Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs, at a UN Security Council Briefing on Russia’s War Against Ukraine

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October 9, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo and Assistant-Secretary-General Msuya, for your briefings today.

Mr. President: The Town of Bucha. A theater in Mariupol. A restaurant and train station in Kramatorsk. A shopping mall in Kremenchuk. A cathedral in Odesa. And now, a cafe in Hroza.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in these attacks. Schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings have been hollowed out by Russian forces. The international community must continue to demand accountability and justice.

Last Thursday, a Russian strike killed more than 50 people and injured scores of others when it hit a cafe and store in the Ukrainian village of Hroza.  One of the victims, as was heard earlier today, was six years old.

According to authorities, people were gathered in the cafe for a wake following a funeral. These were people gathered to mourn a death.  I want everyone here to take a moment and let that appalling fact sink in.  People gathered to grieve their loved ones must now be grieved themselves.

This is one of the deadliest strikes by Russia against Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion last year.  As the UN Humanitarian Coordinator has noted, the images coming from the locality are absolutely horrifying. We express our support for the work of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and local investigators, who traveled to Hroza to gather information and collect possible evidence of war crimes.

Mr. President, Hroza is a village of 350 people. As a result of Russia’s aggression, in just one morning, 15 percent of its inhabitants have been laid to rest.

We need look no further than Russia’s own actions to understand the depth of cynicism and insincerity when its leaders speak of seeking a negotiated peace. Russia’s missiles speak louder than its words.

As Russia continues to trample international law, including the UN Charter, it now asks countries to support its election to the Human Rights Council, after the General Assembly suspended it for committing gross and systematic violations of human rights, as well as for it’s violations of international humanitarian law committed during its aggression against Ukraine.

Colleagues, the Human Rights Council is the principal UN body charged with promoting respect for and protection of human rights worldwide.  Russia’s re-election to that body, while it openly continues to commit war crimes and other atrocities would be an ugly stain that would undermine the credibility of the institution and the United Nations.

After its suspension last April, Russia could have ceased its flagrant disregard for human rights. Instead, it has doubled down. Despite its attempts to deny and shift blame, let me be clear: It is Russia’s own actions that make it unfit to serve on the Human Rights Council. What further evidence does the international community need?

Every day, the massive death toll in Ukraine rises.  Every day, new unspeakable horrors are discovered.  Every day, children live through dire pain and suffering, including after being separated from their families. Every day, the humanitarian crisis grows.  Every day, havoc reigns supreme as Russia’s missiles and drones leave wanton death and destruction in their wake.

Let me close by making clear that international law prohibits intentional targeting of civilians and civilian objects and requires that all attacks comply with the principle of proportionality.

The United States again calls on Russia to end its savage attacks on Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.  Russia alone has the power to end the war it so senselessly started.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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