Ambassador Neil Holland says that Russia is attacking Ukrainian ports and critical national infrastructure in an attempt to strangle the Ukrainian economy and deprive Ukraine of electricity, heat and water.

Neil Holland

Thank you, Mr Chair. Last week a Russian missile struck a civilian ship entering the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa. A 43-year-old harbour pilot was killed, while three Filipino crewmembers and a port worker were injured. Once again, the UK condemns Russia’s unprovoked attacks on Ukraine’s port and grain infrastructure. Such attacks achieve nothing but destruction and devastation.

Since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, Russia has conducted hundreds of such strikes against Ukraine’s ports. This targeted and relentless campaign of air strikes is not an unfortunate consequence of war; it is a clear attempt by Russia to strangle the Ukrainian economy and prevent Ukraine from exporting its grain, which is crucial to global food security. These attacks on the world’s food supply show the maliciousness of Russia’s intent, where they are willing to use food as a weapon of war. However, Russia’s attempts to hinder Ukraine’s exports will not succeed. We continue to work with Ukraine and our partners to ensure Ukraine is able to export its grain, including through the Danube and Ukraine’s humanitarian corridor.

Mr Chair, not only is Russia continuing its targeting of Ukraine’s ports, but as we anticipated, and with temperatures falling, Russian strikes on other areas of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure have also intensified. Russia is repeating its strategy from last winter to instil terror, break resolve and deprive Ukrainians of electricity, heat, water, and vital medical services. Without these necessities life becomes unsustainable. However, last winter, Russia failed to shutdown Ukraine’s power grid, and with the continued support of UK and international partners, Ukraine can prove resilient once again.

Over the last year, the UK has provided over 1000 generators and solar power units to help the Ukrainian people avoid dangerous blackouts and freezing conditions this winter. My Prime Minister announced at the European Political Community (EPC) meeting in Granada last month, an additional £10 million fund for winter resilience and recovery in Ukraine. The UK also provided a £92 million air defence package, which has strengthened Ukraine’s ability to protect its critical national infrastructure.

The UK is also proud to play a major role in contributing to Ukraine’s energy security, by supporting the supply of vital fuel for Ukraine’s nuclear power plants through a £192 million UK Export Finance loan guarantee. This will strengthen Ukraine’s energy security both in the short term, to enable Ukraine to endure immediate Russian attacks, and in the long term, to secure Ukraine’s independence from Russian nuclear fuel.

As we approach winter, the unity of the international community will endure. The UK will continue to provide vital humanitarian support to those most in need. At the EPC my Prime Minister also announced a £34 million fund for UN agencies and charities providing shelter and warm clothing, to support Ukraine through the winter months.

Mr Chair, the Ukrainian people continue to show an unbreakable spirit and determination in the face of such appalling aggression, but let me reiterate again, that they will not face this threat alone. As my Prime Minister said again this week, ‘We will stand with Ukraine until they prevail’. Thank you.

Published 16 November 2023