Statement by Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, at the open VTC of UNSC members on implementation of resolution 2532
We thank our today’s briefers for updating the Council on the UN efforts to counter the COVID-related challenges for peace and security.
Russia was among the first (in fact, on 24 March) to support the Secretary-General’s call of 23 March 2020 for a global ceasefire in the context of a pandemic, calling for an immediate halt of hostilities and the introduction of a humanitarian pause in all armed conflicts.
The unanimous adoption by the Council of resolution 2532, ably facilitated by France and Tunisia, which reinforced the call by António Guterres, demonstrated the unity of the Security Council in the face of a new global challenge. Unfortunately, the resolution did not work 100%, as many already underscored. The fighting continues. Moreover, the global socio-economic and political instability, exacerbated by the pandemic, negatively contributes to the hotbeds of tension.
Border closures and domestic restrictions have seriously impeded the work of UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions. We note the dedication of the “blue helmets”, who continue to fulfill their duty in the new conditions. It is commendable that the peacekeepers are providing support to the efforts of the authorities of the host countries to contain the pandemic.
We welcome the efforts of the United Nations system aimed at contributing to the COVID-19 response worldwide with a particular emphasis on countries in need. In this context, we note the role played by the World Health Organization (WHO) – not only in its capacity as the leading United Nations specialized agency for health, but also as the health cluster lead in the international response to emergencies with health consequences.
It is important to ensure sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance, as called for in resolution 2532, which should be provided in line with UN General Assembly resolution 46/182, in particular with full respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the recipient States and without political preconditions.
The adverse impact of the pandemic is seriously aggravated by the devastating effects of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) imposed on a number of developing countries. We strongly support the numerous appeals made by the top UN officials, including the Secretary-General, to abandon such illegal practices in order to allow the affected States to cope with the humanitarian and socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 outbreak. In August, the UN Special rapporteur on UCMs and other Human Rights Council special procedures confirmed that sanctions proved deadly during the current pandemic, while the so-called “humanitarian exemptions” do not work. That brings suffering and hampers the rights to health, food and life itself.
Today again we heard justifications and eulogy of sanctions policies. From our UK colleague we heard assurances of smooth exemptions from sanctions regimes. To us that sounds unconvincing. That is corroborated by the experience and evidence that we receive from humanitarian actors, including Western NGOs.
We reiterate our call upon the United Nations Secretariat and the UN system to examine grave impact of UCMs, amounting to economic warfare, and to report on the findings.
Besides, today we heard toxic and unjustified accusations levered by the US at a member of the UNSC. The tone and wording of these accusations are inadmissible. We would strongly call on the US to return back to civility when speaking in the Security Council. In this regard, we would give only one piece of advice. Before accusing others, it is good to look in the mirror. It helps. Unfortunately, shifting blame on others has become a characteristic trend in US policy.
We are extremely worried by the situation in territories controlled by terrorist groups, which are least of all concerned about the well-being of people. Counterterrorism measures must be continued in line with resolution 2532 which clearly states that the humanitarian pause and ceasefire do not apply to counterterrorist operations. We note with concern that some terrorist groups are trying to take advantage of the current situation to gain benefits on the ground. The increased terrorist activity in the Sahel region, which faces a serious humanitarian crisis as well, is of particular concern.
On its part, Russia maintains its contribution to the global COVID-19 response, partnering with the WHO, World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and others. We also continue bilateral assistance to countries in need, including those on the Security Council agenda. For example, last weekend Russia delivered 25 tons of humanitarian cargoes, such as personal protective equipment, disinfectants and medical equipment, to several countries in Africa.
In early August, Russia officially registered the first COVID-19 vaccine “Sputnik V” which has shown high levels of efficiency and safety. Today, on 9 September, based on laboratory quality tests, the vaccine was released into civil circulation aimed at the vaccination of at-risk population. Other promising vaccines are being prepared for clinical tests.
We stand ready for international cooperation with all interested partners to ensure coordinated global response to the spread of COVID-19 which will help to overcome the pandemic and its socio-economic consequences.
I thank you, Mr. President.
Right of Reply (by First deputy Permanent representative Dmitry Polyanskiy):
I just cannot help reacting to our friend Christoph’s [Heusgen, Permanent representative of Germany] remark about sanctions. Of course, it is up to the West to impose unilateral sanctions on Syria, Venezuela, or other countries, be it European Union, Germany, UK, or “United Sanctions of America” – it does not matter. It is your choice whether to use diplomacy, engagement, and dialogue; or punishment, sanctions, and exclusion. You choose your own methods and you bear economic and geopolitical consequences afterwards. We are not questioning these harmful practices of yours.
What we question, Christoph, and what we consider as utmost hypocrisy of the West is to support international efforts to provide assistance to countries in need and at the same time to maintain unilateral sanctions and coercive measures against the same countries at the same time. Western sanctions, dear Christoph and Jonathan [Allen, Chargé d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of the UK], may be framed as targeted against certain concrete figures for internal consumption in your countries. But you will not deceive anyone who has expert knowledge of the situation on the ground.
You can make exemption for medical goods, but if you block financial channels to buy these goods and scare away companies that could deliver them to those it need, it makes no difference. Civil population does not get these medical goods, and policies and actions of their leaders, whether you like them or not, have nothing to do with the harm that you make. To ordinary Syrians, Venezuelans, Iranians, and others, you make this harm.
There are tens of publications that we highlighted recently that stress this situation, but you just do not want to read them and notice them. So please, do not mislead international community with such statements. You cannot choke somebody with one hand and give them food with the other. This will not work, and the whole world notices this.
Of course, Christoph, this situation that I now described has nothing to do with cross-border deliveries to Syria. You know that there are enough means and ways to deliver assistance to those who need them, and the issue of cross-border deliveries has nothing to do with this. Actually, after this discussion that we had and after the recent decisions there is a lot of improvement in the ways of cross-border, and cross-line deliveries, so please, do not imply this situation in our discussion. And also for those who will after our meeting interpret that Russia was pleading on lifting of sanctions on Russia, I just wanted to say that this is not true.