United Nations humanitarian chief says Russia’s “ongoing” attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as temperatures plunge below freezing have created a “new level of distress” in a war he called “pointless” .
Martin Griffiths, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday about the toll of “widespread death, displacement and suffering” since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
He said the situation has been exacerbated by Moscow’s recent attacks on critical utilities, which have left millions of people without access to heat, electricity and water and “added a new dangerous dimension to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war”.
More than 14 million people have now been forcibly displaced from their homes in Ukraine, including 7.8 million who have sought refuge elsewhere in Europe, Griffiths told the council.
A total of 17,023 civilians have been killed as of Dec. 1, including 419 children, he added, citing data from the UN human rights office and warning “the real toll is much higher.”
There have been at least 715 attacks on healthcare facilities.
“As a result of the attacks on civilian infrastructure, people are deprived of health care and children of education. In Ukraine today, citizens’ ability to survive is under attack,” Griffiths said.
The UN Security Council has met dozens of times on Ukraine since February, but has been unable to take any meaningful action. Russia is one of five members of the 15-member body with veto power – along with China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
‘Trying to break the will of Ukraine’
Some diplomats urged peace talks on Tuesday.
“Given the disarray and desperation of the population already weakened by months of war, it is not enough to hold more and more meetings to inform the international community without ever offering a real alternative to war,” said UN vice ambassador Edwige Koumby Missambo from Gabon. encounter.
“It’s time to negotiate the end of the war,” she said.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzya spoke of Moscow’s “willingness” to begin negotiations, but only if the “root causes” that led to the invasion are addressed.
Moscow initially said its mission was to “disarm” Ukraine so it could not pose a threat to Russia, but Kiev and its allies believe Russia’s true intention is to overthrow Ukraine’s pro-European government.
“Ukraine needs peace and Ukraine wants peace. More than any other country. It is our territory that has been invaded,” said Ukrainian UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya.
“Please keep this in mind whenever Moscow tries to convince us that it is not the aggressor, but the victim who opposes peace efforts.”
Russia has been rocked this week by drone strikes that hit three air bases within its borders, with President Vladimir Putin convening his Security Council in the wake of the attacks.
Kiev has not directly claimed responsibility for the attacks, nor has it criticized the action, which reportedly killed three people and damaged long-range bombers and a fuel depot, according to reports from Russia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that the US had “neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to attack inside Russia”.
Washington has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in military equipment since the war began and lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to provide at least $800 million in additional security aid by 2023.
“Everything we do, everything the world does to support Ukraine is to support Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a briefing.
At the UN Security Council, Nebenzya claimed that such arms shipments meant Western countries had made a diplomatic arrangement in Ukraine. He described the conflict as a “continuous war of the West against Russia”.
In turn, US deputy UN ambassador Lisa Carty said the “escalating dams on Ukraine’s infrastructure” were evidence that Putin had “no genuine interest in negotiations or meaningful diplomacy”.
Officials in Kiev have warned that Moscow’s latest missile strikes, which occurred just as damaged plants were being repaired, would mean another emergency blackout for millions of people.
“He (Putin) is trying to break Ukraine’s will to fight by bombing and freezing its citizens into submission,” Carty said.