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Statement at the 11th Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by the Russian Federation

Speech delivered: October 12, 2022
Event: Location: UNGA
Statement delivered by Ms Annika Silva-Leander on behalf of International IDEA



International IDEA continues to strongly condemn the unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine waged by the Russian Federation, violating the basic principles of the UN Charter that states that “all Member States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (UN Charter, Article 2.4). We reiterate to this Assembly that the war and the atrocities committed in Ukraine, a sovereign nation and a democracy, are in breach of international law, international agreements, the UN charter and the rules-based international order. 

International IDEA deplores the illegal and illegitimate holding of referendums in Ukraine's occupied territories on joining the Russian Federation. Staged to imitate the pursuit of self-determination of people, they are an egregious abuse of this direct democracy tool by a hostile occupying power and an illegal attempt to modify the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. 

These referendums violate the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that the organization and procedure for conducting referendums “are determined exclusively by the laws of Ukraine” (Art. 92). They are conducted in gross violation of established principles of international humanitarian and human rights law. In the context of Russia's continued assault and ongoing occupation, the organization of a referendum aided or organized by occupying forces presumptively violates the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the IV Geneva Convention. In no circumstances can these referendums be considered as an exercise of a right to self-determination through remedial secession. 

International IDEA calls on the international community to condemn these referendums as illegitimate and illegal and not to recognize the forceful and illegal annexation of the territories by Russia. 

We also deplore Russia’s use and abuse of the veto power in the UN Security Council, a body created to guarantee international peace and security – not to enable war and its perpetrators. The systematic abuse of veto powers in the Security Council calls for profound reform of this body to ensure that it can truly uphold the principles of the UN Charter. 2 

We also wish to remind this Assembly that this conflict is not only about sovereignty, but also about democracy. The survival of democracy in Ukraine is not an add-on in the territorial defence of the country, but a fundamental aspect of it. Russia’s war of aggression is also an attack on a democratic political system that securely places the destiny of the country in the hands of Ukrainian civilians and out of the reach of Russia. We, therefore, also urge those in this Assembly that will support Ukraine’s reconstruction process to place democracy at its centre. 

We reiterate our firm belief that international crises should be addressed through the means of multilateral diplomacy and resolved on the basis of the principles of the UN Charter. 

We urge Russia to immediately end its full-scale unlawful invasion of Ukraine and we demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all its military forces from Ukraine. We encourage the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to continue advancing ceasefire talks, humanitarian access to the war-affected areas and protection of civilians. We welcome the adoption and enforcement of sanctions by the international community against the Russian Federation until withdrawal of their forces from Ukraine and the full restoration of its territorial integrity. 

International IDEA will continue to do its part, in collaboration with the United Nations, our Member States and other democratic governments and organizations, to protect, in Ukraine and elsewhere, the principle that every country has a right to freely determine its own fate on the basis of the will of the people, freely expressed. Democracy’s institutions and processes, such as free and fair elections and democratic referenda are the best means to protect that right. They must not be manipulated for authoritarian purposes. 

Finally, we would like to use this opportunity to celebrate the award of the Nobel Peace Prize 2022 to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties. This award acknowledges the importance of civil society in resisting the authoritarian assault. It is also a way of stating that, in this time and age, the quest for global peace –which is at the heart of the mission of this body—demands protecting democracy in Ukraine and everywhere. 

Thank you.

Watch the delivery of the Statement by Annika Silva-Leander, on behalf of International IDEA's Secretary-Gerneral:

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