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11th Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly (Ukraine)

Statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Bob Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations

 February 28, 2022 - UN General Assembly

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Mr. President. Mr. Secretary-General. Distinguished delegates.

We meet at a grave hour.

The Russian Federation, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, has launched an illegal and unjustifiable war of aggression against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of a fellow UN Member State, Ukraine.

Russia’s actions are an egregious violation of the Charter of the United Nations, its purposes, and its principles:

In launching this war, Russia is seeking to destroy the freedom of a people and a nation that is sovereign, independent, and integral.

It is a war based on President Putin’s desire for a return to colonial imperialism. These are days that the United Nations membership have struggled against for generations.

And, once again, Russia has blocked the Security Council from discharging its fundamental duty: to protect the peace and security of the world.

We are here because Russia has once again used its veto power, which we believe is illegitimate, as it has on some many other occasions.    

And Russia is now threatening Ukraine, Europe, and the wider world with the use of nuclear weapons, in direct violation of the January joint leaders statement by the Permanent 5 members of the Council.

Mr. President,

It was in January of this year that members of the P5 agreed that a recourse to a nuclear option, to the nuclear threat, to the nuclear possibility, was wrong. They admitted that no one could win this kind of confrontation.

Just a few days later, President Putin announced that he was going to resort to this threat. Directly contrary to what he had promised, signed, sealed, and delivered six weeks before.

And so, here we are. With a war that is a threat to each and every one of us.

Through this resolution before us today, we, as members of the United Nations, have the chance to stand up. To stand up in defence of a free people and to rebuke the evil notion that might makes right.

And now we must all step up. And stand up.

 Canada urges all Member States to unequivocally condemn Russia`s actions, and to vote in favour of the resolution that is now before the Assembly.

 Russia has not been alone in undermining these foundational norms and rules, Mr. President.

 Belarus has also violated its obligations under the UN Charter and under international law.

 By allowing Russia to use its territory to invade, and launch attacks against, Ukraine, Belarus is aiding and abetting Russia’s illegal war of aggression.

 Belarus’ decision to send its force into Ukraine, and to revoke its non-nuclear status, are all completely unacceptable to us, and completely incompatible with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.

Mr. President, there must be accountability for these actions.

As Russia has escalated its unjustifiable attack on Ukraine, its forces have encircled and shelled Ukrainian cities, targeting, killing and maiming innocent Ukrainian civilians, children, women and men.

 They are bombing civilian objects: hospitals, schools, kindergartens, apartments, and homes.

 They are looting and forcibly displacing civilians; many hundreds of thousands have fled, in freezing temperatures, seeking shelter across Ukraine`s borders.

 There are credible reports that Russian forces are using prohibited weapons including cluster bombs and imposing siege warfare on Ukrainian cities.

This is not news that comes in last week. This is news that comes in this morning. Pictures, one can see visibly on social media, as to what is taking place; very different than the wars that have been waged in the past.

We know what is happening in real-time. And it is completely abhorrent.

 Let me be very clear, Mr. President: these are violations of international law, and they are acts that could amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law.

 Those acts flow directly from decisions made by President Putin and his inner circle, that were enabled by Belarus and its leaders, and carried out by Russia’s armed forces and its proxies.

These crimes began with an idea. What was the idea? We don’t have to invent it. All we have to do is read President Putin’s speeches, and watch his declarations.

The idea that a group of people are lesser, unequal, and unworthy of the protection of the law. The idea that a people in fact do not exist as a people. That they don’t have a right to be themselves. That they don’t have a right to their own nation, their own country. That they have no right to the protection of the Charter.

The way Vladimir Putin describes the Ukrainian nation and its supporters over many generations fits the description of the idea that I have described. And it is that idea that lies at the heart of the acts that follow. Because actions do not come out of the blue, they do not come out of nothing. It all starts with an idea.  

And yet, with a terrible sense of irony, President Putin has perverted the very notion of genocide, by alleging that “genocide” has been committed in Ukraine.

 I must stress: there has been no such finding substantiated by any UN or independent organization. And as my colleague from Brazil said, just speaking before me: if there are complaints, and obviously there have been, in this Chamber and in the Security Council, with respect to the treatment of the Russian minority in Ukraine – even if those complaints were fully justified, they are not an excuse for war, and they are not an excuse for the aggression we have seen.

Ukraine has filed its own application under the Genocide Convention to the International Court of Justice. Canada takes the allegations filed by Ukraine with the greatest seriousness, as it does the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to begin an investigation into potential crimes against humanity. These decisions are not taken lightly, and they the most serious of consequences.

But I want to stress: it is the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court that are the places for these allegations to be dealt with, not the battlefield, and never by unilateral aggression. That is why we signed up to the Charter. We signed up to the Charter because we agreed that we would subject our disputes to processes created by us over many arduous years and debates, what would be done in the event of a profound difference of opinion between states. We don’t go to war. We go to the negotiating table. We go to court. We go to mediators. That is how we resolve disputes. The other way lies madness.

Canada and the international community will spare no effort to ensure that violations of international law in Ukraine are in fact investigated, that evidence is gathered, and that perpetrators are held to account.

 We do so not only out of our conviction that the arc of history bends towards justice.

We do so because it is what Ukrainians are being subjected to is horrific, and they deserve better, and they deserve more.

 Mr. President, I would like to speak directly to the brave people and government of Ukraine.

 We are quite simply inspired by you.

 We are standing with you.

 And you are not alone.

 Our support for Ukraine, your country, for your Ukrainian democracy, and for your right to choose your own future in Ukraine remains unwavering. Steadfast and resolute.

 Canada will do everything in its power to help you as you hold strong and defend your homeland against this terrible Russian aggression.

 Together with our partners, we will ensure that President Putin and those who ordered, implemented, and enabled this reckless war will continue to face significant costs – and to be held accountable for their actions.

 Your struggle is now our struggle. And we are with you. 

 Mr. President, if I could speak directly to the people of Russia:

 To the Russian protestors who are bravely demonstrating against the war, who have been met with brutal force and arbitrary arrests by riot police.

 To the thousands of Russian citizens who have written letters, had the courage to put their name on a letter to the President of Russia condemning this reckless decision.

 To all those Russians at home and abroad opposed to this senseless war. And you are in the millions.

 Canada, and the world, we see you. And we hear you.

 Your President, Vladimir Putin, has sorely miscalculated. He has ignored the democratic and law-abiding spirit of the Russian people. He has underestimated the brave Ukrainians defending their country from aggression, with whom you have no cause for war. No cause for hatred. No cause for violence. And he has severely misjudged the resolve of the world to stand against him.

 Whatever lies are spoken here today trying to justify the unjustifiable, or to explain the inexplicable, it is President Putin’s war of choice that is making your lives much more difficult.

 But there is always time for de-escalation. There is always time for dialogue. And your President must choose this path.

 Should he not, I believe it will show you just how much contempt he has for you, and for the future of your country and the planet that we live on, and share, together.

 Mr. President,

 We should all say together directly to President Putin: stop this war. Stop this war. Stop it before there is more death, more pain, and more hardship.

Stop the use of threats.

Take your finger away from the nuclear button. And never put it back for as long as you live.

Come to grips with the reality of our time, as in more serious and rational moments, you have done.

Mr. President, it is never too late to stop, it’s never too late to make a turn to diplomacy, to dialogue and to negotiation.

 The alternative cannot happen.

 So now it falls to all of us, as equal members of the United Nations, whose equality and sovereignty, as I had said before, is what we signed up to when we became members of this organization.

We need to stand up for the principles of the Charter, for the purposes the Charter, and to heal the hurt and pain caused by this terrible war of aggression.

This responsibility belongs to us, and to no others. We seat here and we have to make decisions. We have to take every step we can. The human footsteps to peace, to reconciliation, and to justice. That is now our job in the General Assembly.

And we must seize this moment, this moment of accountability, this moment of justice, this moment of democracy, we must seize it together.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

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