OSCE special meeting on ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine: UK statement, 27 February 2022
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this special meeting of the Permanent Council today.
It is deeply saddening that we are meeting for the fourth time in less than a week under the most appalling circumstances. The news from Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine is grim. Russia’s leaders have – without necessity or provocation – launched Europe’s biggest war since 1945. They have brought the madness of conventional warfare back to Europe – a madness we thought was consigned to history. And they did it against a peaceful, sovereign and democratic neighbor.
Russia’s actions show blatant disregard for the Charter of the United Nations, the Budapest Memorandum, the Minsk Accords and the Helsinki Final Act. At the same time, Russia ignored all subsequent OSCE declarations and de-escalation mechanisms that it not only freely signed, but helped build. The Russian government has renounced its commitments to protect all our security and seeks to conquer an independent state by force of arms. This is an attack not only against Ukraine, but against the security and freedom of Europe as a whole.
By now we have all become accustomed to the rhythm of lies from the Russian government. Russia said its military buildup was just a drill – a lie. Russia said Ukraine was a threat – a lie. And Russia says it is conducting a peacekeeping operation – a lie.
But the truth about the Russian government’s actions in Ukraine is now beginning to emerge. As the director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said on Friday: “While the attack on Ukraine dates back just over a day, it already wreaking havoc among civilians”. The British government has verified several cases of military strikes destroying large apartment buildings across Kyiv. UNICEF reports that terrified families have taken refuge underground across the city. We have seen reports of civilians shot dead by Russian soldiers, and – unbelievably – of tanks running over people alive in their cars. We have verified footage of Uragan’s multiple rocket launcher systems – wide area of effect weapons – indiscriminately targeting the town of Akhterka, causing many casualties. And, Mr. President, I’m sorry to say, we verified that a kindergarten called “Solnyshko” was completely destroyed.
Overnight, we saw reports that Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was targeted, including the Rovenky oil depot, Luhansk and the Vasylkiv oil depot near Kiev. We are also concerned about reports of increased levels of radiation being detected in the Chernobyl exclusion – just a few examples of the environmental cost this unprovoked Russian invasion is beginning to have.
This crisis also leads to displacement. UN agencies suggest around 100,000 people have lost their homes. Innocent civilians fleeing Russian attacks are now arriving in Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. We have information that on Saturday morning there was a 58 km queue at the border with Moldova, with 30,000 people crossing. These have since grown. You mentioned, Mr President, the thousands of civilians arriving in Poland. I am grateful for the humanitarian spirit in which these countries welcome innocent civilians. We must also support the safe exit from Ukraine for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission teams.
The Russian army – under government orders – is bombing civilians and has driven thousands to flee their homes. They call it demilitarization. They destroy kindergartens and call it denazification. Mr President, they will make a desert, and call it peace. Aren’t they ashamed? Aren’t they ashamed?
Mr President, the Geneva Conventions have, for more than 150 years, codified the law of armed conflict. The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said all parties must respect international humanitarian law. He said: “Attacks must not be directed against civilian objectives.” And he said “the use of wide area of effect weapons should be avoided in populated areas.” And Amnesty International said the Russian military’s use of area weapons in densely populated areas could constitute war crimes.
One day – when this horrific attack and ongoing tragedy is over – Russian soldiers will have to look their Ukrainian brothers in the eye and answer to them for what they have done.
Until that day comes, we will make President Putin pay. Three days ago, in this gallery, our Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the toughest set of sanctions Russia has ever faced. We said at the time that these sanctions would only get worse. Further sanctions were announced yesterday. Last night decisive steps were taken with international partners to exclude Russia from the global financial system, including the first important step of ejecting Russian banks from SWIFT. We will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine. And where there is evidence of war crimes, we will ensure justice is served, however long it takes.
Mr President, the United Kingdom, together with its international partners, unites in condemning the premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified aggression of the Russian government against the people of Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine. We have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces, whose tenacity and courage – according to our military intelligence services – prevented President Putin from achieving one of his objectives from the first day. We defend and will always defend the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their destiny and to make their own security choices. Free from any external aggression and free from any coercion. We stand with the people of Ukraine – as long as it takes – to ensure that their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are legitimately restored.
Mr President, the world is watching. Russia is now an international pariah. Russia must stop its attack and withdraw its forces. President Putin’s sordid enterprise will eventually fail and be seen as a failure. However long it takes, that will be the UK’s constant and unwavering goal. Thank you.