Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 7, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. This is an important and historic moment. Countries from around the globe have voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council for its gross and systematic violations of human rights. We have collectively sent a strong message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.
Despite Russia’s attempt to spread disinformation, we all saw the gruesome images from Bucha, Dymerka, Irpin, and other recently liberated Ukrainian cities – lifeless bodies lying in the streets, some apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs. Mass graves. Burnt bodies. Executions. We have seen credible reports of landmines and booby traps left behind by Putin’s forces to injure even more civilians after Russia failed in its objectives and withdrew. I shudder to think what we will find in other towns across Ukraine, as President Zelenskyy ominously warned us in the Security Council in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday, I saw a photo taken by an AP photojournalist in Kyiv, that has struck me in particular. It’s of a six-year-old boy, standing in a garden next to his mother’s grave. It struck me because, one day, Ukraine’s infrastructure will be rebuilt and the rubble will be cleared, but there will be no way to rebuild the lives that Russia has destroyed. We cannot bring back those who have perished–Ukrainian mothers, fathers, sons, daughters.
When I was in Moldova and Romania just a few days ago, I personally met with women and children who shared heartbreaking stories of Russia’s violence. They spoke about losing relatives and loved ones, of fleeing the only home they had ever known. Despite everything that they had been through, they were determined to carry on and to return home to a peaceful Ukraine. We must continue to show similar determination to stop their suffering. To hold Russia accountable. To end this war.
After all, this is not only about accountability for Russia. It’s about standing with the people of Ukraine. And it’s about the credibility of the UN. Right now, the world is looking to us; they are asking if the United Nations is prepared to meet this moment. They are wondering if we are a platform for propaganda and a safe haven for human rights abusers – or if we are prepared to live up to our highest ideals, enshrined in the UN Charter.
Today, the international community took one collective step in the right direction. We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the UN. Let us continue to hold Russia accountable for this unprovoked, unjust, unconscionable war –and to do everything in our power to stand with the people of Ukraine.
Thank you, Mr. President.