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Women’s Refugee Commission warns of loss of life and human suffering due to Russian aggression in Ukraine

New York, NY – Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday signed decrees recognizing the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics from Ukraine and directed the Russian Defense Ministry to deploy troops in those regions. The decree came following a marked increase of Russian military along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

During a late-night emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, several members, including Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and the United States, condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine.

In a statement attributed to the UN Secretary-General, it said he “considers the decision of the Russian Federation to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

In light of these developments, Stephanie Johanssen, associate director of advocacy and UN representative for the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“The actions by Russia represent a violation of international law, including the prohibition of aggression and shelling of infrastructure. The Women’s Refugee Commission calls on Russia to immediately cease all hostilities, abide by international humanitarian law and human rights law, and ensure the protection of civilians. The escalation of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine risks severe loss of life and increase of human suffering, a conflict that has already left roughly 3 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and protection.

“We also call on the international community to do everything in its power to deescalate the situation and return to peacebuilding efforts, including by ensuring the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders. We also urge the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance that is sensitive to the age, gender, and disability of affected populations. It must ensure women, girls, children, and persons with disabilities are not left behind.”

A February 11 report from the UN’s emergency aid coordination body – OCHA – shows that of the millions of people in Ukraine currently in need, 54 percent are women and girls. It also shows that 13 percent are children and 13 percent are persons with disabilities.

“An escalation of conflict will also increase the forced displacement of Ukrainians. In this respect, we remind countries of their obligations to respect and implement international refugee law, including the right to seek asylum,” said Johanssen. “Responses to displacement must not be marked by political fearmongering, as we’ve recently seen in response to the crisis in Belarus, but by compassion and solidarity and swift mobilization of comprehensive support, including by providing safe passage. People fleeing for safety must never be used as a political bargaining tool or distract from states’ human rights obligations.”

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