Remarks by John Kelley, Political Minister Counselor, at a UN Security Council Briefing on Ukraine

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December 29, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. And on behalf of the United States, let me strongly congratulate Ecuador on a very successful Presidency – particularly with everything we’ve had to traverse this month. And thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Khiari, for your remarks for the second time today. We mourn this tragic loss of life, as we do the loss of each civilian life in conflicts around the globe.

Mr. President, two days ago, the Russian Federation organized a Council meeting to discuss events from ten years ago. Russia claimed a discussion on the Revolution of Dignity would allow Council members to “better understand how these events affected the present situation in Ukraine.” It is preposterous this is what Russia demanded the Council be distracted with this week, while it was planning its largest aerial assault against Ukraine, its cities, and its critical infrastructure since the beginning of its illegal full-scale invasion.

Russia launched 158 combined drones and missiles against Ukraine, including 36 Shahed attack UAVs and 122 missiles. As President Biden said, this assault is a stark reminder that, after nearly two years of this devastating war, Putin’s objective remains unchanged. He seeks to obliterate Ukraine and subjugate its people. He must be stopped. We ask all Council members here today to join us in condemning in the strongest terms this abhorrent attack on cities and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine.

Rather than peace, Putin chose to mark this holiday season and usher in the New Year with an unprecedented number of drone and missile attacks against another UN Member State. Current estimates are these strikes killed at least 30 and injured more than 120 others. And these numbers are expected to climb.

The blasts were nationwide. There were reports of strikes hitting a maternity hospital, a kindergarten, a shopping mall, a metro station, and other civilian areas. We expect Russia will claim it only attacks military targets, even when the evidence is clear for the world to see. The Kremlin’s rhetoric and lies do not erase or conceal the horrifying wreckage across the country and thousands of innocent lives lost since the start of its war.

Russia has employed such attacks before. What we saw today are likely a harbinger of what the Kremlin has in store for the people of Ukraine in 2024. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ most recent Report noted in no uncertain terms continued attacks by Russian armed forces resulted in significant casualty numbers in residential areas.

The report makes clear that, in investigating the missile strike on the village of Hroza that left 59 dead, findings indicate the Russian armed forces either failed to do everything feasible to verify the target to be attacked was a military objective, or deliberately targeted civilians or civilian objects.

Mr. President, this attack is yet another warning of what is at stake. It shows us why the international community must continue to support Ukraine. It shows us why the international community must continue to demand Russia cease its aggression and immediately withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.

The United States stands with Ukraine and will continue to call for accountability for the crimes of Russian officials and forces against the people of Ukraine.

We will not abandon the brave people of Ukraine who are fighting today for their freedom, for their country, and the values and principles outlined in the UN Charter.

And I thank you, Mr. President.

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