Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On February 24, the world watched in horror as Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign democratic state. Yesterday was International Children’s Day – I don’t even know where to begin to express the heartbreaking and heartbreaking impact this devastating Russian invasion is having on the most vulnerable in our society – children. The images on display at the Museum of Military History here in Vienna for the next two weeks – with our thanks to the Polish Presidency – tell the story better than any speech or statement, just like hearing the voices of Ukrainian refugee children in across Europe.
Tomorrow marks a grim milestone – 100 days since this horrific assault began. 100 days, during which Russia needlessly murdered thousands of men, women and children. 100 days of attacks on buildings, schools and hospitals, Russian distortions, denials and disinformation. The number of Ukrainians dead, injured, displaced, deported and seeking refuge is on the rise, and Russia hopes the world will tire of hearing about it. But, Mr. President, our brave Ukrainian friends have rather galvanized themselves in their fight for peace and freedom, and we continue to stand together. We will not get tired. Today I want to talk about responsibility.
The UK has made a clear commitment to support Ukraine’s investigation and prosecution of conflict-related crimes, including the deployment of war crimes experts to the region and the release of additional funds to help the International Criminal Court in its investigations. Last week the UK, along with the US and the EU, announced the creation of the Atrocious Crimes Advisory Group, a mechanism to support the war crimes units of the Attorney General’s Office. Ukraine by ensuring effective coordination of our respective support. accountability efforts. We are determined to hold accountable those responsible for atrocities, including military commanders and others in Putin’s regime.
Mr. Chairman, the OSCE plays a clear and important role in ensuring accountability. We have all heard of the human impact of Russia’s actions in the April 13 Moscow Mechanism Report: deportations, sieges, targeted attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the impact on vulnerable groups. It was the first independent report under the auspices of an international organization and clarified the facts on the ground between February 24 and April 1. It confirmed our concerns, including clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces and uncovered credible evidence of war crimes. We must act on the conclusions of the experts and we must recognize that Russia’s war of aggression has not stopped since the publication of the last report. Bucha, Irprin, Borodyanka, the shelling of the Kramatorsk railway station, Mariupol and the renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine led to new allegations of atrocities. We must ensure that we continue to support an independent and impartial investigation into the facts, with the aim of bringing those responsible to justice.
We must also continue to support the work of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which monitors the impact on civilians and prisoners of war of human rights violations and international humanitarian law. We remain grateful to Director Mecacci and ODIHR for their expertise, impartiality and objectivity in investigating and documenting ongoing abuses. This is vitally important work to hold perpetrators accountable. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently said, “accountability is the cornerstone of respect for human rights”. We were deeply saddened to learn that a French journalist was killed while covering the war, after the vehicle he was traveling in was hit by Russian shrapnel in Severodonetsk. We also condemn the murder of journalists and media professionals who have lost their lives revealing the truth about war crimes committed.
Mr President, we could hear today from the Russian delegation. If we do, it will likely be a continuation of a story we’ve heard over and over again. We have heard many attempts to systematically spread false narratives to justify its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The simple truth is that the Russian government is responsible for this horrible war, which violates the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of the OSCE. They are responsible for trying to dismantle the OSCE presence in Ukraine. They are responsible for the increase in the number of civilians dead, injured, displaced, deported and seeking refuge. They are responsible for growing food insecurity. They are responsible for the heartbreaking impact this war is having on children. There are human beings behind this tragedy – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends – the UK stands with them. We will not get tired. We will make the Russian government pay the price for its actions, and we will hold it accountable for its crimes, for as long as it takes.