I am speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, and my own country, Estonia. We place a high importance on the possibility to participate in the Council discussions on this issue.
We thank the Secretary-General and Under-Secretaries-General DiCarlo and Griffiths for their presentations, and welcome the participation of President Zelensky in the briefing today.
Forty-one days ago, on the evening of 23 February in New York, as the Council had gathered in this Chamber to discuss and urge the Russian Federation to refrain from threats and further aggression against Ukraine, including its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Russian Federation launched an unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful attack on Ukraine.
It was, and remains, a war of choice. This choice was made by Russia in full knowledge of its violation of international law and the UN Charter as well as its catastrophic impact on Ukraine, particular of its civilians. It was also made in full awareness of the broader, global impact of the war – including on the most vulnerable countries and people. The Russian aggression – a war of choice – is now undermining the food security and development of countless nations around the world by driving up the cost of energy, fertilizers and staple foods, with the most vulnerable hit hardest.
The Russian Federation, together with its accomplice, Belarus, has continued its aggression in blatant disregard of the calls by the UN General Assembly, the Secretary-General as well as the legally binding order by the International Court of Justice.
This war is both cruel and unnecessary. It is systematically waged against civilians and civilian objects, turning living and thriving cities into ruins. The death toll of civilians, including children, recorded by the UN raises daily. But we know that the real figures of civilians killed and wounded are significantly higher. In forty-one days over 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, over 4 million have left the country. Large numbers of those remaining, in particular in cities under Russian siege, are deprived of water, food, shelter, and medication. In addition, the Russian attacks have recklessly jeopardized the safety of nuclear power plants.
This is accompanied by reports of human rights violations in the Russian-controlled areas – about sexual and gender based violence against women and girls, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, abductions, enforced disappearances, as well as deportations – bringing echoes of the century past. The aggression has led to attacks against journalists who have a critical role in providing information during a conflict, including the death of Mantas Kvedaravičius, a documentary filmmaker from Lithuania, who was killed on 2 April in Mariupol, where he was documenting Russia’s atrocities.
We cannot look aside from the haunting images of the atrocities committed by the Russian forces emerging from Bucha, the liberated areas around Kyiv and other regions, which show the brutal face of this war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people. We condemn in the strongest terms the reported massacres, torture and sexual violence, including rape, used against civilians. In the areas they held, the Russian forces destroyed homes, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure, and reportedly left areas mined. The responsibility for these actions, which show how far Russia is willing to go in pursuing its unlawful objectives, lies with the Russian authorities, who were in effective control of these areas during their commission.
We call for Russia’s full respect for its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We demand that Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw all of its troops from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and implement with immediate effect the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice.
We urge Russia to immediately cease its attacks and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian objects, as well as their use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in residential areas in clear violation of international humanitarian law, and fully implement UN General Assembly resolutions A/RES/ES-11/1 and A/RES/ES-11/2.
We urge Russia to grant immediately full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors and assistance as well as protection and safe passage to allow civilians to safely and voluntarily leave conflict-affected areas to a destination of their choice. This includes the civilians in an extremely dire humanitarian situation in Mariupol.
We call for accountability for all violations of international law, including the atrocities committed by the Russian forces in Bucha and other areas. This includes holding accountable the perpetrators of these violations as well as the responsible government officials and military leaders. We welcome the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council as well as the work under the OSCE Moscow Mechanism. In addition, all Nordic and Baltic countries have joined the referral of the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. We fully support the efforts of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in conducting the investigation concerning allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. We encourage UN member states to join the newly established Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine.
We underline the importance of continued UN monitoring, documenting and reporting on violations against civilians, including women and children, through its established mechanisms. We underline and recognize the important role women can play in responding to these atrocities to ensure efficient action and to build resilience.
The Nordic and Baltic countries have continued to assist those affected by conflicts around the world – and together with the international community, the UN system and civil society we will continue provide support to the courageous people of Ukraine.
We stand for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We stand for humanity in the face of cruelty. We stand for accountability. We stand with the people – women, men and children – of Ukraine. This is our choice.