Speaking at a public debate on Ukrainian peace and security in the UN Security Council in New York yesterday, President Alar Karis stressed that the UN must not allow aggression to become a means of policy-making or allow Russia to take the whole world hostage in doing so.
The Estonian head of state pointed out that a permanent member of the UN Security Council – which is responsible for ensuring international peace and security – is waging a full-scale war against a neighbouring country while using its right of veto on the council to evade any responsibility. “Russia is shamelessly undermining the credibility and authority of the United Nations,” he remarked.
Since the start of the war instigated by Russia against Ukraine, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has registered 27,149 civilian victims and 9614 deaths, including those of more than 500 children. “These numbers are not mere statistics,” President Karis said, “but people’s lives, futures denied, dreams crushed.”
The head of state added that there is no safe place for those who are holding out, because homes and hospitals and food stores and schools have been destroyed. “Tens of thousands of children have lost their families or been removed by force and taken to Russia or Belarus, where they are being mistreated in ‘re-education’ camps, handed over to Russian families and having their Ukrainian roots and identity ripped from them,” he said.
President Karis added that victims of Russia’s war are to be found well beyond Ukraine’s borders. “By unilaterally withdrawing from the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative and hindering the export of Ukrainian grain, Russia is using food shortages to manipulate the world’s most vulnerable populations,” he warned.
He stressed that sanctions have never been imposed on Russian food exports to third countries. “Russia and Russia alone is responsible for this war and for the lives of the millions of people starving because Russia is destroying Ukrainian grain production, stealing grain from occupied areas and bombing Ukrainian ports,” he said. “These actions demonstrate its willingness to manipulate the market in order to hike up the price of grain and increase other countries’ dependence on Russia.”
The head of state added that the UN must not allow Russia’s aggression to become a means of policy-making. “The majority of member countries have voted in favour of a just peace in Ukraine that respects the UN Charter,” he noted. “But in the matter of this war, the Security Council is entirely hostage to the aggressor.”
He described as regrettable the fact that the Security Council was incapable of taking decisive action and fulfilling its remit. “The council’s structure and working methods must be amended while at the same time expanding the mandate of the General Assembly,” he suggested. “There should be no right of veto if the country using it is contravening international law.”
According to President Karis, Estonia supports the initiative put forward by France and Mexico regarding the right of veto, as well as the guidelines of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group on not voting against resolutions whose aim is to end atrocities, including crimes of aggression.
Speaking of the future composition of the Security Council, the Estonian head of state said that it should be fairly distributed between continents and regions. “Small, medium-sized and large countries should all be represented, and we must also take into account their observance of the UN Charter and their unequivocal support for international law and the International Criminal Court,” he said.