Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Ukraine

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
December 6, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Assistant-Secretary-General Jenca and Director for Coordination Rajasingham for your briefings today.

Colleagues, since last February, Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of nearly 10,000 civilians, injured over 18,000 people, and displaced more than six million people. The numbers are staggering and continue to grow. Russian aggression has not only been a direct challenge to the UN Charter, it has resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis with consequences far beyond Europe.

We have heard an ever-growing list of nonsensical justifications by Russia for waging and continuing this unjustified war. De-nazification. NATO. Biological pathogens spread through bats and birds. A crusade against Satanists. A humanitarian mission to protect Russian speakers. Russophobia. The list goes on. Russia hopes people will believe their lies if repeated enough. But despite its attempts to mask its imperialist ambitions, the way to end this war has always been unremarkable, simple, and straightforward: Russia must cease its aggression and withdraw from Ukraine’s internationally-recognized territory.

Colleagues, the international community cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s tactics and conduct in this war. Not only has Russia committed unspeakable war crimes, last winter, Russia sought to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and deprive people of heat and electricity at the coldest time of the year. As we head into another cold winter, we expect Russia will try again. There have already been airstrikes that appear to target defensive systems put in place to protect energy infrastructure. On the day Ukraine was commemorating the Holodomor famine that killed several million people, Russia launched a major drone attack against Kyiv and elsewhere. We believe this strike is a sign of what more is to come.

Russia has also been undermining maritime security by threatening free and secure international shipping. By harassing and threatening vessels, interfering with navigation, and attacking maritime infrastructure, Russia’s actions have been inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the International Maritime Organization, as set forth in Article 1 of the Convention. The safety and security of navigation is critical to maintain the integrity of global supply chains. Despite this, Russia continues to launch near-daily drone and missile attacks on Ukraine’s maritime infrastructure, ports, and grain storage facilities. It has threatened and struck commercial vessels in the Black Sea, and seized search and rescue ships, as well as their crews.

Since Moscow unilaterally withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, it has destroyed over 300,000 metric tons of grain – enough to feed nearly 15 million people for a month. It has only been through the efforts of Ukraine and its partners that the Black Sea Humanitarian Corridor has been opened and that food exports are once against possible, allowing more than 6.3 million metric tons of grain and other cargo to reach international markets since August. These massive shipments underscore the global demand for Ukraine’s grain. Today, seafarers on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov take great risks to facilitate the movement of food supplies and goods from Ukraine to the rest of the world. Global food markets are more volatile, less stable, and less resilient, imperiling food access elsewhere in the world. While Russia grabs a larger share of global grain markets at Ukraine’s expense, it is increasing its ability to leverage agricultural exports for political gain over nations that now depend upon Russia for food. Due to its flagrant disregard for safety and freedom of the seas, it was no surprise that Russia failed to be re-elected to the International Maritime Organization’s Council for the first time since 1960.

Colleagues, every Council meeting is a reminder that we must continue to work toward achieving a just and lasting peace in Ukraine that is in line with the UN Charter. We greatly appreciate the efforts by Ukraine and so many countries around the world to alleviate the negative humanitarian and economic impacts of the worldwide food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Thank you, Mr. President.