Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Two-Year Mark of Russia’s Unprovoked Invasion of Ukraine

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February 23, 2024

Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for your briefing. And thank you to Guyana for calling this important meeting. I welcome the many foreign ministers joining us today. Your presence reflects the importance that we accord this issue.

Two years ago, on a cold February evening, I gathered with many of you in this Chamber. The United States and Albania had called a late-night emergency meeting, because we feared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was imminent. And we were right.

We had been sounding the alarm for weeks. I had informed the Council, in no uncertain terms, about the buildup of troops along the border with Ukraine. Secretary Blinken had come to the Security Council, laying out in exacting detail our concerns that Russia would soon invade its sovereign neighbor.

And then, on February 24, it did. While I, and other members of this Council, called for diplomacy and de-escalation, President Putin openly chose war. Even as the Russian representative, who was sitting in the President’s chair denied it in this room, we could see the reality of Russia’s brutal aggression unfolding in real time. The world could see that choice between violence and diplomacy, war and peace, unfolding in real time.

Today, despite Putin’s best efforts, the world continues to bear witness to Russian brutality, Russian hypocrisy, and Russian cruelty.

Thanks to the unrelenting work of Ukrainian investigators and aid workers, fearless journalists and numerous UN bodies, including this Council, we have seen through the Kremlin lies.

The lie that it was not Russian troops who illegally seized Crimea 10 years ago – a falsehood that, when it suited him, Putin eventually admitted to.

The lie that the transnational criminal organization Wagner group had no affiliation with the Kremlin. Of course, the widespread deployment of Wagner forces, as well as Putin’s own admission that the Kremlin financed their work, proved otherwise.

And, of course, the lie that, in the months leading up to Russia’s invasion two years ago, Russia had no intention to further invade Ukraine. That the nearly 200,000 troops it assembled near the border were simply a military exercise.

Through these lies, Putin has tried to rewrite history. To justify the unjustifiable. To break the will of the Ukrainian people. And to break the will of the international community, as we stand up for the United Nations Charter, and its foundational principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.

Colleagues, we cannot let that happen.

Not when Russia continues to bomb grain silos, last destroying more than 300,000 tons of grain in a matter of months last year.

Not when the Kremlin continues to detain political activists, journalists, opposition leaders, people like Aleksey Navalny, who was killed for speaking truth to power about the authoritarian rot at the heart of Russia’s government.

Not when Russian forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, including summary executions, torture, and sexual violence.

And not when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been deported to Russia, or forcibly transferred within Russia-occupied territories of Ukraine. Babies, as young as a few months old, whose Ukrainian identities Russia has stripped, and whose futures they have permanently changed.

The list of Russia’s violations and abuses could, unfortunately, go on and on. This senseless war has worsened a global food insecurity crisis, roiled the global energy market, caused incalculable damages to our environment, and undermined the global nonproliferation regime.

For two years, President Putin has been hell-bent on beating Ukrainians into submission. And yet, in the face of so much cruelty, so much trauma, so much death and destruction, the Ukrainian people have not been cowed. They have fought back, and they’ve done so effectively. Vastly outnumbered, they have not only defended their land, but their freedoms, their democracy, and their identity. And they have shown the world that community is a form of resistance.

I think about the people setting up make-shift schools in bomb shelters. The medical professionals nursing orphans back to health, and then hiding those babies from Russians hoping to take them. The workers I met at a grain processing facility in Kyiv, people who risked their lives to feed the hungriest among us. For two years, Ukrainians have stopped Putin’s quest to conquer their country, strip it of its independence, and absorb it into Russia all while fighting to keep the world fed and warm.

And so, as a global community, we must support Ukraine. To help Ukraine fight not only for peace, but for a just, lasting peace, rooted in the UN Charter’s fundamental principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. A peace that, time and time again, Russia has rejected in favor of violence, destruction, and unlawfulness.

Because let’s be exceedingly clear here: If Russia put down its weapons today, the war would end. If Ukraine put down its weapons, Ukraine would be over. Only one party is the aggressor in this war. And only one party can end it. That was true two years ago, when this body gathered on that cold February night as the world turned upside down. And it’s true today.

So, amidst so many bald-faced lies hurled at us from this Chamber, and from Moscow, we continue to stand with the people of Ukraine. And we continue to demand that Russia put an end to its campaign of cruelty.

That it withdraws its forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and return the children taken from their homes. That it ceases its unlawful procurement of ballistic missiles, launchers and other arms from DPRK, in violation of Security Council resolutions. And that it meets its responsibilities as a member of this Council and uphold the Charter we have all sworn to protect.

Today, President Biden announced new sanctions against Russia for its ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine and for the death of Aleksey Navalny.

We need to hold Russia accountable, so that we need not mark any more tragic milestones like this one today. So that the brave, resilient people of Ukraine can finally see a just and lasting peace.

Thank you, Madam President.

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