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UN Weekly Roundup: February 18-24, 2023

Representatives observe a minute of silence during a meeting at the United Nations Security Council, to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 24, 2023.
Representatives observe a minute of silence during a meeting at the United Nations Security Council, to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 24, 2023.

Editor's note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

One year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Friday marked one year since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. There were several meetings at U.N. headquarters during the week to mark the somber anniversary.

On Friday, the Security Council held a high-level meeting on the conflict. The Ukrainian foreign minister was defiant, saying Ukraine would continue to resist Russia’s attack and would win. “Putin is going to lose much sooner than he thinks,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

Ukraine Will Resist and Win, Foreign Minister Tells UN

Support remains strong for Ukraine

On Thursday, the international community reaffirmed its strong support for Ukraine, adopting a resolution calling for “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” as soon as possible in Ukraine, in line with the principles in the U.N. Charter. Only six countries voted with Russia to reject the motion.

At UN, Ukraine Finds Strong Support One Year into Conflict

POW tells of '3,000 hours of Russian hell'

The violation of the human rights of Ukrainians by Russia in the conflict, particularly of the thousands of children abducted to Russia and the treatment of Ukrainian captives, was the subject of a meeting Wednesday. Ukrainian marine Artem Dyblenko told the gathering of his 125 days — or 3,000 hours — as a Russian prisoner of war that he endured physical, moral and psychological abuse. "Three thousand hours of Russian hell,” he said.

At UN, Former Ukrainian POWs Appeal for Justice

Casualty figures released, but likely are low

The U.N. Human Rights office published new figures Tuesday on the casualties incurred since the war began one year ago. Their monitors have confirmed at least 8,006 civilians have been killed and 13,287 injured over the past 12 months, but they acknowledge the true toll is much higher.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine Exacting Devastating Toll on Civilians

In brief

While Ukraine has been in the spotlight this week, the world body also has been tending to other crises and situations.

— Humanitarians have been working tirelessly to assist earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. The death toll has risen to 47,000 and thousands remain homeless after the February 6 quake. Another quake on Monday killed several more people. The United Nations is coordinating humanitarian assessments in affected parts of Turkey to determine what is needed. In Syria, 368 aid trucks have crossed into opposition-controlled parts of northwest Syria since February 9, when crossing points became usable again. A U.N. flash appeal for nearly $400 million to cover needs for the next three months is nearly 40% funded, while a $1 billion appeal for Turkey, is just over 7% funded. The U.N. says it has not received any money for key areas, including temporary settlement support and debris removal.

— The U.N. Security Council expressed “deep concern and dismay” Monday regarding Israel’s announcement that it plans to expand settlements and retroactively legalize nine existing ones. It is the first time in more than six years the 15-nation council has expressed itself about settlements, mainly because of the veto power of the United States, which traditionally acts to protect ally Israel at the U.N. It comes at a time of rising tensions and violence between the two sides. At least 58 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed since the start of the year.

— The council also met Monday to discuss the latest ballistic missile provocations by North Korea. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she would seek Security Council unity in responding to the launches, despite previous opposition from China and Russia. The divisions among the council’s permanent members over what to do about Pyongyang has prevented new action. The U.S. and its western allies, plus Japan and South Korea, want to see tougher sanctions imposed on North Korea, but China and Russia say that is a “dead end.”

— The U.N. is assisting victims of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which killed at least 7 people in eastern Madagascar this week. Humanitarians are helping the government by providing food, water and other aid. The U.N. says at least 79,000 people were impacted by the cyclone.

— On Tuesday, the U.N. mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said three Senegalese peacekeepers were killed and five others injured in central Mali when their convoy hit an improvised explosive device. The head of the mission, El-Ghassim Wane, said this was yet another tragic illustration of the complexity of the operational environment and sacrifices made for restoring peace in the country. Mali is one of the most dangerous U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Quote of note

“Life is a living hell for the people of Ukraine.”

— Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Security Council meeting marking the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. He has repeatedly called for peace in line with the U.N. Charter and international law.

What we are watching next week

On Monday, in Geneva, the United Nations with the governments of Sweden and Switzerland will convene a high-level pledging event for Yemen. Despite an ease in fighting, nearly two-thirds of the population are projected to need humanitarian assistance. The country remains one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies the U.N. is working on, with aid agencies helping 11 million Yemenis each month in 2022.