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We must all urge Russia to withdraw its forces from the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine: UK statement at the UN Security Council

It is now over two years since Russia launched its illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. The consequences of Putin’s war have been disastrous. In Kyiv last December, I met children learning to walk again having lost limbs in Russian attacks. I met two young girls rescued months after forced abduction by Russia. We mourn for over ten thousand civilians who have lost their lives in Ukraine; we share the concerns of parents of the twenty thousand children forcibly removed and still untraced, displaced from their families. The people of Russia- in particular soldiers’ mothers- suffer too. But not, of course, the Russian government, whose war chest is funded by their partners’ oil and gas purchases, which in turn allows Russia to purchase weapons from DPRK and Iran, while their citizens- and millions of people across the world, face economic hardship and food insecurity.

There is a peaceful way to end this war and this suffering. Last weekend in Switzerland, 100 countries and institutions met to discuss peace, and an end to the war based on international law, the UN Charter principles and President Zelenskyy’s own proposals. And I thank the Swiss government for organising this conference. From every continent, representatives emphasised that all states benefit if there is respect for the UN Charter, for territorial integrity, and sovereignty. It showed too how we could take the first steps towards peace now, including on food security, nuclear safety, and the return of Ukrainian children.

But Putin spurned this opportunity. He dismissed the peace summit. He actively sought to undermine it. He spent the days leading up to the summit launching a vicious new assault on Kharkiv, using glide-bombs to target civilians, and to inflict further damage on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. He made clear that he is interested only in Ukraine’s total capitulation. He suggested a ceasefire could be considered only if Ukraine ceded its sovereign territory to him. Where is peaceful settlement and respect for the UN Charter in that?

And, now, just two days after widespread international calls for a just peace in Ukraine, Putin has gone to Pyongyang to seek yet more North Korean weapons to sustain his war, in violation of Security Council resolutions. Every member of the United Nations has a responsibility to reject this, and to uphold the principles of this institution. We must all urge Russia – the one state which can end this war immediately – to withdraw its forces from the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine and engage constructively with international efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in line with the principles of the UN Charter.

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