Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
United States Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 5, 2022
Thank you, Madam President. Let me also start by thanking the United Arab Emirates and Ambassador Nussebeh for her successful chairmanship during the month of March. Madam President, as you begin your presidency of the Security Council, I would like to thank the United Kingdom for its leadership and for organizing this vital discussion on Ukraine today. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his remarks and the other speakers. And I warmly welcome President Zelenskyy. I was very moved by his recent speech to our Congress, and we are truly honored to have him here in the circumstances he and Ukraine are facing today.
Madam President, last night I returned from a trip to Moldova and Romania. I have seen with my own eyes the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s inadmissible war. I spoke to refugees who told me of their desire to return home. And we have all seen the images on television of the bombed buildings. But what we haven’t seen is that behind these destroyed buildings are destroyed lives and destroyed families. I met women and children who had fled Ukraine, who stuffed their lives into backpacks and left the only home they had ever known. And these are sobering conversations.
A young woman I spoke to came with her six-year-old brother, who is autistic and battling cancer. Their single mother helped them escape for their lives, but the war in Russia interrupted the care her brother desperately needed.
Another woman I spoke to fled Odessa with her eight-year-old child. The father, whom they had left behind, told them there had been shelling right next to their flat that night – and they very well could have died if they hadn’t left .
A third woman I met told me she loves to travel, but she didn’t expect her next trip to be an escape for her life. When I asked her where she was from, she started to say, then she stopped with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to say it: if I live in kyiv or if I lived in kyiv before. She realized, at the time, how radically her life had changed because of this senseless war.
These are three stories of more than 10 million people – six million internally displaced people, four million who have left Ukraine altogether. Four million people who have counted on the big hearts of countries like Moldova, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and others in the region and around the world to welcome and support all those leaving Ukraine in search of security. Ukraine’s neighbors are bearing the brunt of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. And I want these countries to know that they have a committed partner in the United States.
And that’s why the United States recently announced that it was ready to provide more than $1 billion in new funds for humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine and its severe repercussions around the world. . And that is why we welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression to the United States. We will continue to support humanitarian efforts to help the Ukrainian people and all those fleeing Putin’s violence.
But as heartbreaking as the stories I heard in Moldova and Romania are, there are stories we will never hear: those of the people we saw in Bucha’s footage. We’ve all seen the horrible photos. Lifeless bodies lying in the streets, apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs. As we strive to independently confirm the events depicted in these images, I remind the Council that based on information currently available, the United States has determined that members of Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. .
And even before seeing Bucha’s footage, President Zelenskyy, along with others in the region, were reporting that children were being abducted – and we heard it today. Also kidnapped are mayors, doctors, religious leaders, journalists and anyone who dares to challenge Russian aggression. Some of them, according to credible reports – including by the Mariupol city council – were taken to so-called “filtration camps”, where Russian forces allegedly force tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens to resettle in Russia.
Reports indicate that Russian Federal Security agents are confiscating passports and identity documents, confiscating cell phones and separating families from each other. I don’t need to specify what these so-called “filtration camps” look like. It’s chilling and we can’t look away.
Every day we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights. And that is why I announced yesterday that the United States, in coordination with Ukraine and many other UN member states, would seek the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council of the UN.
Given the growing mountain of evidence, Russia should not occupy a position of authority in a body whose purpose – whose very purpose – is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is this the height of hypocrisy, but it is dangerous. Russia uses its membership of the Human Rights Council as a propaganda platform to suggest that Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights. In fact, we’ll hear some of that propaganda here today, I know that, and I won’t honor those lies with an answer – only to say that every lie we hear from the Russian representative is further proof that they do not belong to humanity. Rights Council.
One hundred and forty UN member states voted to condemn Russia for its unprovoked war and the humanitarian crisis it unleashed on the Ukrainian people. This is my message to all of you: Now is the time to put those words into action and show the world that we can work responsibly. And I share President Zelenskyy’s view that this moment demands that responsible world powers and world leaders stand firm and resist Russia’s dangerous and unprovoked threat to Ukraine and the world.
The Secretary-General has said that dealing with this threat is the responsibility of the Security Council. He is. And it is also the responsibility of the leaders of the UN and the leaders of the whole world – each member state having a voice at the GA. No one can be a shield for Russia’s aggression. Suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council is something we collectively have the power to do in the General Assembly. Our votes can make a real difference.
Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council undermines the Council’s credibility. It undermines the whole UN, and it’s just plain wrong. Let’s come together to do what’s right – and do good for the people of Ukraine. Let’s take this step to help them begin to rebuild their lives. And let us live up to the courage of President Zelenskyy, whom we are so honored to have with us today.
President Zelenskyy, I want you to know that we stand with the people of Ukraine as you face this brutal attack on your sovereignty, democracy and freedom.