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Security Council hears of ‘unimaginable suffering’ of Ukrainian people, 18 months into war

Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, was briefing a meeting of the Security Council, which also coincided with the 32nd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.

“I would like to congratulate the Ukrainian people today and take this occasion to stress, once again, that the UN’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within it internationally recognized borders is unwavering,” she said.

“Recognizing the growing calls around the world for an end to the war, I reiterate the UN’s commitment to support all meaningful efforts to achieve a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine, in line with the UN Charter, international law and relevant General Assembly resolutions.”

Since the outbreak of hostilities on 24 February 2022, the conflict has had devastating consequences for civilians. The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has confirmed at least 9,444 civilian deaths, including 545 children, and about 17,000 injuries, among them 1,156 children.

However, some estimates put the total number of fatalities – civilians and military, on both sides – at half a million.

Reversing gains against hunger

“And there is no end in sight to this war, launched in violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law. Indeed, since Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative on July 17, the fighting has only escalated,” Ms. DiCarlo told ambassadors.

She emphasized the impact on global food security, noting that attacks targeting grain facilities risk undoing progress against hunger.

“The Secretary-General continues to stress the importance of food and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine to global food security and to advocate for the resumption of the Black Sea Initiative,” Ms. DiCarlo said.

Environmental and cultural toll

The senior UN official also outlined the conflict’s impact on the environment and on Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has verified extensive damage to some 284 cultural sites. Among them were 120 religious sites, including the Historic Centre of Odesa, an area protected under the World Heritage Convention, she said.

“Another recent UN assessment on the impact of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam concluded that the breach caused a far-reaching environmental disaster, the scale of which might not be clear for decades to come,” Ms. DiCarlo added.

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Resilience of Ukrainian women

In spite of bearing the brunt of the conflict, including representing the overwhelming majority of the 6.2 million people forced to move to other countries, Ukrainian women “stood at the forefront” of humanitarian response, Ms. DiCarlo said.

“Women-led civil society organizations were among the first to respond to the full-scale invasion,” she said, noting UN support to civil society organizations assisting women and girls inside Ukraine and those displaced in Moldova.

Children have also not been spared, with several attacks on schools and health facilities, she added.

Impact on Russian civilians

Ms. DiCarlo also voiced concern over the possible impact on civilians of the shelling of Russian border communities and drone attacks deep inside Russia, including Moscow.

“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure – wherever they may occur – are indefensible and strictly prohibited under international law,” she said.

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