Address by President Charles Michel at the UN Security Council on peace and security in Ukraine

European Union, 2020European Union, 2020

First of all, let me thank you for organising this meeting and for giving me the occasion to take the floor.

I was born in Belgium in the 1970s. At school, we studied the great European artists. Names like Victor Hugo, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Picasso, Goethe. But we also studied masterpieces by names like Dostoevsky, Kandinsky, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and others. Great Russian artists from Russia’s great culture. They have influenced and inspired my own education. But today, Russia’s savagery stands in stark contrast to the heritage of these brilliant artists.

A few months ago, I was in Borodyanka where atrocities were committed by Russian soldiers. War crimes. Crimes against humanity. These crimes must be, and will be, punished to hold accountable those responsible. We need evidence. And this is why we are now helping to collect the evidence of these crimes. Impunity is not an option, and we welcome the International Court of Justice provisional measures ordering Russia to suspend military operations immediately. We fully support the investigation of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the work of the independent Commission of Inquiry. And the European Union is assisting the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and Civil Society to collect evidence of war crimes.

Women, peace, security. This is a critical and timely subject. Two years ago, Secretary-General Guterres called to end violence both on the battlefield and in homes. Yet as we speak, we hear reports of Russian forces wielding sexual violence as a weapon of war. Sexual violence is a war crime. A crime against humanity. A tactic of torture, terror and repression. Shameful acts in a shameful war. And this must be exposed to the light of day and prosecuted without impunity.

This war has also caused millions to flee their homes and seek refuge outside Ukraine, mostly women and children. I met many of them when I went to Ukraine, when I went to Poland, when I went to Moldova. And they are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers. We, the EU, are committed to protecting them and to keeping them safe, without any discrimination.

I have listened carefully to what has been said by some of you around the table.  We intend to provide education, health and access to the labour market. And we are also working to eradicate trafficking, to protect people fleeing the war. Sadly, sexual and gender-based violence is a global threat used as a weapon of war and faced by women and girls across the world. Afghanistan. Ethiopia. The Democratic Republic of Congo. The Central African Republic. Myanmar. South Sudan. Yemen and other countries.

And this is why we will host, together with UN Women, Dr. Mukwege Foundation and Nadia’s Initiative, the second conference on Women in Conflict in just a few days, in Brussels. I sincerely hope we can build momentum and step up our collective efforts to seriously address this critical issue.

Mr. Ambassador of the Russian Federation, let’s be honest. The Kremlin is using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries. The dramatic consequences of Russia’s war are spilling over across the globe. And this is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions. Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis, Russia alone. Despite the Kremlin’s campaign of lies and disinformation. I have seen it with my own eyes. A few weeks ago in Odesa, millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships because of Russian warships in the Black Sea and because of Russia’s attack on transport infrastructure. And it is Russian tanks, Russian bombs and mines that are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.

The Kremlin is also targeting grain storage and stealing grain in Ukraine while shifting the blame on others. This is cowardly. This is pure and simple propaganda. Let’s get to the facts. The EU has no sanctions on the agricultural sector in Russia. Zero. And even our sanctions on the Russian transport sector do not go beyond our EU borders. [You may leave the room, maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth Mr. Ambassador]. Our sanctions do not prevent Russian flagged vessels from carrying grain, food or fertilisers to developing countries. The EU, on the contrary, is doing all it can to help Ukraine’s agricultural exports and to support Ukraine’s agricultural sector for the coming season.

Global food security is a top priority for the EU, and we will do everything we can to help solve this challenge and to help the developing countries. And to do this, we need to unlock the Black Sea. We fully support Secretary-General Guterres’s efforts to find solutions to re-open maritime routes for Ukraine’s exports. We will actively contribute to the work of the Global Crisis Response Group and will cooperate with the G-7 and with the African Union.

The Kremlin may prohibit and prosecute the use of the word “war”, but that does not change the heartbreaking reality. Thousands of dead Ukrainian women, children and men. Atrocities. Rapes. Countless Ukrainian cities bombed into rubble. This is a war. A barbaric war waged by a permanent member of this Council.

Mr Ambassador of Ukraine: We will continue to back Ukraine. We will continue to support your country and your people. And we will continue to pressure Russia and confront Russia with the truth. Russia is attacking one country, one people, Ukraine. But Russia is also attacking the values and principles of this house. Human dignity, tolerance, multilateral cooperation and international law. These are our shared values, the bedrock of this house. So this is more than a war against one nation. It is a war against all that we have built over generations since World War II.

The EU’s commitment to the UN charter is unwavering. The European Union is a reliable, loyal and respectful partner. We will continue to cooperate on the global stage to build a safer, freer and more prosperous world.