Mr. President, 

I would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General Jenča for his presentation. 

Colleagues who have already spoken have said so, but it's important to repeat the truth: Almost a year ago already, Russia held so-called "referendums" in the occupied regions of Ukraine, contrary to applicable international norms and the relevant provisions of Ukrainian law, and despite urgent calls from the international community to desist from doing so. As the armed conflict raged, Ukrainians in these regions were forced to vote in an environment that was described by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine as one of "fear and coercion".

Our position was clear a year ago, and it remains clear today, and the Assistant Secretary-General has just reminded us of this too: the annexation of Ukrainian territories declared by Russia following these votes constitutes a serious violation of international law. Switzerland condemns this violation and does not recognize the integration of the Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation. Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as Crimea, are part of Ukraine.

As we meet here, actions are underway to try to further cement these illegal facts and legitimize military control. Switzerland rejects the decision of Russia's Central Electoral Commission to hold local elections in the occupied territories. In the meantime, these so-called elections have begun in occupied Ukrainian regions, without any valid legal basis. Switzerland will not recognize the results of these illegal elections, which are taking place in a context that prevents any free and fair election.  

Mr President, 

Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, in particular through the prohibition of the use of force and the acquisition of territory by force, are fundamental principles enshrined in our United Nations Charter. By adopting the resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine last October by a very large majority, the General Assembly - as many others have mentioned - defended these principles, which form the basis of our multilateral order and relations between the Member States of the United Nations. 

If these principles are not respected, it is above all the population that suffers.

As when, two days ago, a devastating attack on a market in Kostiantynivka in the middle of the afternoon killed and injured dozens of people. In the south of the country, schools, homes and port and grain infrastructure have been damaged as a result of the Russian strikes.

Switzerland thus urgently reiterates the legal imperative to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts. The International Commission of Inquiry has brought to light reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, including in occupied areas. To date, the Commission has visited Ukraine more than ten times and has provided detailed reports, most recently last week. Many of the violations found may constitute war crimes. The perpetrators of such crimes must all be held accountable.

The parties to the conflict have an obligation to respect international humanitarian law and human rights. In the territories under its control, Russia must further respect its specific obligations as an occupying power. In particular, it must respect Ukrainian legislation in force. Rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid must be guaranteed to all civilians in need, including in occupied areas. 

Once again, we call on Russia to refrain from any attempt to alter Ukraine's internationally recognized borders, to reverse decisions taken to this end and to finally withdraw its troops from the whole of Ukrainian territory. As my colleague from Ghana said, "there is no alternative to winning the peace of Ukraine".

I thank you.