What's In Blue

Posted Thu 22 Jun 2023

Ukraine: Briefing

Tomorrow morning (23 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on the situation in Ukraine. The meeting was requested by Albania and the US, the co-penholders on the political situation in Ukraine. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo is expected to brief. Ukraine is expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

Tomorrow’s meeting will take place amid ongoing hostilities primarily concentrated in the eastern Donetsk and southern Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine and continued Russian air and missile attacks targeting military and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. As at 19 June, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had documented 24,862 civilian casualties, including 9,083 deaths, since the start of the war in February 2022.

At tomorrow’s meeting, DiCarlo is expected to provide an update on the security and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. She is likely to highlight the consequences of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June. According to a 22 June OCHA humanitarian impact and response report, the flooding triggered by the dam’s destruction “has significantly receded, leaving behind devastation, an unconfirmed number of civilians killed and injured and a worsened humanitarian situation in areas already facing the dire consequences of the war”.

DiCarlo may highlight the risks posed by stagnant and contaminated water resulting from the flooding, which heightens the potential for disease outbreaks. She may also note that the depletion of the Kakhovka Reservoir has left tens of thousands of people in southern Ukraine without access to safe drinking water. Moreover, there is a risk that the receding floodwater has scattered landmines, thereby creating additional challenges to the safety of civilians. Ukraine currently grapples with one of the highest levels of mine contamination worldwide.

DiCarlo is likely to stress that hostilities have also posed additional security challenges to humanitarian workers operating in southern Ukraine. On 20 June, a missile attack on the city of Kherson injured several rescue workers from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine confirmed that at least one rescue worker was killed during the incident. In a 21 June statement, Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i.) for Ukraine Matthew Hollingworth condemned the attack, which he described as “yet another example of the human impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

While the UN and humanitarian partners have delivered at least 12 inter-agency convoys to those affected by the flooding in government-controlled areas in southern Ukraine, Russia has so far declined UN requests to provide aid to civilians affected by the flooding in areas occupied by Russian forces. In an 18 June statement, Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown urged Russian authorities to “act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law”, adding that “aid cannot be denied to people who need it”.

At tomorrow’s briefing, several Council members are expected to express concern over the humanitarian situation in southern Ukraine, aggravated by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam. These members may stress the need for all parties to facilitate humanitarian access and ensure the protection of humanitarian workers in the region.

Several members are expected to condemn Russia for its continued missile strikes targeting civilian infrastructure and residential buildings, in what they consider a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. Some of these members may refer to the international conference held in London from 21 to 22 June, which sought to mobilise global support for Ukraine’s economic recovery from the effects of the war.

Some Council members may also express alarm over recent allegations made by Ukrainian authorities regarding the safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). In a 22 June tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that, according to intelligence gathered by Ukraine’s Security Service, Russia is planning a “terrorist attack on the [ZNPP]”. On 21 June, Ukraine’s intelligence chief accused Russia of “mining” the cooling pond used to cool the reactors at the ZNPP. However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a statement on the same day confirming that “no mines were observed at the site…including the cooling pond” during Director General Rafael Grossi’s visit to the power plant last week.

Russia is expected to deny these allegations and reiterate its view that Ukrainian forces are endangering the safety of the power plant. Russia has requested a separate briefing on Ukraine next week, which will focus on the issue of “Western arms supplies to Ukraine and their implications for diplomatic efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis”.

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