanton devastation in a sovereign independent nation, with no regard for human life. To date, over 3 million people have had to flee Ukraine, becoming refugees in neighbouring countries. We heard today 90% of those forced out of their homes and into uncertainty are women and children.
Families torn apart. At least 2 million people are internally displaced, increasingly vulnerable, and in need of immediate support. Ordinary people traumatised by a cruel and reckless war. Women and girls face heightened risk of being subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and trafficking. Their right to protection is being ignored.
The destruction of the basic services all of us here at this table take for granted – food, water, sanitary systems, health and education– is having a devastating effect in Ukraine. Civilian casualties, we know, are in the thousands. Irish journalist Pierre Zakrzewski was tragically killed alongside Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova. They were both working to shine a light on Ukraine’s plight. Our thoughts are with their families and every grieving and suffering Ukrainian family. Courageous journalists are showing the horrific impact of Russian aggression. I salute the free media putting their lives on the line to show us the truth.
The humanitarian impact of this war is being felt around the world. It will affect the food security of countries heavily reliant on Ukrainian agricultural products including in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
It will cause severe harm far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
I find it a damning indictment that this Council has to plead with the Russian Federation not to deprive civilian populations of food and water. Not to deny them the basic infrastructure they need for daily existence. For survival. It is a damning indictment that we in this Council have not been able to speak with a united voice to save innocent lives in this war.
The images from a besieged Mariupol are shocking. We see, once again, that urban warfare takes the heaviest toll on civilians. We deplore the targeting of healthcare facilities. Doctors taken hostage. Lifesaving care interfered with by military forces. Last week’s attack by Russian forces on a maternity hospital in Mariupol plumbed new depths, resulting in the death of a mother and her newborn baby – a baby that never had a chance. We have to ask, how many more?
The residents of Mariupol are now melting snow or siphoning water from heating systems to quench their thirst. They are cutting down trees for firewood for cooking and to stay warm in the freezing night temperatures.
The city’s supermarkets emptied, because the basic necessities of life cannot safely be brought into the city. It is chilling to think that the suffering forced on Mariupol may be visited on other Ukrainian cities. There can be no justification for this brutal aggression. It should never have been perpetrated. It must be stopped.
Ireland calls on the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations to protect civilian health care facilities and medical and humanitarian personnel. It must facilitate the safe passage and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical and food supplies. Whatever is agreed, or not agreed, on humanitarian corridors or other measures, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected under international humanitarian law. This applies both to those who choose to leave and those who choose to remain. Surely, the most basic respect for human life must mean something to the aggressor, even now.
Let’s be clear: the provision of humanitarian assistance is not dependent on a ceasefire. It is dependent on those bombing cities doing the right thing in accordance with their obligations.
Attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, indiscriminate attacks and disproportionate attacks, are all prohibited under international humanitarian law. Ireland remains gravely concerned by the humanitarian harm arising from use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Ukraine.
There have been reports of the use of cluster munitions and thermobaric weapons by Russian military forces. These weapons cause mass casualties. They pose great risk for civilians when deployed in urban areas, including long after fighting has ceased. Their use is unconscionable.
Equally, any use of white phosphorus against civilians or civilian infrastructure, is abhorrent and contrary to international law.
Not only is Russia’s war in Ukraine morally wrong, it is illegal. Yesterday, in granting Ukraine’s request for provisional measures against the Russian Federation, the International Court of Justice was clear; it was emphatic. Russia must immediately suspend the military operations in Ukraine.
In light of the Court’s decision, which is binding on the Russian Federation and which it cannot ignore, Ireland once again calls on the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations under international law and immediately end its aggression, unconditionally withdraw its forces from the entire territory of Ukraine and refrain from further threat or use of force of any kind against Ukraine or any other Member State.
For three long weeks, diplomacy has proved unavailing. For three long weeks, the world has watched this war with horror. Yet, we believe there is still a chance for peace. We urge the Russian Federation to do the right thing and commit to the diplomatic path in good faith. It is never too late to do the right thing.