Remarks by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, to the Security Council – on Ukraine

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23 February 2024

Madam President, Excellencies

The United Nations Charter and international law are our guide to creating a world free from the scourge of war.

Yet Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine directly violated both.

Two years on – and a decade since Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol – the war in Ukraine remains an open wound at the heart of Europe.

It is high time for peace – a just peace, based on the United Nations Charter, international law and General Assembly resolutions.

Madam President,

The Charter is unequivocal:

The United Nations is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

International disputes shall be settled by peaceful means;

And all States shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any other State.

Mechanisms to settle disputes are set out in Chapter VI of the Charter. They include negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, and resort to regional agencies or arrangements.

These must be the tools we use to settle grievances.

Madam President,

Our world is at a chaotic moment.

Following the Cold War and then a period of unipolarity, we are now making a turbulent transition to an as-yet uncertain multipolar world.

Power relations are unclear, creating a sense of instability and impunity.

All borders are the result of history.  Many communities are divided by those borders.  Many people living on one side have strong ethnic, cultural or other links to communities on the other side.

Can we afford to address different interpretations of history – which are so widespread around the world – through war?

We must pay tribute to the wisdom of African leaders and follow their example.

Colonial powers – including those in my country – divided the continent of Africa with the stroke of a pen – as they did in other parts of the world.

But post-independence leaders understood that trying to change borders would open a Pandora’s box of bloodshed and feed even greater grievances.

In my experience, it is extremely difficult for people to agree on the past.

What is more important – and less difficult – is to help them agree on the future.

To agree on that future, international law and the principles set out in the UN Charter – including respect for territorial integrity and the political independence of States – are fundamental.

That is why the Russian invasion of Ukraine is such a dangerous precedent.

Madam President,

In any war, everyone suffers.

But the people of Ukraine are suffering appallingly from the war inflicted on them by Russia.

Over ten and half thousand civilian men, women and children have been killed – though the true figure is likely higher.

Damage and destruction of hospitals, schools, health facilities and civilian infrastructure is frequent and intensifying.

Ninety education and health care facilities were damaged or destroyed in January alone.

And amidst a brutal winter, over 380 towns and villages across the country were without electricity earlier this month, according to the Ukrainian energy company.

The United Nations has documented widespread and disturbing brutality:

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine reported civilians and prisoners tortured, and more than two hundred cases of sexual violence, mostly, but not only, at the hands of the Russian Federation forces.

All perpetrators must be held to account.

Many Ukrainians are experiencing the living nightmare of losing their children.

All children that have been deported must be reunited with their families.

Nearly four million Ukrainians have been internally displaced – including almost a million children.

And over fourteen and a half million people inside the country need humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian aid programmes carried out by the United Nations and our partners, particularly our Ukrainian partners, reached eleven million people last year.

That included providing lifesaving food, water, healthcare and shelter, as well as working to remove the deadly explosives that litter the Ukrainian landscape.

Yet access to around one and a half million people is extremely restricted.

That must change.

Attacks against humanitarians, and civilian infrastructure, must stop.

And I urge donors to fund in full the $3.1 billion appeal to put our Ukrainian Humanitarian Response Plan into practice and so that we can continue our vital work.

Madam President,

The war is also hurting the people of Russia.

Thousands of young Russians are dying on the frontlines.

Civilians hit by strikes on Russian cities are also suffering.

The danger of the conflict escalating and expanding is very real.

And around the world, the war is deepening geopolitical divides;

Fanning regional instability;

Shrinking the space available to address other urgent global issues;

And undermining the shared norms and values that make us all safer.

The conflict accelerated a surge in food prices, economic shocks and a global cost-of-living crisis – hitting developing countries still recovering from COVID-19 the hardest.

In addition, the prospect of this war resulting in nuclear accident chills spines around the world.

Both sides to the conflict must take all possible measure to prevent that happening – at all nuclear sites across the country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to support these efforts.

And we will also keep pushing for freedom and safety of navigation in the Black Sea and that badly needed Ukrainian and Russian food and fertilizers, reach the global market without restrictions.

Madam President, Excellencies,

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we have had two years of fighting, two years of suffering, two years of stoking global tensions and straining global relations.


Scorning the Charter has been the problem. Honouring it is the solution.

That means honouring the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognised borders.

It is time to recommit to the Charter and renew respect for international law.

That is the path to peace and security – in Ukraine and around the world.

Thank you.

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