Peace needed urgently in Ukraine amid new Russian offensive – Coveney

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Simon Coveney addressed the UN Security Council (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)
Simon Coveney addressed the UN Security Council (Niall Carson/PA) (PA Archive)

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister has urged the UN Security Council to do all it can to secure an urgent peace in Ukraine, amid an all-out Russia offensive in the Donbas region.

Simon Coveney also accused Russian forces of showing an “utter disregard” for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.

It comes as the Russian assault intensifies on cities and towns in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Coveney told the Security Council that he was aware that leaders were meeting “in the shadow of a renewed offensive by Russian forces on eastern Ukraine”.

“I hear the narrative, from far too many quarters, that peace is only possible after the battle for Donbas. I can’t accept that logic – a logic that leads directly to further death, further suffering, further displacement.

“This Council must challenge that thinking, today and every day. We must demand more.”

Mr Coveney also spoke in New York about the horrors he witnessed during a recent visit to the town of Bucha.

He described the scenes he witnessed as “profoundly shocking”.

“Hundreds of family homes, shops and other civilian infrastructure: blackened, burnt, looted, damaged, and in some cases completely destroyed.

“Family cars, riddled with bullets, windshields smashed, bloodstains still evident.

Simon Coveney is shown the site of mass graves where more than 50 bodies were found in Bucha (Department of Foreign Affairs/PA) (PA Media)
Simon Coveney is shown the site of mass graves where more than 50 bodies were found in Bucha (Department of Foreign Affairs/PA) (PA Media)

“I’ve been around long enough to know the difference between truth and staged propaganda when I see it.

“There was nothing fabricated about what I witnessed.

“I stood at the edge of one of the mass graves, where the work of carefully exhuming bodies continued.

“Five hundred and three civilians had been identified at that stage – and just four soldiers.”

He said that what he witnessed during the visit “speaks to an utter disregard by Russian forces for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians”.

“There’s no spinning that reality away with disinformation.”

Mr Coveney said that Ireland will not remain silent on the “senseless and devastating” war in Ukraine nor on the impact it is having on some of the poorest countries around the world.

He said that the UN Security Council cannot afford to remain silent either.

He referenced depleted wheat reserves in Palestine, as well as the economic impact of the war on the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

Mr Coveney had confirmed earlier that just under 25,000 Ukrainians had arrived in Ireland as refugees, with 85% of that number women and children.

“Ireland is a small country,” he said. “We’re not a member of any military alliance. We’re no superpower. But we fought to take a seat at this table and we earned the right to be here.

“We did so because we fundamentally believe that, despite all the well documented flaws of this Council and there are many, it is the ultimate arbiter on matters of war and peace.”

Mr Coveney took the opportunity to call on Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to end the war.

“As it was on February 25, so it is today – this is a war of choice. It can end immediately if president Putin so decides.

“And yet, instead we are seeing a renewed and upscaled offensive in eastern Ukraine. This is madness that history will judge very harshly.

“We have to find a way to stop this war.

“I want to call today on Russia directly. Agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, commit to negotiations, respect this Charter.

“We know that some progress was made in Istanbul between the key parties. There is clearly a basis for a peace agreement.”

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