Ukraine War: Political Affairs Chief Warns Against Rhetoric Fuelling ‘Already Dangerous Conflict’
The UN “is not in a position” to verify reports surrounding the crash of a Russian aircraft near the border with Ukraine, the Organization’s top political affairs official said on Thursday, calling on the warring sides to avoid fuelling “the already dangerous conflict”.
“We understand both Russia and Ukraine are conducting separate investigations into the incident, and Kyiv has called for an international probe,” Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told ambassadors in the Security Council.
Russia said that there were no survivors from Monday’s crash in the Belgorod region close to the Ukrainian border and stated that 74 people had been on board the military transport plane, 65 of whom were captured Ukrainian soldiers who were part of a prisoner of war (POW) swap.
Moscow claims that the plane was struck by a Ukrainian missile, according to news reports, but Ukraine has said it was not told to ensure the safety of airspace, as on previous occasions when POWs have been exchanged.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia in a post on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, of “playing with the lives of Ukrainian prisoners of war”, calling for “all the facts to be established” and insisting on an international inquiry.
Unable to verify
Noting that the UN is unable to verify the reports or the circumstances of the crash, Ms. DiCarlo said that “what is clear is that the incident took place in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing war.”
“To avoid further escalation, we urge all concerned to refrain from actions, rhetoric or allegations that could further fuel the already dangerous conflict.”
Casualties ‘rapidly rising’
According to the UN human rights office, OHCHR, since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, 10,312 civilians have been killed and a further 19,530 injured.
“These figures continue to rapidly rise,” Ms. DiCarlo added, noting casualties resulting from recent strikes.
“The Secretary-General has been unambiguous in condemning all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, wherever they occur. They are prohibited under international law and must stop immediately,” she said.
Concerns for prisoners of war
The senior UN official also highlighted her deep concerns for POWs on all sides and for their families.
“The recent incident in the Belgorod region, with its claimed link to a planned prisoner exchange, reminds us of the plight of prisoners of war,” she said.
“Notwithstanding the circumstances of yesterday’s incident, the fate of POWs should not be instrumentalized. We urge the parties to continue pursuing exchanges of prisoners of war,” she added.
‘A war of choice’
Ms. DiCarlo said that the war in Ukraine “is a war of choice”.
“Its tragic consequences are clear for all to see. The longer it lasts, the more death and destruction it causes and the more it eats away at the norms agreed to ensure and maintain a peaceful and secure world,” she said.