Members Hear Briefings on Humanitarian, Human Rights, Civil Society Situations
A third humanitarian operation is under way to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol in war-torn Ukraine after two successful convoys saved nearly 500 people in that area, the United Nations chief told the Security Council today.
“We must continue to do all we can to get people out of these hellscapes,” Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized, as he briefed members of the 15‑member Council on his recent visits to the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Recalling his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow, he said that he stressed the imperative of enabling humanitarian access and evacuations from besieged areas — Mariupol, first and foremost. [Soon after the Secretary‑General strongly urged the opening of a safe and effective humanitarian corridor to allow civilians in the Azovstal plant to reach safety, he received confirmation of an agreement in principle, and his team immediately followed up with intense preparatory work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as Russian and Ukrainian authorities].
He noted that the United Nations and the Red Cross are leading a humanitarian operation of great complexity — both politically and in terms of security. In the first operation, completed on 3 May, 101 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal plant alongside 59 more from a neighbouring area. In the second, concluded last night, more than 320 civilians were evacuated from the city of Mariupol and surrounding areas, he added.
“Throughout my travels, I did not mince words,” he emphasized, recalling that, in both Moscow and Kyiv, he repeated exactly what he had said in New York: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations. It must end for the sake of the people of Ukraine, Russia and the entire world.”
Also briefing the Council was Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said the United Nations and its more than 217 humanitarian partners have scaled up at record speed, with more than 1,400 United Nations personnel deployed across Ukraine. They are operating out of eight hubs beyond Kyiv, with staff, warehouses and supplies in 30 locations, and reaching more than 4.1 million people with some form of assistance, he added.
The United Nations and its partners, he continued, are assisting and protecting displaced people and restoring basic services while also prepositioning supplies to forward operating bases and increasing preparedness in areas to which the war might shift next. They are also engaged “every single day” in pushing the parties for the movement of aid to civilians, or in negotiating to help civilians leave for safer places.
In a third briefing, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said her office has recorded 6,731 civilian casualties since the Russian invasion began in late February. “We know the real figures are considerably higher,” she added, pointing out that most of those casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide effects in populated areas.
She reported that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is documenting the devastating consequences of the conflict on other human rights, including incidents of families shot as they tried to escape in convoys and the arbitrary detention and possible forced “disappearing” of civilians by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups.
Furthermore, evidence of torture, ill-treatment and summary execution of prisoners of war committed by both parties is surfacing, she added. While affirming that her office is collecting evidence, she stressed that the only way to stop such horrors is for armed forces to fully respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Bringing civil society’s voice to the Council, Tetiana Luzan, Advocacy Coordinator for the non-governmental organization Right to Protection, said the number of those internally displaced reached 7.7 million at the end of April, noting: “They all carry the same heavy burden of displacement.” The international community must ensure that those willing to return, or travel to other countries, have the possibility to do so, she emphasized.
Calling on the international community to help the Government of Ukraine establish and enforce appropriate investigative and prosecutorial measures, she stressed: “Each life is priceless, and relatives deserve to know the truth.” Furthermore, stateless persons and third‑country nationals previously finding refuge in Ukraine must also be protected alongside Ukrainian citizens, she said.
Council members and non-members also participated in the discussion.
Ukraine’s representative said the Russian Federation has fired more than 2,000 missiles at his country’s cities, most of which do not hit military targets. Moscow’s missile terrorism must be punished with stronger sanctions and increased military assistance to Ukraine, he emphasized. Pointing out that Russia is threatening his country’s food security by stealing grain supplies from temporarily occupied regions and attacking farming infrastructure, he said the Security Council’s inaction continues to irritate the international community and to create an atmosphere of impunity. The Council Chamber has “turned from a venue of diplomatic debates into a biological hazard site”, as the Russian Federation’s envoy leaves a trail of blood and the smell of smouldering corpses behind as he enters and exits the Chamber, he asserted.
The representative of the United States said the Russian Federation has repeatedly lied to the Council with a string of wild conspiracy theories and misinformation, noting “each falsehood has been more ridiculous than the last”. However, the truth is well-known, she reiterated: The Russian Federation is the only perpetrator of this war. “Russia alone started this war, and Russia alone can end it.”
Germany’s representative, noting that the world will soon commemorate the end of the Second World War unleashed by Nazi Germany, noted that, 77 years after that watershed moment, Russian propaganda is attempting to create an outrageous link between the heroic fighting of the Red Army then against the Nazi regime, and the Kremlin’s current aggression against Ukraine. “This utter nonsense is beyond cynicism,” she said, pointing out that the world can see how Russia’s attempt to “de-Nazify” and “liberate” Ukraine looks in pictures from Mariupol, Irpin and Bucha, which reveal atrocities and crimes against humanity.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that “Russophobia” has become prevalent in Ukraine, emphasizing that the special military operation began to liberate Donbas after all the crimes committed by the Kyiv regime and Russia’s warnings against them. Western countries dismissed Russia’s security concerns and assured of the purely defensive nature of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) while moving the bloc closer to Russia’s borders, he recalled, pointing out that the West arrogantly cast aside his country’s proposals for a global and indivisible security architecture. Westerners only needed Ukraine as an arena of confrontation with Russia, he added. The Secretary-General’s visits to Russia and Ukraine were presented by both the media and Western politicians in a completely distorted manner, giving the impression that Kyiv and the United Nations managed to “persuade” Russia to open a corridor for the evacuation of civilians from Azovstal, he said, pointing out that Russia opens the corridors regularly and they are open today.
China’s delegate emphasized that dialogue and negotiations are the only inevitable way to resolve disputes, stressing: “Delivering weapons will not deliver peace.” Basing one country’s security on the insecurity of others is not reasonable. Pointing out that repeated eastward expansion of NATO after the cold war not only failed to make Europe safer, he said it also sowed the seeds of conflict. China will never forget the 7 May 1999 NATO strike on its embassy in Yugoslavia, and will never allow history to repeat itself, he vowed, underlining: “The world does not need a new cold war.”
India’s representative was among the delegates who expressed grave concern about the broader regional and global implications of the conflict’s destabilizing effect, cautioning that skyrocketing oil prices, shortage of food grains and fertilizers, and challenges in food and energy security have had a disproportionate impact on developing countries.
In similar vein, Gabon’s delegate noted the increasing pressure on the global economy, including agriculture, warning that, if the war does not end, the countries already facing humanitarian emergencies might collapse, rendering ordinary people “collateral victims”.
Injecting a different perspective, Kenya’s representative cautioned that the unprecedented sanctions in response to the war are reshaping global development, food security and political stability, as global equity and debt markets seek to exit riskier emerging market economies. Investors are delaying or cancelling the investments needed to deliver sufficient jobs, he noted.
Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister said his country, a major host to refugees from Ukraine, will not cease either to deliver aid to that country or to be a reliable partner for all United Nations system entities involved in providing support. He highlighted the high-level International Donors’ Conference for Ukraine that Poland and Sweden are holding in Warsaw today.
Also speaking today were representatives of Albania, Mexico, France, Ghana, Brazil, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Norway, Greece, Latvia, Italy and Slovakia.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 6:13 p.m.