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Ukraine war 'a source of global fire,' Polish president tells UN

21.09.2022 06:00
Poland’s president on Tuesday night addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), telling the gathering that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “is not a regional conflict," but "a source of global fire."
  • Ukraine war 'a source of global fire,' Polish president tells UN
Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during the 77th General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.
Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during the 77th General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.PAP/EPA/Peter Foley

Andrzej Duda made his speech during the General Debate of the UNGA in New York, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The Polish president said: “The war has been going on for seven months, and Russia is not limiting itself to fighting the Ukrainian army, with whom they are losing.”

He added: “It is killing civilians or forcibly relocating them to its territory. It is destroying cities, monuments, schools, kindergartens, hospitals.”

Duda stressed that Russia also “destroys agricultural crops and devastates the environment. It destroys literally everything it cannot seize or loot. It even threatens to cause a nuclear catastrophe.”

‘Russia has already lost, Ukraine can count on Poland’

The Polish president went on to say: “This war, like all other conflicts going on in the world today, must be lost by the aggressor, and in this case it is the Russian state. More than that: the aggressor has already lost, it is failing to subdue a free nation, to break its spirit, to disperse its army.”

He added: “Today it has against it not the Ukrainian state itself, but a nation of many millions, the vast majority of whom do not want any negotiations with the invader until he withdraws his forces from Ukraine.”

Moreover, Russia “is at odds with a large part of the nations of the world, who have spoken their minds very clearly, also in the resolutions adopted in this fold,” Duda said.

He told his UN audience: “It has Poland against it, Poland whom, and I'm saying this here and now, Ukraine can count on.” 

Russian invasion of Ukraine 'a source of global fire’

Duda warned that “there are other facets to this war: it has economic repercussions in many areas. A parallel war unleashed by Russia, the war against our common principles and values, against all of humanity.”

He added: “And I also want to talk about humanity today, because I see representatives of many familiar countries from Africa, the Middle East and Asia in this hall, the countries whose leaders I spoke with just before or during the war. This is not a regional conflict: it is a source of global fire, this war will bear on our countries and yours. Unless it has already happened.”

Food crisis

The Polish president stressed that “One of the most dramatic effects of the Russian aggression is the food crisis and the spectre of famine looming over large parts of the world.”

He added: “I have had lengthy discussions on the subject during my recent journey to countries of West Africa: Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal. In all those countries I have spoken with their leaders about food security and potential impacts of further restrictions on exports of grain and fertilisers from Ukraine and Russia.”

He also said that “the topic featured also in previous discussions we had together with fellow presidents from Central and Eastern Europe as we spoke with the leaders from Africa, Middle East and Asia. “

Duda told the UN that “from the very beginning of the invasion, Russia has been deliberately and cynically destroying new crops and farming equipment, and the invasion itself has drastically reduced Ukrainian harvests.”

He added: “The data we have obtained makes it clear: Russia has seized farmland representing 22 percent of all agricultural land in Ukraine. One-fifth of the land that is the breadbasket of many non-European countries; the land which produces nearly 30 percent of winter crops has failed to produce any crops this season or its harvest has been looted.”

The president said: “Speaking in this fold, I do not need to recall that Ukraine is one of the most important food producers in the world. Conservative estimates indicate that this year alone Ukraine's harvest will be 35 percent smaller in the aftermath of war. I emphasize, THIRTY-FIVE percent. More than one-third of what has been the granary of large parts of the world has been eliminated by Russian aggression.”

Number of people suffering from chronic hunger to rise by 47 million

“Who will suffer from this? Those who are most in need,” Duda stressed. 

He added: “It is an economic weapon, it is a weaponization of food, hitting Africa and the Middle East the hardest.”

“I have been in politics long enough not to be naïve on that count: this is a deliberate policy,” the president said.

He emphasised: “It is estimated that in the aftermath of war in Ukraine, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger this year will increase by about 47 million people. Again: especially in Africa and the Middle East.”   

‘Poland is committed to facilitating Ukrainian grain exports’

Duda stressed: “As an international community, we are obliged to prevent anyone in the 21st century from knowingly and cynically causing artificial famine in the name of achieving their political goals, the way Stalin did back in the 1930s. In this context, it is of key importance that on July 22, in Istanbul, Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the UN - aimed at unblocking the sea route through the Black Sea for the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain. Personally, I would like to acknowledge once again the significant role played by the United Nations Secretary General in the conclusion of this accord.”

He added: “Now we all have to guard the parties' compliance with the agreements and their commitments. I am all the more concerned by the ever more frequent statements from the Russian side, undermining the accord, as well as by acts deserving to be condemned in the strongest terms - such as the shelling of the Odessa seaport by the Russian army, which occurred less than 24 hours of the signing of the documents.”

The president emphasised that “as an international community, we must immediately respond to such incidents by imposing further sanctions and providing more aid packages to Ukraine which is defending itself.”

He went on to say: “For my part, I would like to assure you that Poland, together with its European Union partners, remains steadfastly committed to facilitating Ukrainian grain exports, also by land. We will go to great lengths to make sure those consignments reach those who are most in need.”  

Duda also said that “in the face of Russia's unlawful actions, we should learn a lesson for the future. We should also keep in mind the provisions of the law and the possibility of holding perpetrators accountable.”

He added: “I see the need to develop penalisation mechanisms to be able in the future to bring to justice the perpetrators responsible for violating international law. Those who knowingly destroy crops in the ‘breadbasket of the world’ must know that they will be prosecuted as long as they live!”  

No return to ‘business as usual’

Duda also stated that “the Russian aggression on Ukraine constitutes no less than an aggression against the whole world. Each aggression requires a multidimensional international response, with determination and without hesitation.”

He argued that "it is necessary to step up the pressure on Russia and its accomplice, the Lukashenko regime in Belarus."

He said that the "advisability of continuing cooperation with those governments should be reassessed, also by international organisations. There is no more room for ‘business as usual.'" 

Duda added: “I say this as a man who has been to Ukraine three times since the beginning of the war and who left Ukraine in a matter of hours before the aggression. I say this as a leader of the state whose borders were crossed by almost 6 million Ukrainian refugees. Our children go to schools together with Ukrainian children. Our citizens have taken to their homes hundreds of thousands refugees: yes, not even a single refugee camp needed to be set up. Every Polish man and every Polish woman is familiar with the situation in Ukraine.”

The president stressed: “We really cannot remain silent … We must not forget those who are suffering. Let us remember that six months of Russian aggression in Ukraine has brought the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.”

“I appeal for an increase in aid to the Ukrainian civilian population, whose humanitarian needs are far greater than the funds currently being provided. Winter is approaching, which, aggravated by the war and energy prices - will be the hardest winter in years,” he warned. 

Duda stated: “As humanity, we have no right to turn our backs on those most in need. We mustn’t show any ‘war fatigue.’”

He added: “We should work together on such a roadmap for economic and social development to give people hope that the world can be a better and more supportive place to live; in spite of being so scarred today by wars, the effects of pandemics and natural disasters. Poland wants to co-create such a program including here at the UN, for example as part of the work of the Economic and Social Council.”

‘Every response to violations of international law must be decisive’ 

The Polish president also said: “It is very positive that we have risen to the challenge on the issue of Ukraine, that we have preserved our unity and rallied to support the victim, and not the aggressor. But let's not become complacent.”

He added: “My recent visit to Africa made me even more aware of something I had previously thought about for a long time myself. Were we equally resolute during the tragedies of Syria, Libya, Yemen? Did we not return to business as usual after two great tragedies of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the wars in the Horn of Africa, and while condemning the invasion of Ukraine, do we give equal weight to fighting mercenaries who seek to destabilise the Sahel and threaten many other states in Africa?”

Duda told the UN: “This is how I see the lesson learned from this war: if the United Nations is truly to be united, every response to violations of international law should be identical - decisive and principled. Because the world is a system of communicating vessels.”

He added: “Today the victim is Ukraine, but if Russian imperialism succeeds - then tomorrow it could be any country in the world. And crops will be plundered and civilians turned out of doors in yet another country. We must not allow this to happen.”

'Russia owes Ukraine war reparations'

“Poland's position in the face of any war is clear: we recognize every state within its internationally recognized borders and we demand respect for their inviolability,” the president said. “Today it's Ukraine, tomorrow anyone of us.”

He added: “And there is no hiding it: Russia owes Ukraine war reparations, which it will have to pay back. There is no justice without reparations. This applies to any country plundering another country.”

Duda stressed: “It applies today, but it also applies to unsettled issues from the past. I say this as the Polish president. And I think you can well understand why I am saying this.”

“Therefore, Poland shall not cease its efforts aimed at holding Russia accountable for its violations of international law, both at the state level as well as on the individual one,” he vowed.

The Polish head of state also said: “We commend the work of the International Law Commission leading to the drafting of the Convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. We will use all our powers and capabilities to ensure that the culprits are tried and punished. We are already cooperating with the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice to find the most effective ways to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Wednesday is day 210 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Source: PAP, prezydent.plgadebate.un.org