I thank Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo for her sober assessment of the situation. I would also like to welcome the participation of the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, H.E. Ms. Emine Dzhaparova, and Poland, H.E. Mr. Wojciech Gerwel, in this meeting, as well as the representatives of other delegations.
For the population of Kyiv and many other parts of Ukraine, this year has begun as the last one ended: with a large wave of Russian air strikes. At the same time, intense fighting continues, especially in the East of Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the people who are suffering from this war, wherever they are in the world.
Russia's large-scale military aggression against Ukraine is a serious violation of international law and the UN Charter. Switzerland strongly condemns this violation and fully supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate the situation, to cease all combat operations and to withdraw without delay its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine, including the declared annexed territories. As an occupying power, Russia must respect its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. Switzerland calls for rapid and unhindered access of humanitarian aid throughout Ukraine, including in areas occupied by Russia. We also condemn the involvement of Belarus in Russia’s military aggression.
The civilian population pays far too high a price in armed conflicts. Their protection is a humanitarian imperative. Switzerland stresses that all parties must ensure the protection of the civilian population as well as of persons hors de combat and respect international humanitarian law and human rights. However, in Ukraine, since February 2022, thousands of civilians have died or have been injured. The Ukrainian population has been subjected and is still facing horrific situations, including acts that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine considers to be war crimes and human rights violations. Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes, the vast majority of them women and children. They have often been exposed to high risks such as human trafficking and sexual violence.
In addition to all this, in recent months there have been recurrent Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. Without electricity, the functioning of essential services such as hospitals and water supply systems is hampered.
In view of this, I reiterate today Switzerland's call for a halt to all attacks on civilians and persons hors de combat, on civilian property and on essential infrastructure.
We must take a step forward towards peaceful, just and lasting solutions. This includes commitment to diplomatic solutions, progress in the reconstruction process, action on accountability and victims' rights, and redoubling efforts on nuclear safety and security. We must not forget that this war has consequences far beyond the European continent. The burden of more expensive food, uncertain energy supplies and the threat of a nuclear incident weighs on the whole world. We share the Secretary-General's conviction: “This is not a time to sit on the sidelines, it is a time for resolve, determination, and – yes – even hope.” Switzerland supports, including as host state in Geneva, the good offices of the Secretary-General and his unwavering commitment to advance peace.
We will continue to provide humanitarian aid in Ukraine, for example by supplying mobile heating devices. We support justice for victims, including by promoting the documentation and investigation of crimes committed against them. And we are committed to a participatory and transparent reconstruction process under Ukrainian leadership, as set out in the Lugano Principles.
Last year, war returned to Europe with full force. As members of this Council, it is our responsibility to do our utmost to ensure that this year is a year of just peace, in accordance with international law, in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world.
I thank you.