March 31, 2022 - A statement from the Government Affairs and Outreach Committee of the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee:
As a consequence of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the UNHCR reports that 11 million Ukrainians (nearly 27% of the population) are either internally displaced (approx. 7 million), or are refugees (over 4 million) as of March 31, 2022. Additionally, an estimated 12 million Ukrainians are trapped in areas under Russian military siege.
The beseiged areas have been turned into de facto detention zones, where civilians are hostages dying from lack of water, food and medical supplies whose homes, schools, hospitals, maternity wards, senior centers, water supplies, electrical stations, gas lines, roads and parks are destroyed by relentless aerial bombing campaigns by the Russian military.
The Russian military’s siege tactics in Ukraine today are very similar to Russia’s war in Syria, especially the 2016 Battle of Aleppo, where Russian aerial bombing reduced the city to rubble and sealed off supply lines to the trapped population. Hundreds of thousands were displaced from Aleppo. Attempts at aiding or evacuating trapped civilians repeatedly failed because of the lack of a secure humanitarian corridor. The siege of Aleppo left an estimated 31,000 dead. The tragedy there has come to be viewed as a failure of international law and the international community to safeguard humanitarian corridors and to resolve the war peacefully.
Much like in Syria, where banned chemical weapons such as sarin, phosphorus, chlorine, mustard and tear gas were used against Syrian civilians, the Russian military is threatening to use the same types of weapons in Ukraine. The use of such chemical/biological weapons is a blatant violation of international law. Over the past 36 days of war, the Russian military has used tear gas and phosphorous bombs against Ukrainian civilians, and shelled both a chlorine gas storage facility (causing a noxious leak) and the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant - the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
With these tragedies in mind, we ask for support with the following:
1. Currently more than 100,000 civilians, including women, children, and the elderly are trapped in Mariupol, Ukraine, under siege. For nearly 4 weeks, they have been without water, food, medical supplies, heat, shelter or safe evacuation routes. The people are dying of dehydration, starvation, disease and direct military strikes.
The United States needs to urgently introduce and support a proposal to the United Nations requesting the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to reach the besieged city of Mariupol and the other besieged cities in Ukraine, including Chernihiv.
2. As we saw in Syria, such actions attack not just their direct targets, but also our shared humanity. The United States must clearly articulate what its response will be, including specific sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation, to any potential use by Russia of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
3. The United States, along with the EU, UN and the OSCE, need to continue their strong and consolidated push and support for the full and immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian government must be involved in all consultations regarding these matters.
The deliberate targeting of civilian centers is against the Laws of War, including the Declaration of St. Petersburg 1868, the Nuremberg Principles (Article VI) August 8, 1945, the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the Geneva Convention (IV) 1949, the UN Resolution on Human Rights (December 19, 1968), and many other agreed to tenets of international law.