Thank you Mr. Chair. Last week I, and many others spoke about the devastating Russian missile attack on an apartment building in Dnipro. The lives of 46 innocent Ukrainian civilians were tragically cut short, including six children, with 80 injured and 11 still missing. This horrific attack was yet another example of Russia’s numerous and sustained violations of international law over the course of the last 11 months, which continue to this day. Following reports of further Russian strikes overnight, we stress our solidarity with Ukraine. Russia will not break the resolve of the Ukrainian people.
Since the start of Russia’s illegal invasion, and following several investigations by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine (OPG), ODHIR, the UN and through the Moscow Mechanism (to name but a few), there can be no doubt as to Russia’s culpability for atrocities and human rights violations carried out in Ukraine. The evidence is overwhelming.
We have seen indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the use of wide area, inaccurate weapons in residential and highly populated areas resulting in loss of life and widespread devastation. The theatre in Mariupol sheltering children. The railway station in Kramatorsk where women and children were fleeing. The shopping centre in Kremenchuk. Too many stories. Too many innocent victims.
We’ve heard harrowing testimony from survivors, detailing summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence committed in areas once under Russian control. As recorded by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, family members, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes – powerless to act. We have spoken of Russia’s disturbing policy of filtration and of those who have disappeared, some unlawfully deported to Russia – including orphaned children. We recall the attacks against sites with protected status – medical and educational facilities, cultural and religious sites, and energy infrastructure. We commend the investigators seeking the truth, often under dangerous conditions, and those courageous survivors willing to share their testimony to ensure justice is delivered.
As reported by ODHIR, the sheer number of accounts describing allegedly systematic torture and ill-treatment inflicted upon civilians by Russian forces seems to suggest these practices were carried out in an atmosphere of impunity.
However, we will not allow ourselves to become numb to the immense suffering caused by Russia’s illegal invasion. The victims and the survivors will be remembered. We must, and we will, deliver justice and accountability for all of them. For those in Bucha, Irpin, Izium, Makariv, Kupiansk, Mariupol. The list is far too long and the price paid by Ukrainians for their freedom far too high.
There can be no lasting peace in Ukraine without justice. In London this March, Justice Ministers from across the world will meet to discuss further provision of financial and practical support to the International Criminal Court investigation in Ukraine. We will ensure the ICC has all it needs to pursue investigations and prosecute those responsible. The UK has joined a core group of partners to ensure criminal accountability for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. UK legal expertise will be utilised to ensure Russia’s leaders are held to account fully for their actions. We continue our work with the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA) for Ukraine, bringing together multinational experts to assist and advise the OPG War Crimes units in their tireless work.
Last week we and many participating States asked the Russian Federation for a comprehensive response to the reports of SMM vehicles being used in eastern Ukraine. These are the assets of the organisation and its participating States.
In closing, Mr Chair, the international community must collectively send a strong message to the Russian government – through our words and through our actions. We will not stand for unbridled aggression against a sovereign state; we will not tolerate violations and abuses of international law and human rights; we will not sit back and allow the perpetrators of such egregious crimes in Ukraine go unpunished; and we will seek and see justice delivered for those who have suffered at the hands of Russian aggression.