Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to Mr. Samoilenko for briefing the Permanent Council today on the devastating consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion on Kherson and its people. It is with heavy hearts that we continue to hear of civilian deaths and injuries; children left without parents and parents who lose their children. We share the pain of the people of Ukraine as they see their once vibrant cities ruthlessly destroyed.
The international community has witnessed Russia’s brazen but futile attempts to assert its control over Ukrainian sovereign territory temporarily under the control of the Russian military.
In places like Kherson, Russia installed illegitimate pro-Kremlin administrations. These self-proclaimed Kremlin proxies do not represent the brave Ukrainian citizens under their alleged control, nor do they act to meet their basic needs. Instead, many civilians cannot access essential health services or basic necessities such as electricity and water. In Mariupol, the WHO warned that infectious diseases, especially cholera, were at risk of spreading. In Kherson, residents had to scavenge the remains of those killed in the streets, and in Skadvosk, people had to organize to prevent looting, with many elderly people not receiving their pensions.
We have also heard today the horrific stories of civilians who have suffered directly at the hands of the Russian invaders. The Report of the Moscow Mechanism of April 12, said credible evidence had been uncovered suggesting that violations of even the most basic human rights, namely the right to life; prohibition of torture; and other inhuman and degrading treatment, had taken place. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine are just two bodies that have documented cases of rape, torture, forcible confinement, forced evictions, enforced disappearances and summary executions in areas controlled by Russia.
Russia has embarked on a systematic policy in temporarily controlled areas to erase Ukrainian culture, history and identity. Russia has simplified the process of issuing passports for residents of the southern Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. Ukrainians are being denied the right to use their own currency, with the attempted forced replacement of the hryvnia with the Russian ruble. Teachers were brought from Russia to impose the Russian curriculum on school children in Kherson. This systematic attempt is not new and follows a pattern. We know that in illegally annexed Crimea, Russia forced Ukrainians to assume Russian citizenship or lose their property, access to health care and jobs.
In addition, Russia has implemented a severe crackdown on free speech and media freedom in these regions. Their objective is clear: to completely control the media space. In Kherson, access to Ukrainian television channels is blocked; Internet service providers are replaced by Russian providers; and residents of Kherson are encouraged to listen to pro-Russian radio stations for information. Disinformation spreads through these channels. And this policy of the Russian government is accompanied by a policy that sees the disappearance, detention and abduction of Ukrainian journalists or their relatives for having dared to speak and expose the truth about Russia’s shameful invasion of its neighbor sovereign and democratic.
Mr President, we support all Ukrainians who have courageously demonstrated their sovereign will to resist and to remain an integral part of Ukraine. It is the right of the Ukrainian people – and the right of the Ukrainian people alone – to determine their own future. This is not President Putin’s right. And it is increasingly clear that the Russian government and the Russian military cannot break or subjugate Ukraine. Ukraine has shown the most immense determination, bravery and valor over the past 106 days. Ukraine has shown the world that it will triumph in its battle for freedom. And we must be determined to provide the international support that Ukraine needs and deserves. The UK will be resolute and steadfast in our support – to ensure Ukraine wins its battle for self-determination and Russian forces withdraw. We will do everything we can to make Ukraine successful.