Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you for today’s critical information, Ms Zhuk, Chair of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council. Thank you for your significant testimony, Ms Olena Zhuk, Chair of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council. Unfortunately, as previously stated, allegations of Russian strikes on civilians in Zaporizhzhia have emerged this morning. We condemn these assaults and lament the deaths of innocent people. This occurred the morning after President Putin signed the illegal attempted annexation agreement for Zaporizhzhia and declared that Russia would now defend these residents. Ukraine, we stand with you. Today I’d like to address the topic of attempted illegal annexations.
We expressed our collective fury and condemnation of Russia’s sham and illegitimate referenda forced on the people of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson last week in this Council, along with many other nations around the world. Only the next day, President Putin declared the illegal attempted annexation of these areas in a self-serving ceremony, in yet another brazen attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is a new low in Russia’s flagrant disregard for international law, the principles of this organization, and the UN Charter. These actions are clearly and entirely unjustifiable.
Any onlooker can see how shambolic and worthless these attempted annexation declarations are. Russian forces were being forced out of the Donetsk Oblast town of Lyman by the advancing Ukrainian Armed Forces as President Putin held his ceremony in Moscow. The continuous success of Ukraine’s counter-attacks underlines the ridiculousness of Putin’s annexation aspirations. Ukraine is Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson, as defined by internationally recognized borders and as overwhelmingly voiced by Ukrainians. The agony that Ukrainians are going through every day in the temporarily Russian-controlled areas—suffering that is only being brought on by President Putin and his Armed Forces—is still happening despite the fact that the international community will never recognize the results of the sham referenda and is united in its condemnation of Russia’s attempted unlawful annexation.
Ihor Murashov, the Director General of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, was kidnapped by Russian forces earlier this week in what appears to have been an effort at coercive coercion as part of Russia’s attempt to transfer control of the ZNPP to the Russian nuclear agency. This is also indicated by President Putin’s most recent proclamation. We are very concerned about the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, which must be able to operate safely. Russian meddling endangers operational safety, with potentially disastrous consequences. The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is located on Ukrainian territory. Russia must promptly release all seized Ukrainian nuclear facilities to Ukraine’s authorized authorities.
Mr. Chair, Mr. Murashov’s kidnapping is not a unique incident. The United Nations has described the “unspeakable pain and devastation” imposed on Ukrainians in temporarily Russian-controlled territories, giving a report to the UN Human Rights Council declaring that war crimes had occurred in Ukraine. Disturbing stories of detention breaches of both civilians and prisoners of war have emerged, while enforced disappearances and arbitrary custody have grown “widespread” in territory temporarily controlled by Russia and its agents. The report is a crucial step toward accountability, and the UK will continue to do all possible to hold those involved accountable.
According to reports from the ground, the overwhelming majority of the civilian population is still experiencing acute human insecurity, with Russia being the primary reason. These findings demonstrate the ridiculousness of Putin’s propagandists’ claims. Ukrainians in these places have faced horrific tyranny at the hands of Russian soldiers, schools and hospitals have been deliberately targeted, and entire cities have been destroyed. As each Ukrainian town is liberated, new grisly evidence of further atrocities emerges. Is this the type of person who would welcome Russian soldiers with open arms, longing to be a part of the Russian Federation? Russia’s cruel and primitive tactics are nothing new, but their deployment clearly indicates that Russia’s soldiers and proxy administrations can only enforce the attempted annexation by creating fear and using sheer force. Furthermore, according to local sources, on September 30, Russian forces probably certainly struck a convoy south-east of Zaporizhzhia, killing 25 civilians. This follows allegations of a similar event involving civilian convoys in the Kharkiv region.
No nation in the modern era should be permitted to launch an aggressive war, try to forcibly redraw international borders, annex regions, and engage in unlawful annexation. We stand behind the Ukrainian people, who have repeatedly demonstrated their bravery and resilience in the face of horrible tragedies perpetrated by Putin and his soldiers. We must all work together to condemn Russia’s actions and reduce their consequences; we cannot allow this behavior to continue unabated, or it will happen again. The United Kingdom will continue to support Ukraine in defending itself, preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and regaining full control of its land.
Thank you very much.