Ambassador Bush says there can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities, such as Russia’s attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure.

Neil Bush

Thank you Mr Chair. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of international law, including the UN Charter, and has shown blatant disregard for OSCE principles. This statement will focus on Russia’s failure to adhere to international law, including international humanitarian law. The same laws that Russia helped to create and to which it voluntarily signed up.

Two Moscow Mechanism Reports, ODIHR’s Interim Reports, and weekly statements at this Council have documented a clear pattern of human rights abuses and violations of international law. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said last month, “severe violations” of international humanitarian law have become “shockingly routine” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I will focus today on three specific areas of international law: safeguarding civilians; the treatment of prisoners of war; and protection of places of worship.

Firstly, as Russia is well aware, international humanitarian law prohibits attacks that do not distinguish between military and civilian targets. It also forbids the infliction of suffering, injury, or destruction not actually necessary for military purposes. Attacks like the one on the residential buildings in Sloviansk on Saturday, which reportedly left at least 15 civilians dead – including a two-year-old – and at least 24 others injured. And attacks like the one in Suihurivka, on Orthodox Easter Sunday, which reportedly killed two teenagers.

We also condemn the ongoing attacks and endangerment of critical civilian infrastructure. The recent landmine explosions near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) are a reminder of the potentially severe consequences for nuclear safety and security. We support the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to help strengthen nuclear safety and security in Ukraine, including the Director General’s leadership on efforts at the ZNPP.

Secondly, as Russia knows, under international humanitarian law, all prisoners of war should be treated humanely. They should be afforded appropriate medical treatment and basic necessities, and be protected from humiliating and degrading treatment. We welcome the exchanges last week of over 300 prisoners of war between Ukraine and Russia. We are appalled by the recent video, which appears to depict Russian forces executing a prisoner of war. Executing prisoners of war is a war crime.

We also call on Russia to immediately release all illegally detained persons, including the Special Monitoring Mission national staff. These individuals remain detained simply for carrying out their official duties, mandated by all participating States including Russia.

And thirdly, international humanitarian law provides extra protection to places of worship and other cultural property. Attacks like the ones on Orthodox Easter Sunday, on three churches in the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Kherson. As the governor of Dnipro oblast said, it seems that “nothing is sacred” for the Russian armed forces.

Mr Chair, we need accountability, not more lies, disinformation and destruction from the Kremlin. No matter what the Russian leadership says, obligations under international humanitarian law are non-negotiable. G7 Foreign Ministers reasserted our position earlier this week: there can be no impunity for war crimes and other atrocities, such as Russia’s attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure. We remain committed to holding those responsible to account, including through support to the International Criminal Court.

Mr Chair, the Russian force’s barbarity has only strengthened Ukrainian resolve and UK support. The way to end this war remains simple. Russia must withdraw all Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine immediately and unconditionally. Those responsible for violations of international law must be held to account. We will not forget. We will not tire. We will support Ukraine for as long as it takes to achieve a just and lasting peace. Thank you Mr Chair.

Published 20 April 2023