Statement delivered by Jim McLay, Permanent Representaive to the United Nations, 26 January 2015.

We thank you, Mr. President, for convening this debate, and all the more so because of the failure of the Security Council over the weekend to agree to a simple and clear press statement that would have condemned the events in Mariupol. I also thank the Under-Secretary-General for his briefing, which has been very helpful to the Council.

New Zealand condemns the killing of approximately 30 people and the injuring of more than 90 civilians on 24 January in Mariupol. The reports of indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations and residential areas are deeply concerning, as indeed are the other incidents that were outlined by Under-Secretary-General Feltman. We voiced our concerns last week that the violence was escalating at an alarming rate. The Mariupol incident confirms that the situation in eastern Ukraine is now on a disastrous downward spiral. We do not take this incident in isolation. Its occurrence, magnitude and the claims made about it by the separatist leadership speak for themselves. It was a major assault on a civilian population with the sole purpose of taking and controlling the area as a result.

The most recent civilian casualties from the conflict in eastern Ukraine are completely unacceptable. We call on all sides to respect international humanitarian law and to refrain from any indiscriminate attacks. In that regard, we note that rockets have been launched indiscriminately into civilian areas — a violation of international humanitarian law. There can be no impunity for such reckless acts. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

Russia’s provision of troops and materiel to the separatists is irresponsible. The threat of “a major Ukrainian war” is both chilling and wholly inappropriate, and it may now be close to a reality.

Against the mounting body of evidence, Russia is unapologetic for the role it is playing in supporting the separatists. Russia speaks about the facts. What we know for a fact is that Russia is playing a role in this conflict.

We support the promotion of a fully inclusive political dialogue. We call on Russia, instead of blaming others, to use the diplomatic and other tools it has available to ensure that the separatists respect a ceasefire. That ceasefire, as already agreed on in the Minsk accords, must be implemented immediately. The Council must also live up to its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations. We must put politics aside, difficult although that may be, and use our collective influence to stop the killing of civilians in eastern Ukraine. That must be the priority. Although this is perhaps not for today’s meeting, in future we would like to see the Council seriously consider how it can put pressure on all the belligerents to implement the ceasefire. Words may no longer be enough; more action may still be required.