Ukraine: Meeting under the “Threats to International Peace and Security” Agenda Item
Tomorrow afternoon (6 February), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing on Ukraine under the “Threats to international peace and security” agenda item. Russia requested the meeting to discuss an incident that occurred on 3 February, in which Ukrainian forces allegedly shelled the city of Lysychansk in the Russian-controlled region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo is the anticipated briefer. Ukraine is expected to participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
On 3 February, Ukrainian forces allegedly launched a missile attack targeting a bakery in the city of Lysychansk. In a 3 February press statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the missile came from a “Western multiple launch system” and that at least 15 civilians were killed by the attack, with several dozen more injured. The statement described the incident as a “terrorist attack” carried out by Kyiv with the aim of “expressing gratitude to the EU countries for their generous financial support”. At the time of writing, Ukraine has yet to comment on the incident.
The issue of Western support to Ukraine remains a major concern for Moscow. On 1 February, the European Council agreed to provide Ukraine with up to 50 billion euros in grants and loans between now and 2027. As at 26 January, the EU and its member states had provided over $96 billion in financial, military, humanitarian and refugee assistance to Ukraine. The new financial aid package, although not allocated for arms and ammunition, is deemed essential for sustaining Ukraine’s economy. Ukrainian officials have cautioned that a cessation of Western aid could lead to a budget crisis. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the assistance in a 1 February tweet, describing the aid package as “no less important than military assistance and sanctions pressure on Russia”. In a national address given on the same day, Zelenskyy thanked the 27 EU countries and the heads of European institutions, and concluded his remarks by saying that Ukraine is now “waiting for America’s decisions”.
US assistance to Ukraine has been stalled in Congress, with Republicans in the US House of Representatives demanding increased border security measures on the US’ southern border in exchange for supporting aid to Ukraine. In October 2023, US President Joe Biden appealed to the US Congress to endorse a $106 billion emergency aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and the southern US border. This included $61.4 billion earmarked for Ukraine, with $44.4 billion intended for the provision of defence equipment in 2024. On 26 October 2023, however, House Speaker Mike Johnson said that the consensus among the Republican majority in the US House of Representatives is that funding requests for Ukraine and Israel should be addressed separately.
Biden’s administration has since been working with a bipartisan group of senators on a comprehensive aid package that includes funding for border security and support for Ukraine and Israel. On Wednesday (7 February), the US Senate is expected to vote on a bill endorsing the $118 assistance package, which includes $60 billion in military assistance for Ukraine and $20 billion to bolster and expand border security, in what has been described as the most significant overhaul of border policy in decades. Within hours of the draft bill being released, Johnson said that it would be “dead on arrival” if it makes it to the US House of Representatives. Johnson has also announced that the House of Representatives will vote this week on a standalone bill providing funding for Israel, a move denounced by the White House as a “cynical political maneuver”, in a 3 February statement.
At tomorrow’s briefing, DiCarlo is expected to condemn attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and call on all parties to protect civilians and ensure compliance with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law. She may also condemn recent attacks on humanitarian workers in Ukraine. On 1 February, a Russian drone strike in Ukraine’s eastern Kherson region reportedly killed two French citizens volunteering with a Swiss non-governmental organisation. In a 2 February statement, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Denise Brown recognised an escalating pattern of attacks in 2024, with five aid workers injured in January alone. Throughout 2023, 50 aid workers were killed or injured in Ukraine, 11 of whom died in the line of duty.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are likely to reiterate their established positions on the conflict in Ukraine. Several Council members are expected to criticise Russia for attempting to shift the blame for the war’s tragedies onto Ukraine, noting that the Kremlin holds full responsibility for the hostilities in Ukraine. Russia, on the other hand, is expected to accuse Ukrainian forces of violating international humanitarian law by deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure—a claim rejected by Kyiv. It is also likely to condemn the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine, contending that such weapons are being used to launch attacks against civilians.
Russia may also comment on the 31 January judgment delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case filed by Ukraine in January 2017 on the application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT) of 9 December 1999. In this regard, it might note that the ICJ rejected most of Ukraine’s charges against Moscow stemming from the 2014 annexation of parts of Ukraine, including requests for compensation for damages. The court, however, found that Russia violated Article 9 of the ICSFT by failing to take measures to investigate facts “regarding persons who have allegedly committed an offence” as set forth in the ICFST. It also found that Russia violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in the way it implemented its education system in Crimea after 2014 with regard to school education in the Ukrainian language.