At least 18 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on Belgorod, said Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General in the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UN DPPA), briefing the Council on the latest developments.
Russia had called for the emergency meeting following reported attacks on Belogorod. Located about 40 km north of the Ukrainian border, Belgorod is home to more than 300,000 residents.
The emergency session was held less than 24 hours after the Council convened a meeting on Ukraine following large scale attacks by Russia against Ukrainian towns and cities.
‘We unequivocally condemn attacks’
“We unequivocally condemn all attacks on cities, town and villages, in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation,” Mr. Khiari said. “Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, are unacceptable and must end now.”
He said that even as the Council meets today, reports of new air raid alerts were also coming in from across Ukraine, including in the Kharkiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Cherkasy, Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk regions.
Indeed, just a few hours ago, the city of Kharkiv was reportedly attacked, resulting in civilians injured and civilian infrastructure damaged, he said.
Civilian deaths in Belgorod
Mr. Khiari said attacks on locations in the Belgorod city centre reportedly resulted in damage to civilian infrastructure, including the regional government office and the medical college of Belgorod State University.
“The strikes were reported as among the deadliest cross-border attacks on the Russian Federation since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, launched in violation of the UN Charter and international law,” he said.
At the same time, he said, the Russian military authorities reported separate overnight Ukrainian drone attacks in the Bryansk, Oryol, Kursk and Moscow regions of Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities reported new overnight Russian drone attacks targeting the Kherson region, he said.
“As the war continues, we will see more Ukrainian and Russian civilians killed and injured,” he said. “Protection of civilians must be the main priority. The fighting and bloodshed must cease, the war must come to an end.”
Russia: EU complicit in ‘terrorist attack’
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the city centre of Belgorod was struck with missiles and attacks using prohibited cluster munitions as well as Czech-produced Vampir missiles. Targets included a sports centre, ice skating rink and a university.
“This is a deliberate act of terrorism,” he said, requesting Czechia and other Western States to account for where their assistance is going.
“There’s no use pretending,” he said. “The European Union countries are complicit in the crimes committed by the gang in Kyiv.”
Council members: Civilians should not be a target
Council members roundly condemned attacks targeting civilians.
Schools should be safe havens for children, said UAE Deputy Ambassador Mohamed Issa Abushahab.
“Civilians must be protected, and civilian objects should not be targets for attacks,” he said.
French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière echoed a point raised by several Council members, emphasizing that if Russian troops were not on Ukrainian soil, “we wouldn’t be here this afternoon”.
Calls for Russia to end war
The United Kingdom’s representative Thomas Patrick Phipps said that Russia is trying to draw equivalence to Friday’s Council meeting on Russian strikes against Ukrainian cities and towns.
However, Russia started this war and can end it, he said.
Many speakers agreed, calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory and end hostilities.
The United States’ representative John Kelly said Russia alone is responsible for starting this war, in violation of the UN Charter.
“As long as Russia persists, the US will support Ukraine in its right to defend itself,” he said, calling on Moscow to immediately end the war and for the protection of all civilians on all sides in every conflict.
China’s representative Geng Shuang was deeply concerned about the long, drawn out crisis in Ukraine.
“There are no winners in conflict,” he said, reiterating China’s willingness to work towards a peaceful solution.
Ukraine: Still recovering from Russia’s ‘horrendous’ strikes
Ukraine’s representative Serhii Dvornyk said his country is “still recovering from Friday’s horrendous strikes”.
“Just hours ago, Russia again terrorized Kharkiv with S-300 missiles, hitting a residential building and a hotel,” he said. “Since this morning a number of cities and villages in Ukraine have come under Russian fire.”
They include Dnipro, Nikopol and Vyshetarasivka in Dnipropetrovsk region, Kharkiv, Vovchansk, Kupyansk and Velyka Shpakivka in Kharkiv region and Antonivka and Tomina Balka in Kherson region.
“The Security Council convened yesterday and is meeting again today, and you should be ready to meet tomorrow, the day after tomorrow – every day that the Russian war against Ukraine lasts,” he said. “Because as long as this war, unleashed by the Kremlin dictator, endures, the toll of death and suffering will continue to grow.”
Once “Russia’s bloody war” is over there will be no more human suffering, no more civilian casualties in Europe and no more reason for further Security Council meetings on this issue, he said.