Ukraine Conflict Wakes Up Security Council to Civilian Attacks!

“We condemn all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure,” said Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations. “They are prohibited under international law; they are unacceptable and must stop now.”

“Regrettably, our repeated calls for protection of civilians appear to fall on deaf ears,” he said, pointing to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa which has become a frequent target of lethal missile and drone attacks in recent days and weeks.

Spike in drone attacks

As the full-scale Russian invasion enters its third year, recent civilian casualties have also been reported in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, Mr. Khiari said.

In addition, reports show “the fighting is spreading to new residential areas in the east of Ukraine”, he said, noting the complete, or near complete, destruction of villages, towns and cities at the hands of Russian forces since the war began, including in Mariupol, Bakhmut, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Volnovakha and most recently in Avdiivka.

“This horrific pattern must not be perpetuated,” he said, emphasizing that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed since the start of the conflict, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific of the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, briefs the Security Council meeting on maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.

Invasion, illegal elections, annexations must end

Turning to other serious concerns, he said reports of Russia’s plans to hold its March presidential elections in the territories of Ukraine currently under its control are “deeply disturbing”.

“The attempted illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory have no validity under international law, as also declared by the UN General Assembly,” he said.

“The past two years of war have come with a heavy price for Ukraine, Europe and the world,” he said. “We must not allow for this war to bring further loss of life, destruction and suffering.”

‘Time to bring suffering to an end’

Echoing that call, was Lisa Doughten, of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who briefed the Council about the grim situation on the ground.

The latest wave of escalatory attacks amid a harsh winter shows how the conflict continues to inflict immeasurable human suffering, death and devastation on the people of Ukraine, she said, delivering a statement on behalf of UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths.

“Attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” she stressed.

“Indiscriminate attacks are also strictly prohibited; parties to the conflict must take constant care to spare all civilians and civilian objects, including infrastructure essential for civilians’ survival.”

Harsh impact, especially on women and girls

She also said the conflict is also having a particularly harsh impact on women and girls in Ukraine, she said, honouring them on this International Women’s Day, with an increase in gender-based violence against them being “a shocking hallmark of this war”.

One third of women-led households in Ukraine are struggling to feed themselves, and 60 per cent of older women are unable to provide for their own basic needs, according to the UN reproductive health agency, UNFPA, she regretted to note.

“Tragically, a lack of sufficient resources to sustain and expand a network of medical and social care services means many of the 2.5 million people anticipated to be subjected to gender-based violence in the coming year” will not have access to services they need, she said.

© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov

A family receives winter clothing kits for children and other supplies from UNICEF in the frontline community of Marhanets, Ukraine. (file).

UN will help ‘for as long as it takes’

“The UN and its partners continue to do everything we can to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of people across Ukraine in spite of the ongoing and deteriorating security situation,” she said, noting that two humanitarian workers have lost their lives and 10 have been injured in 2024 alone, highlighting the dangers of delivering aid close to the frontline.

“As hostilities continue to escalate, we are deeply concerned about the fate of civilians in these territories whom we are unable to reach at any adequate scale,” she said, including the lack of humanitarian access to the Russian-occupied parts of Donetsk, Kherson and Luhansk.

“The consequences for an estimated 1.5 million people in need of lifesaving assistance there are unthinkable, and they are avoidable,” she said, adding that international humanitarian law requires all parties to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need and must ensure that aid workers have the freedom of movement required for their work.

The UN and its aid partners remain committed to safeguarding the life and dignity of civilians “for as long as it takes, but it has gone on too long,” she said, adding that “it is time to bring the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine and the suffering of the Ukrainian people to an end.”



  1. Do you think the international community is doing enough to protect civilians in Ukraine given the escalating attacks on civilian targets?

    1. Emily, the escalating attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine are indeed alarming. The international community must step up its efforts to protect civilians and uphold international law. It is crucial that immediate actions are taken to prevent further civilian casualties and bring those responsible for these attacks to justice.

  2. Do these attacks on civilians violate any specific treaties or conventions under international law?

    1. Yes, the attacks on civilians in Ukraine violate several international treaties and conventions, including the Geneva Conventions which explicitly prohibit targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure during conflicts. It’s crucial for the international community to hold the perpetrators accountable and ensure respect for human rights in times of war.

  3. It’s heartbreaking to see the civilian casualties and destruction caused by the conflict in Ukraine. The international community must come together to ensure the protection of civilians and hold accountable those responsible for these attacks.

  4. It’s truly heartbreaking to see the continued violence and attacks on civilians in Ukraine. The international community must come together to ensure the protection of innocent lives. My thoughts and prayers are with the people affected by this devastating conflict.

  5. It is heartbreaking to see civilian casualties continue to rise in the conflict in Ukraine. The international community must take a stronger stand against these attacks and work towards protecting innocent lives. Khaled Khiari’s words highlight the urgent need for action to stop the violence and prevent further loss of life.

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with Khaled Khiari’s statement condemning attacks on civilians. It is crucial that international law is upheld, and these unacceptable acts must cease immediately. The escalating drone attacks and civilian casualties in various regions of Ukraine are devastating. The global community must take decisive action to protect innocent lives and prevent further destruction.

  7. Does the Security Council have any specific plans to increase protection for civilians in Ukraine following these attacks?

    1. Yes, the Security Council is actively discussing and working on strategies to enhance protection for civilians in Ukraine amidst the recent string of attacks. Measures are being considered to strengthen monitoring and response mechanisms to ensure the safety and well-being of innocent civilians caught in the conflict.

  8. It is truly heartbreaking to see the civilian population of Ukraine suffering such devastating attacks. The international community must come together to protect innocent lives and put an end to this senseless violence.

  9. It’s truly heartbreaking to hear about the continuous attacks on civilians in Ukraine. The international community must take immediate action to protect innocent lives and put an end to this senseless violence.

  10. “The ongoing attacks on civilians in Ukraine are utterly deplorable. It is high time for immediate and decisive action to protect innocent lives and uphold international law,” emphasized Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General at the UN Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations.

  11. As a strong believer in human rights, I find it appalling that civilian attacks are still occurring despite international laws clearly prohibiting such actions. The world needs to take immediate action to ensure the safety and protection of innocent civilians in conflict zones like Ukraine. Khaled Khiari’s words reflect the urgent need for change in how we respond to these devastating events.

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