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Ukraine war: Path of further escalation ‘must be reversed’, Security Council hears

A pregnant woman sits outside what remains of her home after it caught fire during heaving shelling in Shybene, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Andriy Boiko
A pregnant woman sits outside what remains of her home after it caught fire during heaving shelling in Shybene, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.

Ukraine war: Path of further escalation ‘must be reversed’, Security Council hears

Peace and Security

Russia’s military escalation in Ukraine will lead to more suffering worldwide and must be reversed, said the UN’s political affairs chief on Friday, adding that further talk of possible nuclear weapons use could lead to a “dangerous spiral”.

Rosemary DiCarlo was briefing the Security Council alongside the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, who said that with each passing day, UN teams on the ground were facing “new dimensions to the emergency.”

“We are on a path of further escalation, which can only cause more suffering to the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world”, Ms. DiCarlo told ambassadors.

Nuclear plant ‘catastrophe’

Warning against further talk of any nonconventional weapons use on the battlefield, she singled out the risk posed by military activity around the Russian-held Zaphorizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Whether intentional, or accidental, any further damage, “could have catastrophic consequences. Any military activity against, from or near the site, must cease immediately.”

As of 18 October, official UN figures show 15,956 civilian casualties so far: 6,322 killed and 9,634 injured since Russia’s invasion of 24 February. At least 397 children have been killed in the war since 24 February. The actual figures are likely much higher, she said.

Targeting power stations

The Political Affairs chief said Russia’s new missile offensive targeting civilian infrastructure in towns and cities in recent days, since the explosion on the bridge to Crimea, was a concerning development.

These attacks threaten to expose millions of civilians to extreme hardship and even life-endangering conditions over the freezing winter, she said, reminding that under international humanitarian law, attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited.

Security Council Meets on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Security Council Meets on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine

Impunity cannot prevail

She said accountability for international crimes committed during the war, “remains crucial, as new allegations of atrocities have emerged in areas that have recently returned to Ukrainian Government control. We must not let impunity prevail.”

She noted the global impact of the war in Ukraine is “substantial and growing”, calling for the extension of the UN-led Black Sea Grain Initiative to export vital foodstuffs markets in need.

Extend grain deal exports

"To maintain food security worldwide, it is critical that the intiative be extended beyond November. It is equally critical that there be unimpeded access to Russian food and fertlizers.

"The United Nations will spare no effort to achieve greater food security for all populations.”

She said the General Assembly had been clear that so-called referendums and attempted annexations of southern and eastern regions in Ukraine by Russia, had “no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine.”

The Assembly has also expressed strong support for de-escalation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means, “with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and in accordance with the principles of the Charter.”

An end to the war based on the Charter and international law, was “the surest way to ensure that the tremendous suffering of civilians in Ukraine will cease.”

Security Council Meets on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Security Council Meets on Maintenance of Peace and Security of Ukraine

Humanitarian catastrophe

UN Resident Coordinator Denise Brown said Russia’s continuing offensive was now in its 239th day.

“The people of Ukraine are under tremendous stress. Mental health issues are emerging, and this will be one of the most devastating and long-lasting legacies of this war.

The sheer depth of the humanitarian catastrophe is staggering.”

Almost 18 million people – more than 40 per cent of the entire Ukrainian population – now need humanitarian assistance, with 14 million forced to flee their homes, including 6.2 million internally displaced, and nearly 7.7 million refugees.

She said according to UNICEF, some 5.7 million school children have been affected since the start of the war.

The World Health Organization says there have been over 630 verified attacks on healthcare, and with each passing day, “new dimensions” emerge.

Winter survival

Firstly, temperatures are plummeting and the destruction of civilian infrastructure has accelerated with the Russian missile attacks.

“The damage to power and thermal plants means that life will be even harder for the already vulnerable, including elderly people and those with disabilities. There is an increased risk of even more death in the months ahead because civilians may not have access to the essential services to survive.”

She told ambassadors that to address essential needs, the UN has developed a “separate, specific plan for the winter months, built at the oblast level in coordination with authorities.”

Humanitarian reach

Despite all the challenges, “we are helping people. Already this year, more than 590 humanitarian partners are now delivering critical assistance and protection countrywide. Many of them are national and local aid organizations, women-led organizations and volunteers who are on the forefront of these efforts. We must commend their leadership, bravery and commitment.”

Together, more than 13 million people have been reached by humanitarians across the country.

Secondly, she said newly accessible areas meant being able to reach new communities with humanitarian assistance and essential services, but in liberated areas of Kharkiv, Kherson and Donetsk, the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance contamination is hindering operations.

Trauma epidemic

Psychosocial trauma is emerging as a further dimension to civilian suffering, with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and WHO reporting that at least 10 million people will need psychosocial support.

“This includes women and girls suffering sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, children hearing warning sirens daily, families who have been separated, or people just trying to survive every day.

“In areas where the Government of Ukraine has regained control, particularly in rural areas, civilians who have witnessed or experienced terrible violations and ongoing hostilities, are among the most most at risk."

Bridge too far

She said humanitarian access to those most in need, remains a consistent challenge. She said regular requests continue to be made to cross the frontline, but agreement has been elusive.

Operationally, she told the Council, we are ready to move with interagency convoys and aid personnel into non-Government controlled areas held by Russia and their allies.

“The consequences of not delivering assistance to the estimated millions of people in these areas are dire, particularly with the winter months already upon us.

"We must be able to alleviate the human suffering caused by this war.”