Peaceful solutions to the Ukraine war cannot wait until Russia conquers the contested Donbass region, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the United Nations Security Council.
In a tart speech to the UN’s main governing body, the Irish minister said Russian President Vladimir Putin could end “this war of his choosing” at any time. He said Russia, despite this reality, has launched an offensive in eastern Ukraine to consolidate ownership of the part of the country where its forces have invaded and come under heavy attack recently.
Mr Coveney said he traveled to Ukraine just last week to see for himself what was happening and to express Ireland’s solidarity with the Ukrainians.
And he said that contrary to Russian claims, the horrors he saw there were not fabricated.
“What I saw was deeply shocking,” he said of his visit to the city of Bucha.
“Hundreds of family homes, businesses and other civilian infrastructure: blackened, burned, looted, damaged and – in some cases – completely destroyed.
“Family cars riddled with bullets, windshields smashed, bloodstains still visible.
“I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between truth and staged propaganda when I see it.
“There was nothing fake about what I saw.
“I was standing at the edge of one of the mass graves where the work of carefully exhuming bodies continued. 503 civilians had been identified at that time – and only 4 soldiers.
Mr Coveney added: “We have seen explosive weapons – including banned cluster munitions – being used in populated areas and against civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. The toll taken in the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools is evidence of this.
“It speaks to a complete disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians by the Russian armed forces.”
Discussing the prospects for successful peace talks, Mr Coveney told Security Council members: “I hear the narrative from far too many quarters that peace is only possible after the fight for Donbass. I cannot accept that logic – a logic that leads directly to more death, more suffering, more displacement.”
Mr Coveney said by contrast, despite the brutality of Russian forces against his people, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy has always remained open to diplomatic solutions.
In a direct challenge to Moscow, Mr Coveney urged Vladimir Putin to agree an immediate ceasefire on humanitarian grounds and then begin peace talks.
The Foreign Secretary said Ireland is a small country which is militarily neutral and does not claim to be a military power.
But Mr Coveney insisted that country had always wanted to work with the United Nations and had made significant efforts to win a rotating seat on its governing Security Council for a temporary two-year period.
“The only weapons we have are diplomacy, dialogue, facts, collective leadership and, most importantly, a shared commitment to international law and the UN Charter,” he said.
Mr. Coveney pointed out that the war in Ukraine has hit the poorest of the poor around the world – from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America. He said up to seven million people have been displaced in Ukraine and five million Ukrainians have been displaced beyond their home borders.
Simon Coveney’s speech in full
We meet this morning in the shadow of a renewed offensive by Russian forces into eastern Ukraine.
In the shadow of more bloodshed, more scenes of killing, more disregard for the lives of civilians – and continued flagrant violations of the UN Charter.
On Thursday last week I traveled to Kyiv. I did this because I wanted to see the situation on the ground for myself and express Ireland’s solidarity with Ukraine and its people.
What I saw was deeply shocking.
During my visit I went to Bucha. Until two months ago it was a pleasant and lively city; a place many of us at this table could have happily imagined living in.
It now lies in ruins and the stench of burning buildings and corpses hangs in the air.
Hundreds of family homes, businesses and other civilian infrastructure: blackened, burned, looted, damaged and – in some cases – completely destroyed.
Family cars riddled with bullets, windshields smashed, bloodstains still visible.
I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between truth and staged propaganda when I see it.
There was nothing made up in what I saw.
I stood at the edge of one of the mass graves where the work of carefully exhuming the bodies continued. 503 civilians had been identified at that time – and only 4 soldiers.
503 individual lives – men, women and children who were not combatants but were apparently deliberately killed and in some cases tortured in the most brutal of ways.
We have seen explosive weapons – including banned cluster munitions – used in populated areas and against civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. The toll taken in the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools is evidence of this.
It speaks to a complete disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians by the Russian armed forces.
There is no way to twist this reality away with disinformation.
Ireland is a small country.
We are not a member of any military alliance.
And we’re certainly not a superpower.
But we fought to be seated at this table and we earned the right to be here.
We did this because we fundamentally believe that, for all its well-documented shortcomings – and there are many – this council is the ultimate arbiter on issues of war and peace.
This group of 15 countries was charged with protecting the weak and innocent; Hold attackers accountable, no matter how powerful they are.
The only weapons we have are diplomacy, dialogue, facts, collective leadership and, most importantly, a shared commitment to international law and the UN Charter.
Do we really need to keep reiterating around this table that innocent civilians are never legitimate targets of war?
That all parties to a conflict must comply with international humanitarian law – including the prohibition on indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and the obligation – the obligation – to distinguish between civilians and combatants?
These commitments are not optional – not least for those who are privileged enough to sit around this table and should lead by example.
During my visit to Ukraine, so many people spoke to me about the urgent need for accountability to expose the horrors of what happened to them, preferably in court.
In all situations where war crimes may have been committed, we must ensure that credible investigations are conducted in a timely manner; that evidence is rigorously documented; and that witnesses, victims and survivors are supported.
And that’s why Ireland pledged another €3 million in funding to the ICC last week.
Without accountability and truth there is no hope for lasting peace; not in Ukraine, nowhere.
Russia’s war has driven millions of Ukrainians from their homes, as we just heard.
Almost 5 million people have become refugees and over 7 million people have become internally displaced in Ukraine.
But the humanitarian consequences of this war are also being felt thousands of miles from Ukraine by some of the most vulnerable people on our planet.
Countries in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, but also in Latin America, are increasingly affected by the serious economic consequences of this conflict.
Wheat and oil prices have risen by 300% in Somalia, where drought has already displaced more than 700,000 people.
Wheat reserves in Palestine could be exhausted in less than three weeks.
As the UN Secretary-General has said so clearly, the most vulnerable people around the world cannot become the collateral damage of another disaster for which they are not responsible.
Ireland cannot and will not remain silent as this senseless and devastating war rages on.
Nor should any member of this Council do so.
As it was on February 25, so it is today – this is a war of choice. And it can end immediately if President Putin so decides.
And yet what we see instead is a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.
This is madness that history will judge harshly.
We must end this war, and this Council has a unique responsibility to do so. I want to call Russia directly; agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, commit to negotiations and respect this Charter.
We know that some progress was made between the parties in Istanbul on key issues. There is clearly a basis for a peace agreement. To his credit, President Zelenskyi has consistently remained open to diplomatic solutions in the face of aggression and brutality against his people.
I hear the narrative from far too many quarters that peace is only possible after the fight for Donbass. I cannot accept this logic; a logic that leads directly to more death, more suffering, more displacement.
This advice must challenge that thinking today and every day. We must ask for more.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/the-mass-graves-i-saw-in-bucha-were-not-fabricated-simon-coveney-says-in-speech-to-un-security-council-41567672.html The mass graves I saw in Bucha were not fabricated, says Simon Coveney in a speech to the UN Security Council