UNHCR Standing Committee Agenda item 3 a) iv. Regional update Europe – Statement by Estonia – 8 March 2022

Thank you, chair.

Estonia aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union on behalf of the EU and its Member States.

We are witnessing extreme human suffering and fast growing refugee crisis right here in Europe due to the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine in blatant violation of international law. The gravely devastating consequences of this aggression – not only for Europe but globally – cannot be overstated. Estonia condemns in the strongest terms possible the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

As the Russian Federation is not respecting the core principles of international humanitarian law, as well as human rights law, and is attacking civilians, we – the international community – must do our outmost to help the Ukrainian people. It is heart-breaking and entirely unacceptable to see the heavy casualties and the loss of innocent lives, resulting from this unjustified attack. Estonia´s support to Ukraine and its people will continue in all areas – be it political, economic, financial, humanitarian or security-related.

Unfortunately, the security situation is rapidly escalating and making it more and more difficult for humanitarian aid operations to continue. Therefore, it is even more important to find ways for protecting civilians, helping them flee this senseless war and securing unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. Civilians who want to flee the war should be able to do so, without hindrance and without any discrimination. We commend everyone, including UNHCR and its partners, as well as local and Estonian NGOs, for all the relentless work in and around Ukraine in alleviating the human suffering. Estonia very much appreciates the work that humanitarian workers are doing on the ground, every day, in very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

We reiterate the utmost importance of abiding by international norms and call on Russia to respect international law, and in particular international humanitarian law.  Full and unhindered humanitarian access must be guaranteed. Humanitarian workers should be able to do their work in security and not fear for their lives. Civilians must be protected. Hospitals, schools, and kindergartens should never come under attack.

We also condemn the involvement of Belarus in this unlawful aggression and call on it to abide by its international obligations. As the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on 2 March 2022, another strong and clear message was sent by the international community to the Russian Federation to immediately end its war against Ukraine. The General Assembly resolution as well as efforts by the Security Council are directed among other things to achieve unhindered humanitarian access in Ukraine. Establishment of humanitarian corridors – and most importantly securing their functioning for safe passage of civilians – is our goal as we witness an unprecedented scale of shelling on civilian objects. All agreements relating to humanitarian corridors must strictly be respected.

In a situation where over 2 million innocent children, women and men have already been forced to flee Ukraine, Estonia has kept its borders open to welcome everyone in need. The Estonian government has just allocated 1,3 million euros towards the initial costs of accepting people displaced by the war in Ukraine. But most of all, we would like to commend Moldova, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania and all other hosting countries for their unwavering solidarity, hospitality and support to refugees.

Ukraine is a very close and long-standing friend and partner to Estonia. The connections between the two countries have been frequent and abundant. Ukraine is full of friends and Ukraine has numerous friends in Estonia. Over the past eight years, Estonia has continuously supported the needs of vulnerable people, including women, children and the elderly in Eastern Ukraine, both through bilateral projects and international organisations.

Estonia will continue to work towards alleviating the humanitarian needs in Ukraine both bilaterally and through international organizations. As of today, total amount of humanitarian assistance provided by Estonia is 1 million euros.  The response from the civil society and private sector in Estonia has been unprecedented with more than 5 million EUR donated to NGOs. More possibilities for support are being planned. But sadly no amount of aid can ever compensate for the lost lives, homes, and hopes. The war needs to stop.

 

I thank you.