Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 27, 2022
Colleagues, on Friday night we stood together outside this chamber to declare that the Russian veto would not stop us from holding Russia accountable for invading a sovereign state – a state that dared to be a democracy. Russia vetoed Friday’s resolution. But as I have said before, Russia cannot veto our voices. Russia cannot veto the Ukrainian people. And Russia cannot veto the UN Charter. Russia cannot, and will not, veto accountability.
Now, the Security Council has taken an important step forward toward that accountability. For the first time in decades, it has called for an Emergency Special Session in the General Assembly. The Council members who supported this resolution recognize that this is no ordinary moment. We need to take extraordinary actions to meet this threat to our international system and do everything we can to help Ukraine and its people.
Just this morning, President Putin put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, even though he is invading a country with no nuclear weapons and is under no threat from NATO, a defensive alliance that will not fight in Ukraine. This is another escalatory and unnecessary step that threatens us all. We urge Russia to tone down its dangerous rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons.
These are issues that affect all Member States. And now, in the General Assembly, they can all make their voices heard on Russia’s war of choice. We will then vote on a resolution that will hold Russia to account for its indefensible actions and for its violations of the UN Charter.
As we speak, rockets continue to rain down on Kyiv and across Ukraine. Tanks are tearing through cities. Russia readies still more brutal weaponry – bombs that flatten cities and indiscriminately target civilians – for an unjustifiable assault, fabricated out of lies and the rewriting of history. Russia also propagates outrageous lies about Ukraine’s conduct in its own defense.
We are alarmed by the mounting reports of civilian casualties, videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, and the widespread destruction of civilian facilities like residences, schools, and hospitals. To the Russian officers and soldiers, I say: The world is watching. Photographic and video evidence is mounting, and you will be held to account for your actions. We will not let atrocities slide.
Those of us here – safely sitting in this hallowed hall – have a moral responsibility to respond to Russia’s desecration of human life. That means humanitarian aid – like thermal blankets USAID has already airlifted to tens of thousands of Ukrainians in need and the recently-announced $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance that will reach hundreds of thousands more. That means military support – including the additional $350 million of security assistance the United States is shipping to Ukraine. And it means holding the sole aggressor – Russia – accountable for its actions.
That will take some courage from some fellow Member States, and I know that. I would like to stress for the inspiration, I would ask you to look to the Ukrainian people. They have shown strength, courage, and resilience in the face of Russian guns and soldiers and bombs and rockets. They also maintain the courage to sit down and talk. We welcome their continued willingness to participate in peace talks.
On Friday night, darkness descended on Kyiv. Missiles attacked a sheltering city. But the next morning, Ukrainians woke up to a new citizen – a baby girl born to a mother in a bomb shelter. The baby’s name is Mia. Photos of her tiny hand, gripping her mother as they hid underground, have inspired the world.
Let us have the courage of Mia’s mother. Let us have the courage of the Ukrainian people, standing bravely to defend their democracy, their way of life, and their futures. Let us show them that they are not alone. That the world stands behind them. That the United Nations has a purpose. That the additional bravery of the protesters in Russia is not in vain. Let us do everything – everything – we can to help the people of Ukraine as they stand up for themselves, for their sovereign country, and for their children.