I thank Deputy Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo for her presentation, and the two representatives of civil society for their testimonies illustrating the devastating consequences of the war for the people of Ukraine.
On the occasion of its Independence Day, I would like to express Switzerland's support, solidarity and friendship with Ukraine and its people.
This is supposed to be a festive day. And yet it also marks a year and a half of the Russian military aggression. A year and a half of calls on Russia to de-escalate, cease all combat operations and withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory. Lastly, a year and a half of calls for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity to be respected. I would like to reiterate that Switzerland does not recognise the integration of Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation. This applies to Crimea as well as to the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
In addition to the many images and testimonies, we also have figures illustrating the disastrous consequences of the war. I would like to highlight three of them:
- According to figures from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), almost ten thousand civilians have been killed in the last eighteen months. We condemn the fact that waves of attacks continue to hit the country's cities and areas where civilians gather. In recent days, Russian strikes have again claimed the lives of civilians, including children.
- Indeed, children are particularly affected by the consequences of this war. Their lives are marked by constant instability and insecurity. Nearly two out of three children in Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes. Of particular concern are credible reports of deportations of children to Russia and forced transfers of children within the occupied territories.
- Added to this are the immense humanitarian needs. 17.6 million persons, almost half of Ukraine's current population, require humanitarian assistance and protection. We are grateful to the United Nations, Ukrainian institutions and volunteers, the Red Cross movement and other humanitarian actors for mobilising aid for these people. However, access to communities on the front line and to territories under Russian military control remains particularly difficult.
On this commemorative day, I repeat: Russia’s military aggression must stop.
We welcome the diplomatic efforts being made to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Charter. Such a peace must remain the guiding principle of our efforts.
As long as the fighting continues, the consequences for the population must be halted, as required by international humanitarian law and human rights. To mention just a few of the relevant obligations:
- Addressing the thousands of civilians killed and injured: civilians and civilian objects must be protected. The parties must respect international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities.
- Addressing the distress of children: The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must absolutely be respected, including the best interests of the child and their right to remain with their parents. The same applies to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law - in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention and the First Additional Protocol. Unlawful deportation and transfer are war crimes. Allegations of such acts must therefore be fully investigated. Switzerland takes note of the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in this regard and reiterates its support for the work of the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution.
- Addressing the humanitarian needs of millions of persons in Ukraine: humanitarian actors must have rapid, unimpeded and sustainable access to civilians in need throughout the country.
Switzerland will continue to advocate full respect for international law and a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine.
I thank you.