Editor’s note: Here’s a quick snapshot of what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the UN’s perch.
One year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Last Friday marked one year since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. There were several meetings at UN headquarters during the week to mark the somber anniversary.
On Friday, the Security Council held a high-level meeting on the conflict. The Ukrainian foreign minister was defiant, saying that Ukraine would continue to resist Russia’s attack and would win. “Putin will lose much sooner than he thinks,” Dmytro Kuleba said.
Ukraine will resist and win, says the foreign minister to the UN
Support remains strong for Ukraine
On Thursday, the international community reaffirmed its strong support for Ukraine and adopted a resolution calling for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” as soon as possible in Ukraine, in line with the principles of the UN Charter. Only six countries voted along with Russia to reject the motion.
At the UN, Ukraine finds strong support a year into conflict
POW recounts ‘3,000 hours of Russian hell’
Russia’s violation of the human rights of Ukrainians in the conflict, particularly of the thousands of children abducted to Russia and the treatment of Ukrainian prisoners, was the subject of a meeting on Wednesday. Ukrainian Marine Artem Dyblenko said at the conclusion of his 125 days – or 3,000 hours – as a Russian prisoner of war that he endured physical, moral and psychological abuse. “Three thousand hours of Russian hell,” he said.
At the UN, former Ukrainian prisoners of war plead for justice
Accident figures have been released, but are likely to be low
The United Nations human rights agency published new figures on Tuesday on the number of casualties since the war began a year ago. Their monitors have confirmed that at least 8,006 civilians have been killed and 13,287 injured in the past 12 months, but they acknowledge that the true toll is much higher.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is taking a devastating toll on civilians
While Ukraine has been in the spotlight this week, the world body has also been dealing with other crises and situations.
– Humanitarians have worked tirelessly to help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. The death toll has risen to 47,000 and thousands are still homeless after the February 6 earthquake. Another quake on Monday killed several people. The UN is coordinating humanitarian assessments in affected parts of Turkey to determine what is needed. In Syria, 368 aid trucks have passed into opposition-held parts of northwestern Syria since February 9, when crossings became usable again. A quick UN appeal for nearly $400 million to cover needs over the next three months is nearly 40% funded, while a $1 billion appeal for Turkey is just over 7% funded. The UN says it has received no money for key areas, including temporary support for settlements and debris removal.
– The UN Security Council expressed “deep concern and dismay” on Monday over Israel’s announcement that it plans to expand settlements and retroactively legalize nine existing ones. It is the first time in more than six years that the 15-nation council has spoken out on settlements, mainly because of the US veto power, which traditionally acts to protect ally Israel at the UN. It comes at a time of rising tensions and violence between the two sides. At least 58 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of the year.
– The Council also met on Monday to discuss the latest ballistic missile provocations from North Korea. US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she would seek consensus in the Security Council to respond to the launches, despite earlier opposition from China and Russia. The split among the council’s permanent members over what to do about Pyongyang has prevented new action. The US and its Western allies, plus Japan and South Korea, want to see tougher sanctions on North Korea, but China and Russia say it is a “dead end”.
– The UN is helping victims of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which killed at least 7 people in eastern Madagascar this week. Humanitarians help the government by providing food, water and other aid. The UN says at least 79,000 people were affected by the cyclone.
– On Tuesday, the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said three Senegalese peacekeepers were killed and five others wounded in central Mali when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device. The head of the mission, El-Ghassim Wane, said this was yet another tragic illustration of the complexity of the operational environment and the sacrifices made to restore peace in the country. Mali is one of the UN’s most dangerous peacekeeping missions.
“Life is a living hell for the people of Ukraine.”
– Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Security Council meeting to mark the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. He has repeatedly called for peace in line with the UN Charter and international law.
What we’re looking at next week
On Monday, in Geneva, the UN will convene a high-level pledging event for Yemen with the governments of Sweden and Switzerland. Despite an ease in the fighting, almost two-thirds of the population is expected to be in need of humanitarian assistance. The country remains one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies the UN is working on, with aid agencies helping 11 million Yemenis every month by 2022.