LONDON: Ambassador Bush says that President Putin’s illegal annexation attempts are yet another brazen attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Thank you to Ms Olena Zhuk, Chair of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council, for your important testimony. Sadly this morning – as mentioned – reports have emerged of Russian strikes on civilians in Zaporizhzhia. We condemn these attacks and mourn the loss of innocent life. That this has happened the morning after President Putin signed the illegal attempted annexation agreement for Zaporizhzhia and claimed that Russia would now protect these civilians is particularly deplorable. We stand with you Ukraine. It is on the issue of attempted illegal annexations that I would like to speak today.
Last week in this Council we, like many other nations around the world, expressed our collective outrage and condemnation of Russia’s sham and illegitimate referenda forced on the people of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Only the following day, in a self-serving ceremony, President Putin announced the illegal attempted annexation of these regions in yet another brazen attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This constitutes a new low point in Russia’s blatant flouting of international law, the principles of this organisation and of the UN Charter. These actions are completely and utterly indefensible.
It is clear to any observer how shambolic and futile these attempted annexation announcements really are. As President Putin hosted his ceremony in Moscow, Russian forces were being driven out of the Donetsk Oblast town of Lyman by the advancing Ukrainian Armed Forces. Ukraine’s continued success in its counter-attacks highlights the absurdity of Putin’s annexation attempts. Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – alongside Crimea – are Ukraine, as per their internationally recognised borders and as overwhelmingly expressed by Ukrainians.
Although we in the international community will never recognise the results of the sham referenda, and stand unified in condemnation of Russia’s attempted illegal annexation, this does not stop the suffering being experienced by Ukrainians every day in the temporarily Russian controlled areas – suffering solely caused by President Putin and his Armed Forces.
I draw attention to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant whose Director General, Ihor Murashov, was abducted by Russian forces earlier this week – a likely attempt at violent coercion as Russia attempts to transfer control of ZNPP to the Russian nuclear agency. This is also signalled through President Putin’s latest decree. We remain deeply concerned by the safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, which must be able to operate safely. Russian interference poses a threat to operational safety, the results of which could be catastrophic. Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is on Ukrainian sovereign territory. Russia must immediately return any and all seized Ukrainian nuclear facilities to the competent Ukrainian authorities.
Mr Chair, the abduction of Mr Murashov is not an isolated case. The UN has outlined the “unspeakable suffering and devastation” inflicted on Ukrainians in the temporarily Russian controlled areas, presenting a report to the UN Human Rights Council concluding that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Disturbing accounts have emerged of violations in detention, of both civilians and prisoners of war, while enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention had become “widespread” in territory temporarily controlled by Russia and its proxies. The report represents an important milestone on the path to accountability, and the UK will continue to do all it can to ensure those responsible are held to account.
Reports from the ground indicate that the overwhelming majority of the civilian population continue to experience acute human insecurity, pointing out Russia as the main cause. These reports highlight the absurdity of what Putin’s propagandists would have you believe. Ukrainians in these areas have endured brutal oppression at the hands of Russian forces, seen their schools and hospitals deliberately targeted, and witnessed entire cities destroyed. And as each Ukrainian town is liberated, new gruesome evidence emerges of further atrocities. Does this sound like the type of people that would welcome Russian soldiers with open arms, longing to be part of the Russian Federation? Russia’s brutal and primitive tactics are nothing new, however their use very clearly signals that Russia’s forces and proxy administrations can only enforce the attempted annexation by sowing fear and using brute force. In addition, on 30 September, Russian forces almost certainly struck a convoy south-east of Zaporizhzhia, killing 25 civilians according to local authorities. This comes after reports of a similar incident on civilian convoys in Kharkiv region.
No country in the modern age should be allowed to wage an aggressive war, attempting to illegally annex territories and re-draw international borders through force. We stand by the Ukrainian people, who have shown time and again their bravery and resilience in the face of unspeakable horrors inflicted upon them by Putin and his military. Collectively we must come together to condemn Russia’s actions and mitigate their impact; we cannot allow this behaviour to go unimpeded, or we will see this happen again. The UK will continue to assist Ukraine to defend itself, uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and recover full control over its territory.