I would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Kiari for his statement.
Since Russia's decision last week not to extend the Black Sea Initiative, the people of Odesa have had to endure nights that no one should have to live through. Switzerland is dismayed by the sharp increase in Russian attacks on the Black Sea coast, which have caused civilian casualties and destroyed homes, port infrastructure and grain silos. This Sunday, several important cultural sites were damaged in the center of Odesa - an area protected by the World Heritage Convention - following another Russian attack, including, as we have heard, the Orthodox Transfiguration Cathedral.
Switzerland condemns this latest series of attacks in the context of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine. I would like to make three observations to this regard:
Firstly: Over the last ten days, we have witnessed an increase in attacks directly affecting civilians and civilian infrastructure. We recall that indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks are prohibited by international humanitarian law and must be stopped. This also applies to humanitarian infrastructure, including personnel and medical supplies benefitting from special protection. In this context, Switzerland deplores the damages recently caused during a Russian artillery attack to a cultural center serving as humanitarian facility in Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.
Secondly: Attacks on areas protected by the World Heritage Convention represent severe damage to Ukraine's cultural heritage. UNESCO has counted 270 cultural sites damaged since February 2022. Switzerland shares the fears of the Secretary General and UNESCO that the Russian military aggression represents a growing threat to Ukrainian culture. Not just walls are collapsing; a cultural heritage is under threat. We call for strict compliance with the obligations of international law concerning the protection of cultural property, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. We also recall that the intentional destruction of cultural property and sites may constitute a war crime, as provided for in the Rome Statute and as reiterated by this Council in resolution 2347 (2017).
Thirdly: Russia's decision not to extend the Black Sea Initiative and its attacks on Ukrainian port cities have an impact beyond Ukraine. We reiterate our deep dismay at the potentially disastrous consequences for global food security and call on Russia to reverse its decision. The attacks on port facilities, including on the Danube near the Romanian border, and the threats to civilian shipping, present a dangerous potential for escalation. We urge restraint and express our support for the efforts of the Secretary General and others, including the Turkish government, to facilitate free access to world markets for food products and fertilisers.
While the strikes continue in the south of Ukraine, the population is committed to rebuilding its cities, its country and its future. We hope that these efforts will enable Odesa to rise from the ashes, as the Transfiguration Cathedral has done in the past. Switzerland reaffirms its solidarity and support for Ukraine as it continues the process of its reconstruction.