The UN Security Council met this Monday in New York to address the human crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The 15 members of the highest forum of the United Nations have received information from Martin Griffiths, head of the agency’s humanitarian office (OCHA), and Catherine Russell, the executive director of Unicef, the children’s fund. The briefing will be followed by closed-door consultations. It is the umpteenth time that the Council has met in recent weeks, with no practical result to date due to Russia’s right to veto any condemnation resolution.
With 1.7 million displaced persons, including refugees who have fled to neighboring countries and internal refugees, the Council’s urgent call today did not propose any concrete action, only an exchange of information on the state of the humanitarian issue in Ukraine, with unanimous calls -except for the representative of Russia- to the immediate opening of corridors that allow the safe exit of civilians. While the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed at least 13 attacks on hospitals and health centers in Ukraine, with nine dead and 16 injured, the member countries of the Council will continue negotiating a draft resolution, proposed last week by France and Mexico, to guarantee the supply of aid.
Griffiths urged all sides to provide fleeing civilians with a safe exit in any direction they choose – Moscow has proposed corridors only to Russia and Belarus, an offer the French ambassador called “cynical” – as well as supply help in those areas. “The parties must constantly take care to avoid civilians, residential areas and civilian-use infrastructure in their military operations,” he has said. OCHA has sent a team to Moscow to work on better aid coordination between military and civilian agencies.
In the same vein, the US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, recalled that more than half of the displaced are minors. “The United States is outraged by the increase in attacks on civilians,” the diplomat said. “My Polish colleague has just informed us that a hundred Ukrainian refugees are crossing into Poland every minute and the situation is going to deteriorate further; the question is how much devastation President Putin is willing to cause for this huge mistake”, she stressed, referring to the invasion of Ukraine. The protection of civilians must be reinforced in the case of women and girls, stressed Thomas-Greenfield, “especially vulnerable to gender-based violence”, people from the LGBTQI community, “as well as older adults and people with disabilities” . “We need Russia’s strong, clear, public and unequivocal commitment to allow and facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access for humanitarian partners in Ukraine,” she concluded.
Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergii Kislitsia -always the most energetic and combative, especially against his antagonist, whom he regularly confronts-, has accused Moscow of breaking the agreement reached in the last few hours by insisting that the humanitarian corridors must lead in Russia and Belarus. “I urge the Russians to back down and go back to what was previously agreed to allow Ukrainian and foreign civilians [residentes en Ucrania] go to Europe”, asked the diplomat.
The Russian ambassador, Vasili Nebenzia, has not deviated one millimeter from the Kremlin’s speech. “We know that he follows instructions, but remember what he wrote [el disidente soviético y premio Nobel de la Paz] Aleksandr Solyenitsin: the human being has not only been given life, but also conscience”, questioned his British colleague, Barbara Woodward. Undeterred, Nebenzia repeated Moscow’s argument as savior of pro-Russian Ukrainians, the object of “genocide” by the Kiev government according to the Kremlin. “Russia has declared a ceasefire, but Kiev does not cooperate, the radicals do not let the civilian population out of Mariupol. They have civilians as human shields, in addition to holding more than 1,500 foreigners, including Africans, hostage; we have lamented the death of Indian students… The use of heavy weapons in populated areas has become a practice for the nationalist battalions” of Ukraine, which he also described as neo-Nazis.
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The message from the UN’s highest body seems to be fading as the war festers and degenerates, with considerable impact on civilians. The resolution that is being negotiated will have to do an exercise in lexical contortionism to overcome the opposition of Russia, which always has the button of the right of veto ready.
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