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UN chief condemns Russian attacks against Ukrainian cities and towns

Destroyed buildings in Odesa, a port city in southern Ukraine. (file)
© UNOCHA/Alina Basiuk
Destroyed buildings in Odesa, a port city in southern Ukraine. (file)

UN chief condemns Russian attacks against Ukrainian cities and towns

Peace and Security

The UN Secretary-General on Friday condemned in the strongest terms a massive aerial attack by Russia on Ukrainian towns and cities, which left at least 30 civilians dead and over 160 injured.

Overnight, Russian armed forces reportedly launched 158 missiles and drones in several waves targeting locations across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, Cherkasy, Odesa and Zaporizhzhia regions.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure “violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must end immediately”.

He also extended his deepest condolences to the families of all the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured, the statement added.

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Security Council discusses situation in Ukraine

Also on Friday, the Security Council held an urgent meeting on the situation in Ukraine, where members were briefed by Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

Since the Department’s last briefing to Council members on 6 December, “we have continued to see daily reports of attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns, including on critical civilian and energy infrastructure, with many resulting civilian casualties,” he said.

During the Christmas period alone, attacks on the city of Kherson reportedly killed several people and wounded many others, while apartment buildings, a medical facility and a railway station packed with more than a hundred civilians awaiting evacuation, were struck.

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the overnight large-scale missile and drone attack by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian cities and towns across the country, including against civilian and critical infrastructure. The attack reportedly resulted in at least 24 civilians killed and more than 134 injured.

Attacks against civilians must stop immediately

Mr. Khiari reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s condemnation of the attacks on cities and towns across Ukraine.

“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” he stressed.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified some 1,888 civilian deaths and a further 6,334 injuries in 2023, bringing the total casualties since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 to 29,113.

The actual figures are likely considerably higher.

2023 ending as it began

Mr. Khiari went on to note that, tragically, 2023 is ending as it began – with devastating violence against the people of Ukraine.

“Once again, Ukrainians are forced to spend the holidays seeking shelter, clearing the rubble, and burying the dead, amidst freezing temperatures,” he said.

“As we look to the New Year in the hope of avoiding further escalation, we recall the Secretary-General’s appeal to all concerned to do their part to help lay the foundations for sustainable peace in Ukraine – in accordance with the UN Charter, international law, and resolutions of the General Assembly,” he added.

Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari briefs the Security Council on the situation in Ukraine.