Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine
We thank our briefers. Today we heard many (and will definitely hear more) calls to a humanitarian ceasefire, ensuring humanitarian access, establishing humanitarian pauses, and opening humanitarian corridors. Secretary-General of the United Nations raised such initiatives yesterday. Colleagues, you are strikingly inconsistent. Last Wednesday, no more than a week ago, most of you rejected our draft humanitarian UNSC resolution, binding for all sides, that contained a list of concrete steps that should unblock the work of humanitarian agencies, first of all in eastern Ukraine. So today’s statements, especially that of Western delegations, sound rather hypocritical.
I must say however that our proposals went far beyond what our Western colleagues named today. Our draft also contained demands to not place heavy weapons in residential areas, not use civilians as a cover-up. Had the Council endorsed it, it could have saved many lives, because the main threat to peaceful population of Ukrainian towns and cities comes from Ukrainian radicals and nationalists who use them as a human shield. Internet is swarming with video evidence of this, uploaded by people from the liberated cities or those who managed to escape via humanitarian corridors despite being shot at by Ukrainian armed forces and nationalists. Have you seen those footages? And then you tell us how we allegedly bomb grain-loaded vessels, agricultural equipment, and grain storages.
Our draft resolution also demanded respectful and humane treatment of detainees – that’s because Ukrainian nationalists posted videos of cruel treatment of captured Russian soldiers. What about those footages? Have you seen them? They do this despite the fact that Russian side fully upholds its international obligations and poses no threat to those Ukrainians who lay down their arms. You can also make sure of that by turning to materials posted on social media.
Ukrainian nationalists do not hesitate to use most elaborate tortures and executions. Suffice it to mention the shocking findings – civilians tortured to death in cellars of nationalist battalions, with swastika symbols branded on their maimed bodies. Have you seen these footages?
In the context of such cruel treatment of Ukrainians by Ukrainian radicals and special services, we have grave concerns regarding physical cleansing of unwanted public opinion leaders that the Kiev regime carries out at the moment.
In our letter of 21 March, we officially informed the Security Council about Ukraine's Security Service kidnapping civil activist Elena Berezhnaya, who had taken part in UNSC meetings on several occasions. We know nothing of her fate or whereabouts.
Since then, we have received similar reports regarding Ukrainian opposition politician, leader of the Union of Leftists Vasyl Volha, political scientist Dmitry Dzhangirov, opposition political analyst Yuri Dudkin, journalist and publicist Dmitry Skvortsov, historian and public activist Alexander Karevin, publicist and TV-host Yan Taksyur, chief editor of Odessa-based online platform “Timer” Yuri Tkachev.
Ukraine’s Security Service also carried out a search at the house of another political scientist, who is well-known to the Security Council, named Mikhail Pogrebinskiy. We have no information as to what happens to him now. We expect our Western colleagues and specialized human rights agencies of the UN and OSCE to give fair assessments to this “witch hunt”.
This list of problems caused by Kiev is expanding. There is an increased danger of floating Ukrainian mines at sea. Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey have already faced or are about to face this perilous problem. In this context, let me underscore that Russian armed forces pose no threat to freedom of civil navigation. To facilitate foreign vessels taking to the open sea from Ukrainian ports, we have created a humanitarian corridor. It is 80 nautical miles long, 3 nautical miles wide, and open daily from 08.00 am to 07.00 pm Moscow time. We have communicated this information to all interested sides.
Though our Western colleagues did not support the mentioned draft UNSC resolution, we unilaterally uphold all humanitarian obligations that we assumed. On a daily basis, we propose opening humanitarian corridors (10 routes heading both to Russia and to western Ukraine were proposed today), arrange deliveries of basic goods, medications, and food to all those in need. The total volume of humanitarian aid that we have delivered to Ukraine exceeds 6 thousand tons. More than half a million refugees from Ukraine have found shelter in Russia.
Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries have established effective communication channels with leadership of the ICRC and UN OCHA. We are working in direct coordination with the ICRC to organize safe evacuation corridors, identify and exchange detainees. On 18 March, the first humanitarian convoy of the United Nations moved from Poltava to Sumy under assistance of Russian armed forces. 130 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered and distributed.
While convoys carrying food and basic necessity items are moving from Russia to Ukraine, armaments and ammunition are flowing to Ukraine from the West.
We have heard and will hear again the point about world’s looming food crisis. Western delegations say its sole cause is Russia’s actions in Ukraine. When putting it like this, our colleagues act very cunningly. True causes of grave turbulence that is menacing the global food market is not in Russia’s actions, but rather in unlimited sanctions hysteria that the West started against Russia without thinking either about the population of states of the so-called global South, or about their own people. Attempted economic, logistical, and financial isolation of Russia from cooperation channels that were established over years are already creating an economic crisis of historic proportions.
It is clear even to laymen that only rejection of unilateral restrictive measures can lift tensions off transportation-related, logistical, and financial aspects, ensure unimpeded deliveries and stability of global agricultural and food markets. Russia has not reduced the stocks of food it produces. So it is Western states who are able to prevent hunger and food shortages, no matter how hard they may try to prove the opposite today and shift the blame to Russia.
We cannot but express concern over reoccurring cases of confiscation of UN-marked vehicles by Ukrainian armed forces. It is positive that the Secretariat recognized at last that such offenses had taken place in Kharkov and Mariupol. We look forward to receiving a reply to our recent query regarding a vehicle with diplomatic license plate DP210015 that took part, as evidenced by eye-witnesses, in combat operations of Ukrainian nationalists in Kharkov.
We are also aware of cases when radicals use OSCE vehicles. Our colleagues in Vienna have full information regarding such incidents. It is important that both international organizations give a fair assessment to such facts. By the way, it is clear from Internet publications that Ukrainian armed forces have some DHL vehicles at their disposal and use them to transport weapons. So we cannot exclude that vehicles of international organizations or vehicles with medical symbols may be used as cover-up for importing from neighboring states to Ukraine all those weapons that the West generously promised to Kiev. I hope you realize what reputational damage this would deal on all international mechanisms that conceal facts of such use of vehicles featuring their emblems.
In conclusion, let me react to the point frequently articulated by our Western colleagues that call Russia’s special military operation an “unprovoked war of choice”. This was again said today. We repeatedly stated what had led to the current crisis. Those who blame us merely try to downplay their own role in provoking this crisis and pretend that it has nothing to do with them, their policy towards Russia, and their geopolitical efforts to create “Anti-Russia” – a state that Ukraine turned in recently.
Speaking about “wars of choice”, let’s recall US aggression against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and the war in Viet Nam. All these states are situated thousands kilometers away from Washington, and armed action there brought nothing but hundreds of thousands people killed and lives ruined. Hostilities left behind devastated countries, and doomed millions of people to poverty and meager living. Those were “wars of choice”, because the United States had a choice to not start those wars. By the same token, Washington and its allies have a choice now. They can choose to stop fueling Ukrainian crisis, delivering weapons to the Kiev regime, and provoking a global food crisis and hunger in a number of states.
Right of reply by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy to the representative of the United States:
Let me react to the words by Under Secretary Sherman. I will not comment on the part that concerns your participation in the talks. Of course, you are better versed in that than myself and my colleagues. But if talks have failed, doesn't it mean that you fell short at this track and that perhaps you should have worked better making more serious proposals? Anyway, we have what we have.
Let me however comment on your remarks regarding Nazism. It has already become proverbial when one says that a Jewish president can never be a Nazi. I will not try to dissuade you, but let me cite some facts.
You surely know who Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych are. You know what evil they brought to humanity. They collaborated with Nazis, took part in killings of Jews, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians. If you doubt it, ask the Poles. But do not turn to Polish politicians, turn to ordinary people. I spent three years working in Poland, and I know firsthand what Poland thinks of S.Bandera. Those very people, S.Bandera and R.Shukhevych, are Ukraine’s national heroes. Chevrons of Ukrainian battalions feature Nazi symbols. Recently NATO had to delete a portrait of Ukrainian woman-military officer from its official site because her chevron featured a Nazi symbol.
Of course, it means nothing to you if one wears a Nazi symbol on a sleeve, if one's soldiers torture detainees and burn out swastikas on their chests. You think this is not Nazism. You think it means nothing if a president of a country believes someone who sided with Hitler killing Jews, Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians is a national hero. But we think otherwise. And so do most people of Russia and Ukraine.