Russia disregards duty to ensure public health in occupied territories – Ukraine in UN

10:20, 28 May 2020
Politics
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REUTERS

As the party to the conflict, Russia persists in disregarding its duty of an occupying power under international humanitarian law to ensure and maintain public health of the population, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, said, speaking at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on Wednesday.

Ukraine has become an example of consequences of violation by one of the permanent members of the Security Council of norms and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, Kyslytsya recalls.

"For more than six years, the Russian aggression continues to take lives of civilians in my country. This international armed conflict and the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol turned the subject of protection of civilians for my country from academic to a very practical and daily issue," he said.

In the context of the spread of the acute respiratory disease COVID-19, the state of protection of life and health of civilians in the temporarily occupied territories became more alarming and needs special attention of the international community.

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As the party to the conflict, Russia persists in disregarding its duty of an occupying power under international humanitarian law to ensure and maintain public health of the population and uses the recent aggravation of the humanitarian situation as a smokescreen for further attacks on the rights and freedoms of Crimea residents.

The spread of the pandemic did not stop the Russian authorities from announcing conscription into the occupying army of the Russian Federation, which is a war crime. In March 2020, a decree by the Russian President to deprive Ukrainian citizens of a right to own land in Crimea became yet another uncouth demonstration of Moscow's disregard for its responsibilities under international humanitarian law.

Moreover, for more than three years, the occupying power has been showing utmost disrespect for the International Court of Justice by ignoring its order to restore the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. Also, Russia continues to block proper and unhindered access of international monitoring missions, to the occupied territories.

In this situation, Ukraine demands that the Russian Federation "ensure unhindered access there to Ukrainian competent authorities and medical staff and provide – on a constant basis – exhaustive information on the spread of coronavirus disease in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and on measures it undertakes to assist the population of these territories to cope with the pandemic."

"Russia should make all efforts to prevent the spreading of the COVID-19 from the occupied territory to other areas and neighboring states," the Ukrainian Permanent Representative said.

As a party to core international instruments related to the protection of civilians, Ukraine constantly promotes and supports all efforts aimed at strengthening their implementation and advocate ensuring respect of human rights and international humanitarian law at both bilateral and multilateral forums, the diplomat stressed.

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By contrast, the other party to the conflict – the Russian Federation – is ignoring the General Assembly resolutions and the OHCHR recommendations, "practicing a 'cherry-picking' approach to the obligations under international humanitarian law", according to the ambassador.

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