Thank you, Mr Chair for convening us, and for assembling an excellent panel of speakers today.
On 23 February the UN General Assembly adopted, with 141 votes in favour, a resolution deploring “the dire human rights and humanitarian consequences of the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including the continuous attacks against critical infrastructure with devastating consequences for civilians”. Standing alongside Ukraine, 140 countries “called for an immediate cessation of the attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and any deliberate attacks on civilian objects, including…schools and hospitals”.
When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Putin expected to succeed within weeks. Twelve months later, Putin is losing his war and resorting to desperate measures. He is indiscriminately striking civilian areas and critical national infrastructure across the country. Many of these strikes have no military value – they are deliberately aimed at spreading terror amongst civilians, and by targeting strikes on thermal Power Plants and Hydroelectric dams, he is seeking to plunge Ukraine’s population into cold and darkness. This, after Russia itself joined others at the UN Security Council two years ago, in April 2021, to adopt Resolution 2573 demanding that parties to armed conflict comply with international humanitarian law obligations, and spare civilian infrastructure critical to essential service delivery, whilst also protecting civilians operating it.
Deputy Minister Demchenkov outlined for us today the impact of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and its nuclear facilities, as well as Ukraine’s impressive response. In March last year, Russia illegally seized control of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, subjecting its staff to horrific treatment and increasing the risk of a nuclear incident. IAEA Director General Grossi last week underlined the persistent safety and security risks. The Russian Federation is solely responsible for the “dangerous, precarious and challenging situation” at the Plant – direct consequences of its illegal invasion. This, from a supposed responsible nuclear actor. As Director General Grossi outlined, the sound of artillery falling is never far away. Just last week, a Russian rocket struck a residential building in the city– 13 people were killed including a small child.
In response, the UK has provided over €4.5 million to support the Agency’s work in Ukraine. We have also stepped up our support to help Ukraine deal with attacks on broader energy infrastructure. To date, the UK has provided almost £80 million of support, including:
- £10 million to the Energy Community’s Energy Support Fund for emergency equipment;
- A $50 million guarantee to Ukraine’s electricity operator (via the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development);
- 856 generators;
- £5 million for civil nuclear safety and security equipment and activities;
- £10 million for generators and heaters for Ukraine’s military effort;
- Continued support for Ukraine to defend its critical national infrastructure through supply of air defence capabilities; and
- A G7 coordination mechanism to help Ukraine repair, restore and defend its energy infrastructure.
Further, in June the UK and Ukraine will co-host the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London with a focus on the role of the private sector in supporting recovery and reconstruction.
Mr Chair, the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure has generated insecurities far beyond Ukraine’s national borders. What is clear from today’s discussion is how interconnected we are, and the risks and vulnerabilities this creates.
Domestically, in December, the UK Government published our Resilience Framework. This details our commitment to strengthen the resilience of our CNI across public and private sectors by building a stronger understanding of our risks and interdependencies, and by developing new standards and assurance processes. By 2030, the UK will:
- Build upon existing resilience standards to create common but flexible resilience standards across CNI; and
- Review existing regulatory regimes on resilience to ensure they are fit for purpose. In the highest priority sectors that are not already regulated, and for the highest priority risks, we will consider enforcing standards through regulation.
And on interdependencies, we have developed a CNI Knowledge Base: a bespoke CNI mapping tool, to identify interdependencies across and within sectors to form a ‘single source of truth’ for UK CNI and help users collaborate in how we anticipate, prevent, and respond to risks.
Mr Chair, Russia’s continued violations of international law and increased targeting of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure is moral bankruptcy. It is a cynical and calculated strategy of cruel destruction. And it is a strategy that will fail.