Thank you, President.
As we have heard today, over 21 million people now need humanitarian assistance as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion: this is over 50% of Ukraine’s pre-war population.
Of these people, over 5 million are displaced internally, and another 8 million have fled to Europe as refugees. This is the most significant displacement seen anywhere in the world for decades.
In areas under Russian control, approximately 4 million people are in acute need of humanitarian protection and assistance.
These figures demonstrate the devastating impact of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. But we must not forget that behind every single number in these millions is a person, a brother or a sister, a mother or a father, whose normal life has been obliterated by Russia’s aggression.
Mr President, I want to focus on the situation in Bakhmut. The city has been subject to near constant shelling, with civilian infrastructure, such as schools, water and energy and health facilities taking significant damage. There are not many buildings left standing and the humanitarian consequences of Russia’s brutal assault are extreme.
Humanitarian assistance into the city stopped mid-February when the fighting intensified and it became too dangerous for most aid to get in. Nearly 4,000 civilians remain, hiding in basements. These people are severely vulnerable – in particular children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
Only a limited number of local volunteer groups have been able to distribute assistance, at great risk to their personal safety.
We therefore call for unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to the people of Ukraine, including in Bakhmut. Russia must stop denying access and must cease its attacks on critical infrastructure and residential areas. Ukrainians must be allowed to seek safety wherever they choose.
President, as USG Griffiths made clear, the impact of Russia’s actions are still being felt around the world. Commodity prices are up and 345 million people face crisis levels of food insecurity with close to 50 million people one step away from famine. This is the global cost of Russia’s actions.
The UK strongly supports the efforts of the UN in partnership with Türkiye to continue bringing Ukrainian grain to the world markets.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative is vital – the world needs Ukrainian grain.
Everything should be done to tackle global food insecurity and ensure food assistance reaches those that need it most. We call on Russia to respect the terms of the deal and the latest 120 day extension.
Finally, President, the UK is fully committed to holding Russia to account for its illegal actions in Ukraine. The International Criminal Court’s announcement today is an important step for ensuring those responsible are held accountable.
Barbaric atrocities have been committed during this conflict, including against children. It is right that these should be independently investigated, and those accountable face justice.