Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine
Before I start, I must flag the hypocrisy behind the convening of this Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. No such meetings of the Council were held in April. Neither France and Ecuador, nor other Western delegations showed any interest whatsoever in Ukraine’s state of humanitarian affairs. Yet today we see the EU member states basically line up to read out their copycat statements.
This is another clear illustration that behind all this, there is no real concern for the lives of people who live in Ukraine, far less for those living in the liberated areas of Donbas. By the same token, Western delegations were never interested in the situation of ordinary people of Donbas since 2014.
Today we are not going to hear from them a word of condemnation of another atrocious shelling of Donetsk by Ukrainian forces on 28 April. The targeted artillery strike hit a commuter bus full of people. The vehicle burned down completely, nine people were killed including one child. Forensic tests showed that the bombardment used high-explosive rockets for MLRS produced in Slovakia. The same projectiles were used in a strike against the Transfiguration Cathedral in Donetsk that took place during the all-night Easter service. Our today’s briefer had nothing to say about it too. What about your commitment to the protection of civilians? Or do you think those are the wrong civilians?
Responsibility for these crimes rests not only with the Kiev regime, but also with those who supply Kiev with weapons. Even now, when there seems to be no more room for pump-up of weapons to Ukraine, reports keep coming in on a daily basis that increasingly heavy and sophisticated Western weapons continue to arrive in Ukraine, including HIMARS, projectiles with depleted uranium, long-range artillery systems, hundreds of tanks and so on.
We will get back to this at the Security Council meeting that we requested for 18 May.
All those weapons that are being provided i.a. by Security Council member states who are represented in this chamber, and who claim so concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the Ukrainian conflict, kill civilians daily. Those weapons kill women and children, destroy schools and hospitals in the DPR and LPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. NATO’s entire war machinery is aimed at those areas. The Kiev authorities brag of being “legally authorized to destroy whatever is located in there”. At this point, let me respond to all those who have or will raise this today. Russian armed forces do not confront the peaceful populations. Unlike the Ukrainian armed forces, we do not launch precision strikes against civilians.
Western states are widely known to be very keen on the issue of countering impunity, especially if this is not impunity for their own crimes. They think they got away with killing millions of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other countries. But we are confident that day will come when they are held accountable for the crimes committed. No threats of imposing sanctions on the judges (as was the case with investigations of American war crimes in Afghanistan), intimidation of eye-witnesses and investigative journalists, silencing down of facts – nothing will help. We already see that developing states that stick to neutral positions on Ukraine are rather defiant of the pressure that they are exposed to. Clearly, they got tired having to make excuses for every their step or call to peace. Annalena Baerbock said lately that prospects of weapons deliveries by third countries to Russia are unacceptable, because this may be equaled to involvement in conflict. If so, what should we do about the fact that the whole Western military capacity is now being employed for the purposes of war? Her words were just another testimony proving that the West participates in this conflict directly.
With total connivance of Western sponsors, Kiev does not hesitate to use terrorist methods. Among its crimes – terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge, killings of journalists Daria Dugina and Maxim Fomin, attempted assassination of Zakhar Prilepin that killed his friend, Alexander Shubin. On 3 May, the FSB of Russia reported prevention of assault plans against the leadership of the Republic of Crimea by intelligence units of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Head of Ukrainian intelligence Kirill Budanov explicitly stated that they were ready to “kill Russian across the globe”. After the attack on Prilepin, Ukrainian state information agency UNIAN posted a poll with a question which Russian should be eliminated next. What is it if not an incitement to terrorism? The people of France, United States, and other countries who have firsthand knowledge of what a terrorist attack actually is – how can they put up with all this? How can Secretary-General of the United Nations and other officials representing international bodies remain silent about this?
Today we are going to hear a lot about solidarity of Western community with Ukraine, and their readiness to stand with it “until the end”. It must be understood however that their support is exactly what is pushing Ukraine towards this end. In 2022, external debt increased to reach the record $132 billion or 89 % of the GDP. By various estimates, it is expected to surpass 100 % of the GDP at the end of this year. The enormous sums that Ukraine receives via the channels of the IMF, European Union, and from Washington are driving the country directly into the debt pit. Their solidarity does not come for free. It is ordinary Ukrainians who have to pay back.
It is our understanding that as long as capital flows to Ukraine, it is going to be managed by American financial company BlackRock, with which Kiev signed an agreement lately to establish a Ukraine Development Fund. Under the guise of raising private investment for large-scale projects in key areas of the economy, Ukraine’s state sovereignty is in fact being transferred under the external corporate management of the world's major investment fund that is based in New York. Earlier in the Security Council, we also said that over the past 10 years the total area of Ukrainian farmlands that had transferred under control of American agro-industrial transnational corporations has exceeded 4 million hectares. As we know today, the food that was exported from Ukraine as part of the Black Sea Initiative, did not go to cover the needs of countries struggling with hunger, but constituted commercial export.
The West always puts its interests first. So what we see is actually the “American money cycle”. Most of this money will make it back to the accounts of Western corporations, some part though will settle in the offshore accounts of Ukrainian and US officials. Perhaps, some of it may not fit into the luggage of so-called Ukrainian leaders when they hastily leave the country, as was the case with former president of Afghanistan A.Ghani.
European states are no less cynical. When it came down to the well-being of farmers at home in the EU, political slogans swiftly gave way to objective analysis. In April this year, states that were packed full with Ukrainian agricultural products (thanks to so-called solidarity lanes), had to adopt extreme measures. A unilateral ban on import (or in some cases even on transit) of grain and other agricultural goods from Ukraine was introduced.
Most of the food that is exported from Ukraine (and which was supposed to go to the countries of the Global South) ends up within the European Union. It is a fact and the most telling demonstration of the true essence of Brussels’ celebrated humanitarian initiatives. May I remind that the launch of “solidarity lanes” came along with extra measures for liberalization of Ukrainian exports to the EU, which facilitated access for Ukrainian food to the domestic EU market rather than the markets of developing states.
Russia approaches the global food situation with all seriousness. Even though the global problems related to food insecurity emerged long before the start of the Russian special military operation and represented a consequence of the irresponsible fiscal and loan policies of Western states, which exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, we welcomed the initiative of the UN Secretary-General of 22 July 2022 that was aimed at improving the situation with access to food and fertilizers in developing countries. A package agreement was made to ensure exports of food and ammonia from Ukrainian Black Sea ports and unlock export of grain and fertilizers from Russia.
However nothing went as planned. As of 4 May 2023, 40 % of all products that have been exported via the humanitarian sea corridor, went to the EU states. The share of poorest countries in this turnover does not reach even 3 %. For almost a year now, the West (which was not starving in the first place) has been depleting Ukraine’s agricultural stocks.
It was not until the third phase of the Black Sea Initiative, which started on 18 March, that food deliveries to African states grew by 54 % as compared to the second phase. This was only made possible thanks to the relentless efforts of the Russian team in the Joint Coordination center in Istanbul, which had to struggle even with the UN side to ensure priority consideration of applications by the vessels that were off for Africa.
Ammonia exports should have been launched in parallel to the grain exports, yet it was not. The Ukrainian side in the JCC refused even to look into the issue of unlocking the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, though this was a provision in the corresponding trilateral agreement. Instead, Ukraine was putting forward new preconditions that had not been anchored in the Black Sea Initiative.
For almost a year, we have seen no progress in implementing the second part of Secretary-General’s package – the Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the United Nations. The main Russian bank, "Rosselkhozbank”, which has been specifically positioned to process payments for agricultural exports, remains under sanctions. Washington and Brussels generously promise to enable one-time transactions. However it is ridiculous to think of it as an effective solution. UNSG’s package only works one way, when it comes to Ukrainian commercial exports. Russian agricultural exports are still blocked by Western sanctions without any prospects to ease the restrictions for food and fertilizers which do not fall under sanctions. Basically, the US and its satellites are trying to assert (in their characteristic mentoring manner) that the world needs Ukrainian fodder corn (70 % of the exports) more than Russian wheat and fertilizers.
Last week, high-level talks of the four sides took place in Istanbul to consider the prospects of the Black Sea Initiative. Contacts continue. We would like to remind that during the latest renewal of the deal in March, we warned about the lack of progress on the five “systemic” problems that blocked Russian agricultural exports.