“The war in Ukraine has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children, and accelerated the global food and energy crises,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
“We cannot discount further dangerous knock-on effects,” she cautioned, citing urgent concerns, from rising death tolls to nuclear threats.
The impact of the intensifying violence on civilians remains “our gravest concern”, she said, adding that Russian missile barrages and drone attacks across Ukraine nearly tripled in May.
Citing latest reports, she said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 24,862 civilian casualties to date, but “the actual figures are likely considerably higher”.
Ever since the full-scale invasion of February 2022, UN agencies have been tracking the war’s impact, she said.
OHCHR verified 1,036 attacks impacting educational and medical facilities; the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed more than 1,000 cases of attacks on healthcare, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) verified damage to 260 sites, including 112 religious sites, 22 museums, 94 buildings of historic significance, 19 monuments, 12 libraries, and one historical archive.
Russia declines access to UN
The Kakhovka Dam disaster in early June remains a pressing concern, she said.
“There are still people we are unable to reach, especially in low lying communities under Russian control,” she said, adding that Moscow “has so far declined our request to go to these areas”.
The UN will continue to engage to seek the necessary access, she said, urging the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure safe and unfettered access to all areas in need.
“Aid cannot be denied to people who need it,” she said.
Current grave threats
Highlighting other grave concerns, the Under-Secretary-General pointed to reported damage to the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world’s largest ammonia conduit, in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, and the announced deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
“We urge all involved to act responsibly and in accordance with international obligations,” she said. “Any threat to use nuclear weapons is unacceptable.”
She also raised concerns about stalled progress on implementing the Black Sea Initiative, a 2022 agreement that has enabled the safe transportation from the region of over 32 million metric tonnes of foodstuffs, with more than half going to developing countries.
Russia: UN demonstrates ‘incredible ignorance’
Referring to statements accusing Moscow of denying access to its territory after the Kherson dam disaster, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the UN Secretariat “demonstrates incredible ignorance”.
For its part, Moscow has worked with the UN, and Russian emergency forces have saved more than 2,000 people, evacuated about 30,000 more, and will continue to do “everything possible”, he said.
While Moscow has drawn attention to landmine-riddled areas, its proposals to create safe routes have been rejected, he said. Regarding the Black Sea Initiative, he said “we stand ready to continue to help developing countries”.
Meanwhile, the UN is attempting to sweep these contributions “under the rug”, he said, adding that Moscow has already informed the Secretariat about evidence showing that the dam damage was caused by Kyiv, which has “no interest” in its people.
Given Kyiv’s “failing counter-offensive”, Ukraine has resorted to other tactics, blaming Russia for such incidents as the Kherson dam, threats against the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and targeted attacks against civilians and related infrastructure, he said, emphasizing that Russian operations are limited to military targets.
Ukraine: ‘Russia is worse than COVID-19’
Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russia committed “an act of terror” by blowing up the Kherson dam, making clear that Moscow is “ready to apply a scorched-earth tactic in response to the deteriorating military situation on the ground in the captured lands they doubt they can hold”.
Resolving the crisis hinges on taking strong steps aimed at reducing Moscow’s capabilities to inflict harm, Russia’s military defeat in Ukraine, and ensuring accountability for the crime of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, he said.
Such appeasement options as territorial concessions will serve “as delayed-action mines”, with the detonator in the Kremlin’s hands, he warned.
Despite the war being at its height, “we have already started working on post-war recovery,” he said, noting that Ukraine and allies have expressed “no doubt” in an ultimate victory that will guarantee a just, lasting peace.
“Russia is worse than COVID-19,” he said. “Putin’s regime is cancer; its cells continue to spread…around the world and in this Chamber. It should be removed. The choice is yours. Choose life.”
UN ‘stands ready’
Ms. DiCarlo told ambassadors that the UN stands ready to support all meaningful efforts to bring a just and sustainable peace to Ukraine, guided by the UN Charter, international law, and relevant General Assembly resolutions, “as the Secretary-General emphasized during his visit to Ukraine in March and as I reiterated last week in Moscow”, she said.
“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law,” she said. “All such attacks must stop immediately, whether they be on Ukrainian or Russian territory.”
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