Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council is expected to hold a private meeting on the situation in Ukraine. The meeting will focus on the ongoing efforts to negotiate an agreement to allow the safe and secure export of Ukrainian food through the Black Sea and unimpeded access of Russian food and fertilisers to global markets.
Additional meetings on Ukraine are possible, depending on developments on the ground.
Key Recent Developments
The Security Council remains actively engaged on the situation in Ukraine. However, the frequency with which the Council has convened meetings on Ukraine has steadily declined since the start of the war on 24 February. In March, the Council held six formal and informal meetings on Ukraine. This dropped to four in April, with meetings more narrowly focused on the war’s detrimental effects on specific vulnerable groups—including women, children and refugees. The number of meetings continued to fall in subsequent months, reaching four in May and three in June.
On 6 June, the Council held an open briefing on conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking in the war in Ukraine. There was also a briefing on Ukraine on 21 June, which focused on “incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes”. On 28 June, at Ukraine’s request, the Council convened for an open meeting to discuss the recent shelling of areas in Ukraine’s centre, including a 26 June missile launch on Kyiv. The assault, which was the first such attack on Kyiv in weeks, hit a residential building, killing one person. Council members also discussed a 27 June attack on a crowded shopping mall in the central Poltava region, which resulted in at least 20 deaths. The UN condemned the attack on 27 June as “utterly deplorable”. (For more information, see our 3 June and 20 June What’s in Blue stories.)
In addition to these briefings, the war in Ukraine has been referenced during several other Council meetings. Notable in this regard was the high-level open debate on “strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law” on 2 June and the annual meeting on strengthening EU-UN cooperation on 16 June.
Hostilities in Ukraine remain concentrated in Donetsk and Luhansk as Russian forces pursue control of the entire Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. In Luhansk, Russian troops made slow but considerable advances in June, and now control over 90 percent of the region. Russian forces most recently captured the city of Sievierodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians had reportedly taken shelter from Russian shelling at the Azot chemical plant. In Donetsk, Russian forces continue to advance south towards Sloviansk from Izium. In the northern Kharkiv region and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, Russian troops appear to be seeking to maintain defensive positions against Ukrainian counterattacks.
The intense fighting in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine continues to prevent vital aid from reaching those in need. On 13 June, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that the UN and humanitarian partners have been unable to reach critical areas affected by the war, including Mariupol, Kherson and Sievierodonetsk because of “insecurity and bureaucratic obstacles”, despite continued engagement to negotiate access. He noted that the last time a UN convoy with supplies reached Sievierodonetsk was on 5 April. In the south, a critical shortage of medicines persists in Kherson, and Mariupol is said to be at risk of a major cholera outbreak.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 16 June, during its 50th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an interactive dialogue on the oral update provided by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet regarding the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in Mariupol, as requested in HRC resolution A/HRC/S-34/L.1 of 12 May. On 5 July, the HRC is expected to hold an interactive dialogue at which Bachelet will present orally the findings of the periodic report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation of human rights in Ukraine. Also on 5 July, the HRC will consider the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine (A/HRC/50/65).
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for the Security Council is determining what role it can play in facilitating an end to the conflict. Agreement on Council products on Ukraine is difficult because of the direct involvement of a permanent member and members’ sharply diverging positions. Members can continue to hold regular open briefings on the situation in Ukraine with the aim of keeping the international community abreast of developments on the ground. Brazil’s choice to convene a private meeting on Ukraine perhaps indicates that members are also considering formats with restricted attendance and no meeting records, which could also include an informal interactive dialogue or a closed Arria-formula meeting, to allow for a frank exchange of ideas between Council members on more politically sensitive issues.
Another key issue for the Council is determining how it can support ongoing efforts to negotiate an agreement on Ukrainian and Russian food exports to global markets. The war in Ukraine has led to a cost of living crisis marked by escalating price shocks in the global food, energy and fertiliser markets. According to an 8 June report of the UN Global Crisis Response Group (GCRG), a continued reduction in Russian and Ukrainian exports will result in an additional 19 million people experiencing chronic undernourishment in 2023. (The GCRG was established in March to develop strategies and recommendations in response to the Ukrainian war’s impact on food, energy and financial systems.) Efforts involving Türkiye and the UN to negotiate an agreement between Russia and Ukraine to allow their food to reach global markets have been underway for several weeks. During next month’s scheduled private meeting on Ukraine, Council members will be apprised of the status of negotiations. Should an agreement between the parties be reached, an option for Council action would be a vote on a resolution or the drafting of a presidential statement endorsing the agreement and establishing the parameters of a potential UN monitoring role.
Council members remain concerned about the detrimental effects of the war on women, children and other vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. Members have expressed growing concern about reports of forced deportations of children. While UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted on 15 June that “OHCHR cannot yet confirm these allegations”, the Commission of Inquiry established by the HRC confirmed on the same day that “there is a significant number of children disappeared in temporarily occupied territories”. According to media reports, as at 18 June, over 307,000 children have been evacuated to Russia since 24 February. An option for Council action could be to organise a briefing on this issue, during which Council members may recall HRC resolution A/HRC/S-34/L.1, which requested Russia to provide UN staff with safe access to persons who have been transferred from conflict-affected areas and are held on Russian territory or areas occupied by Russian troops in Ukraine.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Security Council remains starkly divided on the situation in Ukraine, with Russia justifying its invasion and several Council members—including Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US—firmly intent on condemning Russia for what they consider an “unprovoked” war. Members of the latter group have consistently called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
As Council discussions increasingly examine the war’s ripple effects on global commodity and financial markets, major divisions have surfaced over the primary causes of rising global food insecurity. The US and European Council members have accused Moscow of weaponising food supplies by leveraging its blockade of Black Sea ports and the withholding of its own food and fertiliser exports to persuade Western countries to lift sanctions levelled against the Russian economy. These members have also accused Russia of targeting grain silos and agricultural infrastructure and stealing Ukrainian grain supplies; however, the UN has not been able to verify these allegations.
For its part, Russia denies that it has hindered the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, maintaining that it has created the conditions for the safe operation of maritime humanitarian corridors in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Russia argues that navigation in Ukrainian territorial waters and the use of its ports have been made impossible by Kyiv’s mining of the Black Sea. Ukraine has reportedly been unwilling to demine without security guarantees that Russia will not pursue a military offensive to capture the southern port city of Odesa.
Russia also argues that Western sanctions are contributing to the crisis by causing supply chain disruptions. The US and Council members from Europe have justified the use of sanctions, emphasising that Russia’s agricultural sector has remained exempt. Nonetheless, some elected Council members have expressed concerns over sanctions. For example, during the 19 May open debate on conflict and food security, Brazil said that unilateral economic measures have had a secondary impact on markets, leading to increasing costs and hampering the availability of foodstuffs and fertilisers. At that meeting, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stressed that countries must ensure that sanctions “do not impact the flow of essential commodities in any way”.
Many African countries also worry about the harmful humanitarian effects of sanctions. During an EU summit on 31 May, the current AU Chairperson and President of the Republic of Senegal Macky Sall said that “our countries are very worried about the collateral impact of the disruptions caused by blocking the Swift payment system as a result of sanctions”. After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 3 June, Sall issued a Tweet calling “on all partners to lift sanctions on wheat and fertiliser”. Ukraine and its allies have sought to convey to African member states that Russia is solely to blame for the rising levels of food insecurity. Following weeks of requests to address the AU, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly told African leaders during a private meeting on 20 June that Russia is trying to use “the suffering of the people” to pressure Western countries to lift sanctions on its economy.
Despite Western sanctions and efforts to isolate Moscow, Russia’s earnings from fossil fuel exports are expected to increase this year as a result of record-high prices and increased trade with India and other Asian countries. According to a 13 June report of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, several Council members—including China, France, India, and the UAE—increased imports of discounted Russian fuels in the first 100 days of the war.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UKRAINE
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|21 June 2022S/PV.9069||This was a briefing on Ukraine, which focused on “Incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes”.|
|6 June 2022S/PV.9056||This was a briefing on Ukraine, focused on conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking.|