I am speaking on behalf of the Baltic States - Estonia, Lithuania and my own country Latvia. I thank Under-Secretary Griffiths for the sobering briefing as well as the Presidency for the opportunity to address the Council.
Destroying energy, heat and water supplies to inflict pain on people who are already suffering food and medicine shortages, seems to be a key to Russia’s war of terror against the civilian population in Ukraine. Just days after Ukraine saw this season’s first snow, Russia’s strikes caused widespread blackouts and disruptions of vital services, affecting millions of people, including children. On the onset of winter conditions, we are facing a completely new dimension of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Crisis, deliberately created by Russia, also has affected neighbouring countries - for example, Moldova experienced blackouts as well. During the past few weeks, Russia has only stepped up its indiscriminate attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused immense suffering and psychological trauma which particularly affects children. Energy cuts have negatively impacted child protection activities. Russia’s aggression has left 3.4 million children in need of child-protection interventions. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been forcefully deported to Russia - this constitutes a war crime. Children belong with their families and they must be safely and immediately returned to their homes.
There must be no impunity for Russia’s crimes in Ukraine. International community will hold Russia’s perpetrators accountable for their crime of aggression and all other atrocity crimes committed in and against Ukraine. Hence, it is imperative to continue documenting and properly storing evidence as well as reporting regularly on all war crimes committed throughout Ukraine.
In order to further strengthen international criminal justice mechanisms, we strongly support the idea to establish Special International Tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine. Currently there is no international court or tribunal that could bring Russia’s top political and military leadership to account for committing those crimes of aggression against Ukraine. The Special International Tribunal for the Punishment of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine has to be established to fill this jurisdictional loophole.
Russia could, but it does not choose to stop its war of aggression and all the suffering and crises it causes to Ukraine and its people, its children. Together with actions directed to stop Russia, one of our – the international community – priorities for this winter should be to ensure protection of the most vulnerable. Shortages of electricity and fuel are adding to the challenges to ensure children in Ukraine can continue their education and receive crucial services. States, civil society organisations, private donors, UN agencies, including UNICEF and other humanitarian partners, have worked to meet the needs of millions in dire need of assistance. Additionally, in aiding Ukraine, Baltic States are leading based on their share of GDP. We commend humanitarians who continue working through challenges imposed by the energy shortages, to support people in Ukraine. We call upon all relevant UN institutions as well as the international community to continue their life-saving efforts. Helping Ukraine to restore its energy infrastructure is especially critical to avoid the direst humanitarian consequences. However, insecurity and obstacles imposed by Russia continue to hinder humanitarian workers’ capacity to support those in need.
The ongoing war in Ukraine severely disrupts access to livelihood opportunities and basic services to women and girls, including life-saving sexual and reproductive health care services. There are mounting allegations of conflict-related sexual violence including against children, and other forms of gender-based violence. Survivors’ access to comprehensive services, including medical and psychological support needs to be ensured.
According to NASA Harvest, Ukraine has lost at least 6 million tons or 1 billion US dollars’ worth of wheat that was harvested in areas controlled by Russia. We would like to reiterate that the Russian aggression is the direct cause of the current global food insecurity, and not the sanctions that are aimed to stop and to end the aggression. We call on Russia to stop prolonging the inspection of vessels heading to and from the Black Sea ports and thereby preventing Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs reaching millions of people.
We fully support UNSG’s Black Sea Grain Initiative, work of the Joint Coordination Centre and UNCTAD in facilitating trade in food and fertilisers to alleviate global food insecurity. We call for transparency in this important work. Unhindered freedom of navigation in the Black Sea is the only practical way to ensure reliable flow of Ukraine’s grain and other food staples. In order to achieve that, Russia must immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will continue to firmly stand up for the UN Charter, international law, human rights, peace and security. Wherever Russia goes, it leaves horror in its way and with every passing day these crimes go unpunished.