Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 28, 2022
Thank you, Under Secretary-General Griffiths and High Commissioner Grandi, for your truly sobering briefings. What you briefed only underscores, I think, what the Secretary-General has said, that this is a moment of great peril and great tragedy. Thank you to your agencies, your teams, for answering the call to help Ukrainians in need during this dire hour.
In a matter of days, Russia’s unprovoked, premeditated invasion has unleashed vast human suffering across Ukraine. We need to address the displacement and refugee crisis that we just heard described. We need to address the food security crisis. And we need to document and address all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.
This Council just heard the latest displacement numbers, which have been rising by the hour in the last four days. First it was 50,000 fled. Then 150,000 fled. Now half a million people have fled. This does not even include hundreds of thousands displaced internally within Ukraine. Behind each of these numbers are real people caught in a humanitarian nightmare unfolding before our eyes. And the truth is, no one knows where it will end, how many people will flee their homes, how many will need humanitarian assistance, how many will die. That is because we don’t know when President Putin will end his war of choice against Ukraine.
I want to thank the many countries and the people in the region who have opened their borders and homes to fleeing Ukrainians. The safety these people are providing underscores our common humanity during an otherwise dark moment of war. And I want to echo the calls of the United Nations Refugee Agency: we should help and welcome all those fleeing conflict – without regard to race or nationality. Refugees are refugees, regardless of race or creed.
Of course, not everyone can or will choose to flee, and those who remain in Ukraine must be ensured unobstructed protection and assistance. Four days into the invasion, our humanitarian partners have already identified cash, fuel constraints, volatile security conditions, and logistical challenges as key operational constraints affecting all aid delivery in the country.
We also need to be very concerned by the hunger that Russia’s invasion will cause. The World Food Program warns us that the food security impact of Russia’s invasion will be felt far beyond Ukraine’s borders. The Black Sea basin is one of the world’s most important areas for grain and agricultural exports. Vulnerable people from Asia to Africa and the Middle East will face greater levels of food insecurity as supplies are disrupted, as we are already seeing. An estimated 283 million people in over 80 countries are acutely food insecure or are at high risk, and this conflict in Ukraine will only exacerbate situations already on the brink of starvation. This is yet another reason why hostilities must end now.
Finally, we are gravely concerned by reports of damage to apartment buildings and schools, as well as significant infrastructure damage that has left hospitals and hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or water, while bridges and roads are damaged by shelling. Adherence to international humanitarian law is critical, including obligations related to the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Humanitarian agencies must be granted secure and full access to people in need of aid.
Tomorrow, as we’ve heard, the UN will be launching a funding appeal – an appeal for this humanitarian crisis. For our part, the United States is already providing nearly $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. USAID has been airlifting and positioning relief supplies – especially needed to help older people, people with disabilities, and people displaced from their homes – to face the winter weather. This is just the beginning, and much more is coming. We welcome the commitments and leadership from other nations to ensure life-saving assistance reaches those most in need.
No matter what happens next, we must do everything – everything – we can to help the people of Ukraine.