Civilians are killed, children are traumatized and women are suffering

In less than two weeks, Russia has managed to create, out of nothing and for no reason, as UNHCR has qualified it, the fastest and largest mass refugee crisis in Europe since World War II

By Ambassador Ferit Hoxha – statement during the humanitarian emergency meeting of the Security Council called by Albania and the United States of America

Thank you, Executive Director Russel and USG Griffiths for this sobering and painful briefing.

More than that, thank you for everything you and your teams are doing in meeting, as much as you can, the huge needs in Ukraine.

Dear Colleagues,

Today marks the 12th day of the unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine, a war of choice that is turning into a war of obsession.

Like in every day of this senseless war, Ukraine and its brave citizens find themselves in the well-known sickening inevitability of every conflict: civilians are killed, children are traumatized and women are suffering.

In less than two weeks, Russia has managed to create, out of nothing and for no reason, as UNHCR has qualified it, the fastest and largest mass refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

We were told that this so-called “special operation” – the domestic nickname and the new Russian definition for aggression – would not target civilians.

In reality, civilians are assaulted and trapped among rubble;

toddlers are sheltering in cellars and subway tunnels,

and, as we saw last week, nuclear power plants are under threat of deliberate or accidental hit.

Fueled by anger due to the heroic Ukrainian resistance, civilian population, civilian infrastructure, residential areas, schools and hospitals, everything has become a target. Even diplomatic representations are not spared, as it happened today with our own honorary consulate in Kharkiv.

The huge humanitarian needs across the country are multiplying by the hour. Hundreds of thousands are without safe drinking water because of damage to system infrastructure, and many have been cut off from access to other essential services like healthcare.

More than 1.5 million people are on the move, searching for shelter and safety, including in neighboring countries. Families have been walking long distances in freezing temperatures to find shelter, sometimes in neighboring countries. Half of them are children.

We applaud the way Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Slovakia have responded in welcoming and sheltering hundreds of thousands of displaced people. They must not be left alone.

The escalating aggression in Ukraine has been terrifying, especially for children. Tens of thousands of children have seen their daily life and routines shattered, thousands are separated from their families in shock and desperate for safety. This is what Russia is doing.

So, I have some very simple direct questions:

  • What in the world can justify exposing children to such extreme violence and unbearable levels of fear and anxiety?
  • Where is the humanity of a great nation?
  • Where is the responsibility of a great power?
  • Where are the commitments of a Permanent Member of this body?
  • Does International Humanitarian Law have any meaning for Russia today?

The answers lie under the blood of innocent Ukrainians.

Dear Colleagues, Russia’s actions are a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions and are classified as a war crime under the Rome Statute.

It must be made clear, that if anyone in Russia thinks that what they are doing in Ukraine is a “rendez-vous with history” and get away with atrocities and crimes against humanity, they much think twice. There will be accountability.

Albania was among 38 countries to refer Ukraine to the ICC Prosecutor. We fully support his work to gather proof and document crimes committed to present them to the court.

It is urgent to open secure humanitarian corridors for the safe evacuation of civilians and the delivery of medicines and food. The Russian side must stop ignoring the appeals of international humanitarian organizations, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross, to cease fire in order to create safe conditions for the departure of civilians and wounded, without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality or migration status. Differentiation between people, on any ground, especially on the basis of race or ethnicity, are legally unjustifiable and morally and ethically unacceptable.

Dear colleagues,

There is a devastating bloody war on the ground, but there is another nasty war in the background. This latter concerns information.

We remain worried about developments within Russia itself, regarding freedom of information. With the latest measures taken by the Parliament, authorities in Russia have shut down foreign broadcasters whose work becomes impossible under the law which criminalizes independent reporting in the country. The last major local independent broadcasters, TV Dozhd (Rain) and Ekho Moskvy radio, were shut down last week.

We know, from our own terrible communist past, that attacking freedom of information in this way, is the first sign of a dictatorship. When a government is afraid of its own people, it has a fundamental problem.

Russian citizens have the right to know why their country attacked its neighbor, they need to be informed about the actions of their army against the people of Ukraine; mothers must know why their sons are dying; Russians deserve better than doctored propaganda.

Otherwise they would only hear about the fictional Ukrainian genocide in Donbas, which never happened; about Ukraine attacking Russia, which never happened, about Russia winning the war, which is not happening;

Madam President,

Protection of civilians should remain a top priority. Yet, as bombardments intensify, fueled by the anger caused by the heroic Ukrainian resistance, we are also worried about the destruction of Cultural Heritage.

Indiscriminate bombardments have already destroyed architectural ensembles in Kharkhiv and risks inflicting irreparable damage to the Ukrainian cultural heritage widely. Heritage is a testimony of the past but also as a vector of peace for the future, which Russia is assaulting.

Let me end with the cry of this woman, Oleksandra, living in Kharkhiv. This was last week and I don’t know whether she is still alive.

She was saying ‘My city is being shelled, but mum won’t believe me’. Her Mom, who lives in Russia, would respond to her call that she heard on TV that “the Russian army would never target civilians. It’s Ukrainians who are killing their own people.”

Dear Colleagues,

12 days ago, Ukraine was guilty because it exists;

Now they are guilty because they do not surrender.

What is tomorrow made of, for them?

We call on Russia to come to senses and stop; We call on Russia to halt its aggression and go home. The world knows what you they are doing. What is happening is a global air raid siren — a warning of how important multilateralism is, and how much we need it to work, and how essential it is to make everything possible to stop this war and make the aggressor pay for it. When one behaves like a rogue State, it should not pretend to be treated differently.

Albania reaffirms its unwavering support for the Independence, Sovereignty, and Territorial Integrity of Ukraine in its internationally recognized borders.

This position of was reiterated today, just a few hours ago, by a resolution adopted by the Albanian Parliament.

Thank you.