Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine

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February 6, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. And like others, let me also express our condolences to Türkiye and the people of Syria who have experienced this devastating earthquake. The U.S. stands ready to provide any needed assistance. Also, Madam President, allow me to also congratulate you on taking the chair, as this is my first time in the Council since you assumed the presidency. And thank you to Under-Secretary-General Griffiths for your sobering briefing

Colleagues, the humanitarian horrors of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine continue to cause massive human suffering both inside of Ukraine and around the world. Within Ukraine’s borders, more than 17 million Ukrainians need humanitarian aid. Nearly six million people are internally displaced in Ukraine, forced to flee their homes in search of safety and shelter.

Russia’s forces have launched barrage after barrage of missiles and drones on Ukraine, hitting cities and infrastructure, killing and injuring civilians, damaging roads, homes, schools, medical facilities, farmland, and power systems. Millions of Ukrainians are now without food, power, water access, and proper heat even as temperatures drop below freezing. This is unconscionable.

On his recent visit to Ukraine, High Commissioner Grandi saw this destruction and the attacks on civilian infrastructure for himself. He called it appalling. And we of course heard similar condemnations from Under-Secretary-General Griffiths today.

Russia must stop bombing critical infrastructure and killing innocent civilians. Until Russia does, global humanitarian donors must stand by the Ukrainian people. We need to prioritize winterization assistance to address immediate humanitarian needs and support the Government of Ukraine’s efforts.

Humanitarians from the UN and NGOs are on the ground right now, trying to help. Sadly, even these groups, just trying to help save lives, have not been spared from Russia’s attacks. On January 24, Russia’s artillery fire injured two local NGO employees while they transported aid on the front lines.

Fortunately, the very next day, a UN convoy provided vital humanitarian aid to the town of Siversk in Donetsk, marking the first successful UN trip to the heavily damaged town near the front line. But that is far from sufficient. Humanitarians must be allowed to access those in need, unimpeded and unharmed.

Russia has also brought these horrors to areas it controls. Russia is engaging in extensive and unacceptable relocations of Ukraine’s children to Russia-controlled and Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine. Imagine their terror. Russia is also transferring and deporting Ukraine’s children to Russia itself, giving children away to families in Russia and attempting to permanently separate them from their families. This is a violation of the principles of child protection. This must stop.

It is difficult to imagine the cruelty of being forced to live in the country that killed your parents and to have to parrot back the propaganda that has personally caused you so much suffering. High Commissioner Grandi also noted and was appalled by this practice of issuing Russian Federation passports to Ukrainian children.

Beyond the borders of Ukraine and Russia, President Putin’s war is devastating to so many others. Nearly eight million refugees from Ukraine – a majority of whom are women and children – are sheltering across Europe. Countries across Europe have strived to provide their Ukrainian neighbors with equitable access to education, the labor market, social protection, and healthcare.

Russia’s war has also greatly exacerbated the global food security crisis. We support the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has helped meet the urgent needs of the world’s most vulnerable and benefitted middle-income countries by stabilizing world grain prices. But unfortunately, because of Russia, the movement of grain from Ukraine’s ports has slowed and the backlog of ships waiting for grain is growing.

Russia signed an agreement with the United Nations. It committed to, and I quote, “facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers” from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia would have us believe that it is the aggrieved one here, ignoring the fact that it is the aggressor. Russia must fulfill its commitments and allow the Initiative to work at the pace that meets global demand. We cannot allow Russia to continue its weaponization of food and energy in winter, which hurts us all, but is killing Ukrainians.

Colleagues, these actions by Russia – deporting children, stalling ships with food from leaving Ukraine, and bombing civilians and critical infrastructure – are not the actions of a country ready for peace. It is not the actions that one would expect from a member of the Council.

Colleagues, we have heard your compassionate calls for negotiation, for a cessation of hostility. This is in the hands of one person – President Putin alone. Putin started this war and he can end it today by pulling his troops out of Ukraine and really allow for peace to take place. For Ukraine, this is a matter of survival.

This meeting is an opportunity to affirm the protections granted to civilians and critical infrastructure. We have the opportunity to help those Russia has harmed by stepping up and reaffirming the UN Charter and international law’s most fundamental principles. This is an opportunity to support humanitarian actors and their right to safely reach those in need without being impeded or being attacked.

In the immediate term, we urge all countries to support the UN’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan and Regional Refugee Response Plan, which are expected to be unveiled in Geneva next week, to meet the growing demand. And in the long term, we look forward to working with our fellow members to hold Russia accountable for its appalling actions against the people of Ukraine.

Thank you, Madam President.

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