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Russian attacks ‘a daily destructive pattern’ in Ukraine, Security Council hears

Rescue personnel search a bombed out building Kyiv. (file)
© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov
Rescue personnel search a bombed out building Kyiv. (file)

Russian attacks ‘a daily destructive pattern’ in Ukraine, Security Council hears

Peace and Security

Russian attacks on cities and towns across Ukraine, including intense and systematic targeting of the energy infrastructure, “have become a daily destructive pattern” in recent weeks, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Thursday. 

Miroslav Jenča, an Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav in the UN Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, warned that the escalation is a direct threat to international security.

Affected regions include Zaporizhzhia, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, and Donetsk.

Deadly trend 

We are appalled by the increase in civilian casualties as a result of these relentless attacks,” Mr. Jenča said. 

At least 126 civilians were killed and 478 injured in March – a 20 per cent increase over the previous month, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHRAt least 57 children were killed or injured in March alone, double the number from February. 

The deadly trend has continued this month, with daily drone, missile, rocket and artillery attacks reported across the country. The most recent - carried out overnight and into Thursday morning - targeted energy facilities, with some reportedly resulting in casualties, including fatalities. 

We are also witnessing hostilities spreading across Ukraine’s borders, with regular cross-border strikes into the Russian Federation,” he added. 

Nuclear fears 

Critical civilian infrastructure has been heavily affected by the escalation in attacks, he continued. 

Since March, more than two dozen energy facilities have been destroyed or damaged, including the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant, disrupting electricity and water supply for millions.   

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest and under Russian occupation since the early days of the war, was directly targeted in military action on Sunday - the first time since November 2022.  Three people were reportedly injured, and subsequent drone attacks were reported on Monday and Tuesday. 

‘A disturbing reminder’ 

The incident was “a disturbing reminder of the serious risks posed by this war”, he said, joining the call by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, for “the immediate cessation of such inexcusable attacks to avoid a major nuclear accident.”  

Mr. Jenča welcomed the renewal of the mandates of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for the country.  

Stressing the importance of their work to efforts towards accountability, he said the UN continues to urge Russia to fully cooperate and grant both OHCHR and independent monitors access to areas of Ukraine that it occupies. 

A wider threat 

Concluding his remarks, Mr. Jenča underlined the need for peace as “the current trajectory of escalation of this war is a direct threat to regional stability and international security. Most of all, it is an existential threat to the people of Ukraine.” 

He reiterated the UN General Assembly’s call supporting de-escalation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, as outlined in its resolution adopted last February. 

Situation will worsen 

OHCHR has verified that more than 10,810 civilians have been killed, and more than 20,550 injured, since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, though the actual numbers are likely to be higher

Continuing escalation of the hostilities will only worsen the already dire situation for millions in the country, said Edem Wosornu, Director of Operations and Advocacy with the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA

More than 14.6 million people, roughly 40 per cent of the population, require some form of humanitarian assistance.  Most, 56 per cent, are women and girls. 

The wave of attacks has also impacted humanitarians as the already challenging operational environment is further affected by more frequent and bigger aerial strikes.

‘Troubling pattern’ 

Ms. Wosornu said recent weeks have also revealed “a particularly troubling pattern in the sequencing of attacks.” 

As first responders or emergency services rush to the scene of attacks, a second wave of strikes target the same location, killing them and the wounded.  

“Attacks directed against the wounded and those helping them are prohibited by international humanitarian law. They are cruel, unconscionable, and must stop,” she said. 

Global food security 

Meanwhile, continuing attacks on the port city of Odesa remain a concern, given their impact on global food security.   

Reiterating that Ukraine’s Black Sea ports are an essential component of the global supply chains for grain and other key agricultural commodities, she warned that attacks could undo progress made in stabilizing grain markets and driving down prices.  

“With staggering levels of food insecurity persisting in parts of the world, safe navigation in the Black Sea and the protection and safe operation of ports and related civilian infrastructure must be assured,” she said. 

Ms. Wosornu upheld humanitarians’ commitment to support the people of Ukraine but stressed the need for more funding.  A $541 million plan for the country this year has so far received just $3.1 billion. 

Revenge strikes: Russia 

The “mass strikes” on Ukraine’s energy facilities in Ukraine were “a response to the Kyiv regime’s attempts to deal a blow to Russia's oil and gas facilities,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Council. 

“We have met our goals,” he continued, noting that “reserves can no longer be sent to where they need to go” and energy supply has been disrupted. 

He said that as in all previous cases, Russia did not threaten the civilian population, “despite assertion to the contrary by the Zelenskyy regime."

“What is getting in the way of western propaganda mongers are the views of ordinary Ukrainians, who are on social media calling on fellow Ukrainians not to fear Russian high-precision strikes but rather to fear Ukrainian air defences, which have been deployed in residential areas in violation of international humanitarian law,” he added.

Infrastructure deliberately attacked: Ukraine 

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said Russia has fired nearly 1,000 missiles, roughly 2,800 Shahed drones, and almost 7,000 guided aerial bombs on Ukrainian cities and villages since the beginning of the year. 

Their total explosive power exceeded nine kilotonnes and only three per cent hit military targets, while 97 per cent struck civilian infrastructure. 

“Russia deliberately targeted the critical energy infrastructure, as we heard today, in particular power generation.  Following the March attacks, 80 per cent of thermal power generation was destroyed,” he reported. 

Hydropower plants also sustained heavy damage, he added, noting that Russia had particularly targeted the Dniester and Kaniv plants “indicating its intention to replicate the catastrophe” caused last June, with the destruction of the Khakova Dam. 

“It should be a common task of the international community, not only Ukraine, to ensure that such large-scale environmental disasters no longer occur in Europe,” he said.