Special OSCE meeting on Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine: UK statement

F.P. Report

LONDON: UK Ambassador Neil Bush calls out the Russian government for lying about their plan to invade Ukraine and expresses UK solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

It is almost two weeks since President Putin ordered Russia’s forces to invade Ukraine – its sovereign neighbour.

We must never forget that Russia’s assault was unprovoked, premeditated and an egregious violation of international law and its OSCE commitments.

Russia’s leaders said they had no plan to invade Ukraine, but they lied. They lied to the world and to the Russian people.

In the days since, Russian forces have conducted barbaric attacks across Ukraine. Innocent people, including children, have been killed, and continue to be killed.

President Putin has blood on his hands. The blood of innocent Ukrainians killed defending their families, their homes and their country. And the blood of those soldiers he has needlessly sent to die.

Our thoughts are with all the victims and their families. And the United Kingdom stands united with our partners, and with people all over the world, in condemning the Russian government’s actions.

Since we last met, Ukraine has continued to suffer horrific attacks. Missiles and air strikes have torn through apartment blocks. Tanks have rolled into once peaceful cities.

President Putin’s decision to indiscriminately shell civilian areas is having a devastating humanitarian toll. The number of civilian causalities increases every hour. Between 24 February and 5 March, OHCHR reported at least 1,123 civilian casualties, including 364 people killed. The real figure is likely to be much higher.

UNHCR also estimate over 1.5 million people from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in ten days – the fasting growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Under International Humanitarian Law, Russia must allow unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. Russia should also provide safe passage to civilians fleeing the violence. But it has not. Instead, ceasefires have been agreed and then repeatedly and immediately violated by Russian forces. The evacuation of Mariupol has failed twice.

Russia points the finger of blame elsewhere, but the Russian Government’s track record of shelling innocent civilians as part of an illegal and brutal invasion, then lying about it through their blatant and immoral disinformation is plain for the world to see.

I reiterate the 27 February call that we, together with the Polish Chair and 44 other participating States, made on the Russian Federation to implement an immediate ceasefire. International organisations, including SMM staff who remain in Ukraine, must also be provided safe passage. The Secretary General mentioned that the SMM’s Mariupol Office was sadly hit.

We must hold Russia to account and ensure war crimes are investigated. That is why we invoked the Moscow Mechanism. And why we have made the largest ever joint State Party referral to the International Criminal Court.

We will also support those in greatest need. The UK has committed £220 million in aid to support Ukraine, comprising £120m humanitarian assistance and £100m to bolster the Ukrainian economy. We have also announced today a further allocation of 100 million dollars (GBP 74 million), directly to the Ukrainian government budget to mitigate financial pressures created by Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion.

Mr Chair, since we last met Russian forces have also attacked Europe’s largest nuclear power station. This attack could have changed the course of history.

We are grateful to the Ukrainian authorities who got the fire under control. We are relieved that they have reported that no radioactive material was released and that the Zaporizhzhia’s safety systems are unaffected. This is the first time that any State has attacked a fuelled and functioning nuclear power plant in flagrant disregard of international law and the special protection for nuclear facilities. It must not happen again. And Russia must restore full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine to the competent Ukrainian authorities.

Mr Chair, since we last met President Putin also stated that his war is going to plan.

Everyone here knows this is far from the truth. And the restrictions President Putin has placed on the freedoms of the Russian people, including their access to information, reveal he knows it too.

Over the weekend, President Putin passed laws which further restrict the freedoms of the Russian people and media. The Russian state is attempting to minimise coverage of the conflict and hide the impact of its invasion from the Russian people.

Russia’s authorities also continue to persecute those brave Russians who oppose the war. More than 3,500 protestors were detained at protests across Russia yesterday, according to data provided by Russia’s Interior Ministry. And we’ve seen examples of police intimidation, with images of one protestor in Yekaterinburg being beaten on the ground by police in riot gear.

Mr Chair, we will make the Russian government pay the price of its actions. The UK stands with the Ukrainian people. And we are joined in our outrage by friends and allies around the world. We will work with our partners – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.