Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Russia’s despicable attacks on civilians are inexcusable – UK statement to the OSCE [June 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 14 June 2023.

UK military advisor, Ian Stubbs, says that over 15 months into its illegal invasion, the list of Russia’s accomplishments read like a depraved horror story.

Thank you, Madam Chair. Once again, Ukrainian civilians have paid the price for Russia’s brutal aggression. Yesterday in Kryvyi Rih at least 11 people were killed and a further 28 injured due to Russia’s large-scale missile attacks. Residential buildings were destroyed, and civilians were trapped under the rubble. Such attacks are inexcusable and demonstrate Russia’s blatant disregard for the lives of civilians.

The catastrophic collapse of the Kakhovka Dam last week has impacted thousands of Ukrainian citizens. On 11 June, the United Nations estimated that 700,000 people in Kherson region were without access to drinking water. In addition, the collapse of the dam has almost certainly severely disrupted the primary source of fresh water for illegally annexed Crimea. Open-source imagery shows that water has stopped flowing into the intake which feeds the North Crimean Canal, and this will reduce the availability of fresh water in the southern Kherson Oblast and northern Crimea.

The resulting floodwaters have also caused lasting damage to huge swathes of agricultural land. The Ukrainian Agriculture Association has estimated that Ukraine will lose 14 percent of its grain exports due to the flooding.

We again express our deepest concern regarding the potential impact of this damage on communities living in the downstream areas, the provision of clean water supplies, the longer-term safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and the wider ecological consequences from the destruction of the dam. We call for immediate access for neutral and impartial humanitarian organisations to help those in need wherever they are.

Multiple reports indicate that Russian shelling has caused death and injuries to civilians during evacuation efforts – this is despicable. We are clear; the destruction of the Kakhovka dam is yet another devastating example of the terrible consequences of Russia’s unprovoked, illegal and full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It is a disaster zone in the middle of a war zone.

Madam Chair, we repeatedly warned Russia, in this and other fora, that any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake. Russia ignored those warnings at terrible cost to Ukraine and its own people. Over 15 months into its illegal invasion, the list of Russia’s accomplishments read like a depraved horror story. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians killed; cities and towns laid to waste; evidence of unimaginable atrocities against men, women and children committed. I ask our Russian colleagues, are these the goals of the so-called “Special Military Operation” that they endorse in this room every week? By justifying these actions and supporting them by spreading disinformation and hate-filled vitriol, our Russian colleagues, as professional diplomats, must know they bear responsibility for the lies they peddle to this forum and their own population. Lies cannot live forever.

Madam Chair, over the last five days, significant Ukrainian operations have taken place in several sectors of eastern and southern Ukraine. In some areas, Ukrainian forces have likely made good progress and penetrated the first line of Russian defences. Russian performance has been mixed; some units are likely conducting credible defence operations while others have pulled back in some disorder with multiple reports of further Russian casualties as they withdraw through their own minefields.

In Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces continue to exploit weaknesses in Russia’s defensive lines and ambiguity over Russian command and control following the withdrawal of Wagner Group forces. Continued Russian disorder on the battlefield, also seems to be fuelling further dysfunction in the already fraught relationship between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence. On 10 June, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov announced that ‘volunteers’ fighting for Russia must sign contracts directly with the Russian Ministry of Defence. Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin immediately announced that his personnel would refuse to sign the contracts.

It is a telling indictment of the progress of Russia’s so-called “Special Military Operation” that, whilst Ukraine is focused on fighting its barbaric invader, Russia is fighting itself.

Madam Chair, we do not underestimate the continuing threat posed by the Russian Federation but, in time, there will be cause for Ukraine to celebrate. Ukraine will continue to demonstrate their resolute courage, determination and enduring moral strength as they fight to liberate more of their homeland. The UK and the international community will remain steadfast in our support – we will stand by Ukraine for however long it takes. Our united approach of providing Ukraine with the support it needs to defend itself and push Russia out of Ukraine’s sovereign territory is the swiftest, and only, path to a just and lasting peace. Ukraine will win. Thank you.