Thank you, Mr Chair. Welcome Mr Lukashuk, you have our support and admiration. This Tuesday marked the 300th day of Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, supported by the Belarusian regime. Over these past 300 days, President Putin’s so-called ‘Special Military Operation’ has yet to achieve even one of its perverse objectives. This, despite Putin believing his military could take Kyiv in three days, and despite his claims he had no intentions to invade his peaceful neighbour.
Putin’s failed invasion has been a disaster, resulting in the decimation of the Russian military and economy and the loss of tens of thousands of Russian lives. Its impact has also been felt around the world, with Russia’s actions threatening global food and energy security and generating economic instability in countries thousands of miles from Moscow. This, however, pales by comparison to the devastation, death, and suffering that Putin has wrought on the Ukrainian people and their sovereign country.
Since this Council last met, Russia has again resorted to its cowardly tactic of bombing Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure, targeting the basic needs essential for the survival of Ukraine’s population. Last Friday, critical infrastructure across Ukraine, including in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih and Zaporhizhzhia was targeted, once again leaving millions of Ukrainians without heat, electricity and running water in the dead of winter.
Last Friday, Maksym – a seven-year-old boy from Kryvyi Rih – was orphaned when his parents Lyudmila and Oleksandr, along with his 18-month-old brother, Timofey, were killed when a Russian missile directly hit their home. It is hard to argue that an apartment building, the home of two little boys, could be a legitimate military target for Russian missiles. Maksym will be facing this, and every future Christmas season, without his family, his life needlessly ripped apart by Russia’s horrific actions. His heart-breaking story is one of far too many across Ukraine.
Ukrainian children want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and freedom, with their families and friends around them, where they are not afraid of bombs falling from the sky, or forced to grow up in the shadow of a regime that seeks to destroy their very identity. According to UNICEF, Russia’s attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure have left almost every child in Ukraine at risk, facing a cold, dark winter with both their physical and long term mental health endangered.
Those in the temporarily Russia-controlled areas are suffering just as deeply, with the situation in these regions deteriorating daily. Lack of access to basic services, including safe water, and energy supply for heating, light and communication is endangering public health, already under strain from the lack of adequate healthcare. As local economies decline and unemployment rises, many in these areas continue to rely on humanitarian aid for survival – access to which is often hampered by the Russian authorities. Putin falsely claims that these areas are part of Russia – yet, its proxy administrations are not even able to provide basic services; on the contrary there are widespread reports of theft and looting by the Russian forces and those who claim to be in charge.
300 days since the invasion, there are no more lies Putin can hide behind to distract from his failures. The scale of reported atrocities and war crimes committed against the Ukrainian people is horrifying, and evidence continues to mount. The UK, and Ukraine’s partners, will not sit by and do nothing whilst more Ukrainian families suffer. This Monday, whilst meeting with some of Ukraine’s closest friends and allies, my Prime Minister pledged to match or exceed the £2.3bn in aid for Ukraine that we provided this year. He also committed to supply Ukraine with ammunition and equipment to continue its defence, reinforcing our steadfast support into 2023.
As we have stated many, many times – Putin has the ability to end this war. He must immediately cease attacks against civilians and civilian objects and withdraw his troops from Ukraine in adherence with the UN charter. But, until that happens, please know Mr Lukashuk, dear Viktoria, and colleagues here, that the UK and the international community will remain steadfast in our support – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the independence of Ukraine is fully restored.