September 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 August 2022
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EUROPE

Ukraine

Expected Council Action

In September, the Security Council is expected to hold a high-level briefing on the situation in Ukraine. Additional meetings on Ukraine are possible, depending on developments on the ground.

Key Recent Developments

As fighting enters its seventh month, hostilities remain concentrated in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions. On 24 August, the Council held a briefing to mark six months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, at the request of Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US. At the meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo described the ongoing adverse effects on the civilian population, including reported cases of forced disappearances and conflict-related sexual violence. As at 29 August, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had documented 13,718 civilian casualties, including 5,663 deaths.

In August, the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) of the Black Sea Grain Initiative—a UN-brokered agreement signed by Russia, Ukraine and Türkiye on 22 July to facilitate the export of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilisers from Ukrainian ports—became fully operational. By 28 August, over 1.2 million metric tons of grain and foodstuffs had been exported from Ukrainian ports as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This includes a vessel transporting Ukrainian wheat to support humanitarian operations in Ethiopia overseen by the World Food Programme, which departed from the port of Yuzhny on 16 August.

In addition to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Russia and the UN signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 22 July on the UN’s scope of engagement to facilitate unimpeded exports of Russian food products and fertilisers to global markets. In this regard, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Rebeca Grynspan, in coordination with the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN, is to engage with relevant authorities and the private sector to remove impediments that may arise in the sectors of finance, insurance and logistics. At a 24 August press stakeout, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (Russia) said that the MoU had not yet been implemented and cautioned that the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is set to expire on 19 November, will depend to a large extent on whether the MoU is also implemented.

From 17 to 20 August, Secretary-General António Guterres travelled to Ukraine (where he visited Lviv and Odesa), Moldova (Chisinau), and Türkiye (Istanbul). This was Guterres’ second visit to Ukraine since the start of the war, as he had previously visited Kyiv on 28 April. At a press briefing following his trilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 18 August, the Secretary-General described the Black Sea Grain Initiative as “a victory for diplomacy [and] for multilateralism”.

Security incidents in early August at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in the city of Enerhodar have prompted concerns about the safety of nuclear sites in Ukraine. Russia requested two briefings on 11 and 23 August, which focused on the situation at the ZNPP. (For more information, see our 11 August and 23 August What’s in Blue stories.) The precarious security situation around the plant had complicated a proposed visit to the ZNPP by a team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as had the lack of agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the modalities for such a visit. However, in a 28 August tweet, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi announced that the IAEA mission was on its way to Zaporizhzhia and is expected to arrive “later this week”.

At the 18 August press briefing, Guterres also discussed the investigation of the 29 July incident at a detention facility near Olenivka—an urban-type settlement in the eastern Donetsk region, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists—in which over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were reportedly killed. Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations regarding the incident; Russia has alleged that Ukraine launched a missile attack at the facility, while Ukraine has claimed that the soldiers were killed by a blast instigated by Russia. Many of the prisoners in the detention centre had fought in the city of Mariupol and were besieged in the Azovstal steel plant until their surrender in May. Guterres said that the terms of reference of the fact-finding mission that he established on 3 August, including the team’s make-up and leadership appointment, had been shared with Russia and Ukraine and that efforts were being made to secure the necessary assurances to guarantee the team’s safe access to Olenivka.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 11 August, a group of UN human rights experts issued a joint statement that expressed concern about the situation of children with disabilities in Ukraine, including their displacement to other institutional settings either within Ukraine or in third countries and the lack of information regarding their whereabouts for their families.

On 23 August, OHCHR expressed concern over reports that Russia and affiliated armed groups in the Donetsk region were planning to put Ukrainian prisoners of war on trial in Mariupol. At the 24 August Security Council briefing on Ukraine, DiCarlo said that “any tribunal must respect the protections afforded to all prisoners of war by international law, including fair trial guarantees”, stressing that “the failure to uphold these standards could amount to a war crime”.

During its 51st session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) will receive an oral update on 23 September from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, followed by an interactive dialogue. On 4 October, the HRC will hold an interactive dialogue at which the High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to make an oral presentation of the findings of OHCHR’s periodic report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Security Council is how to facilitate an end to the conflict. Agreement on Council products on Ukraine is difficult because of the direct involvement of a permanent member in the conflict and members’ sharply diverging positions on the issue. 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. Members may also wish to consider formats with restrictive attendance and no meeting record, such as private or closed Arria-formula meetings, to allow for a frank exchange of ideas between Council members and key actors on the situation on the ground.

Another key issue for the Council is determining how it can help promote the safety of the ZNPP and reduce the risk of a nuclear incident in Ukraine. While the Council has held several open briefings focused on the situation at the ZNPP, members may wish to convene an informal interactive dialogue (IID) or a private meeting with Grossi to convey their support for the IAEA’s work on the matter and discuss proposals for a permanent IAEA mission to oversee the safety of the ZNPP.

Council Dynamics

The Security Council remains starkly divided on the situation in Ukraine, with Russia justifying its invasion, which it refers to as a “special military operation”, while several Council members—including Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US—are 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.

While apparently united in condemning Russia in the days following its intervention in Ukraine, divisions between the US and the European members, on the one hand, and other members, on the other hand, have become more pronounced in recent months. That has been the case particularly on matters related to the use of sanctions, perceptions of neutrality in addressing the humanitarian situation, and the approach to the pursuit of accountability for alleged atrocities committed in Ukraine. Nonetheless, Council members are united on some aspects of the war, including on the urgency of an IAEA visit to the ZNPP.

While nearly all members expressed support for a prompt IAEA visit to the ZNPP, only the European members and the US called on Russia to return full control of the ZNPP to Ukraine. These members argue that Russia bears full responsibility for the critical situation surrounding the ZNPP. They also contend that Russia aims to disconnect the ZNPP from Ukraine’s energy grid, cut off electricity to Ukrainian government-controlled areas in the south of the country and redirect power to Crimea.

Some Council members have expressed concern that Russia may stage fraudulent referendums, possibly coinciding with regional elections on 11 September, to annex the territories it has occupied in Ukraine. At the 24 August Council briefing on Ukraine, the UK referred to such reports, stressing that “any such attempt would fool no one”. (Russia employed a similar tactic in March 2014 with regard to Crimea. In anticipation of the 16 March 2014 Crimean status referendum, the US tabled a draft resolution stating that Ukraine had not authorised the referendum and declaring that it had no validity. While the draft resolution failed to be adopted because of a Russian veto, a similar General Assembly resolution was subsequently adopted on 27 March 2014.)

UN DOCUMENTS ON UKRAINE

Security Council Meeting Records
24 August 2022S/PV.9115 This briefing on Ukraine was requested by Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US and marked six months since the outbreak of hostilities on 24 February.
23 August 2022S/PV.9114 This briefing on Ukraine was requested by Russia and focused on the situation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
11 August 2022S/PV.9109 This briefing on Ukraine was requested by Russia and focused on the situation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

 

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