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Russian Federation’s Disinformation Campaign Aimed to Justify Invasion of Ukraine, Several Speakers Stress

Advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited by law, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu told the Security Council today, stressing that these acts represent potential triggers for the commission of atrocity crimes.

“The prevention of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is a legal obligation for States under international law,” she stressed.  The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide — which emerged from the shadows of the Holocaust — identifies as punishable offenses conspiracy to commit, direct and attempt to commit genocide.

In a wide-ranging debate on “incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes”, organized by Albania, as Council President for June, Ms. Nderitu said that even before the start of the conflict in Ukraine, her office was working with the United Nations country team to support intercommunal dialogue.

She said that, because determination of the commission of genocide can only be made by a court of competent jurisdiction, she could only but reiterate the call to end the war, ensure protection of civilians and accelerate diplomatic efforts to make both possible.  The Council must do its part by proposing a road map that considers that “peace itself is a process that is not indifferent to injustice”.

Liubov Tsybulska, Head of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security, underscored that “Russia wants to destroy Ukraine”, both literally — by killing and raping — and in a broader sense, eliminating its culture, language and history.  She recounted Ukraine’s struggle for survival against the Russian Federation’s attempts at conquest — detailing mass famines; the murder and torture of Ukrainian writers, artists and architects in the 1930s; and the mass deportation of Ukrainian dissidents in the 1960s.

“This is exactly what is happening now,” she stressed.  While such crimes are “the modus operandi of the Kremlin”, the current war is extraordinary, with the Russian army demonstrating “barbarity that is difficult to imagine in the twenty-first century”.  She urged the Council to understand that the threat exists not only for Ukrainians but for the entire world.

Along similar lines, Jared Andrew Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that, for the war on Ukraine, there are more hours of footage uploaded to YouTube, TikTok and other platforms than there are minutes of the conflict.  “Like land, air and sea, the Internet has become a critical domain to occupy during war.”

Nowhere has this been more evident than Ukraine, he said, where the Russian Federation has deployed distributed denial-of-service, or “DDoS”, attacks that have taken down connectivity by 15 to 20 per cent, and on many occasions, dropped Internet connectivity to zero.  His team’s research confirms the ability to leverage disinformation to motivate violence, he added, noting that Russian propaganda that Ukrainians are “Nazis” likely dehumanized Ukrainians in the eyes of Russian soldiers, leading to the many war crimes now alleged against them.

In the ensuing debate, several delegates evoked the calamitous consequences of inciting one group of people against another, with many recalling tragedies endured during the Second World War, in Rwanda in 1994, in Srebrenica in 1995 and in Myanmar more recently.  Leading the discussion, Albania’s delegate spoke in his national capacity to recall how, in the early 1930s, the Nazis used virulently anti‑Semitic newspapers to incite Germans into persecuting Jews.  On the eve of the invasion, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin described Ukraine as an “artificial creation of the Bolsheviks”, he said, stressing that “what begins with dehumanizing words ends in bloodshed”.

Lithuania’s representative, speaking also for Estonia and Latvia, said that for years, Ukraine has been a target of Russian disinformation campaigns, aimed at justifying an invasion.  “If there is no clear and strong international response to stop it, the aggression against Ukraine will be just the beginning,” he warned, a point echoed by Slovakia’s delegate, who said that the pretexts under which Moscow invaded Ukraine resemble past patterns of framing a targeted group as an existential threat in order to present war as defensive and inevitable.

In turn, the Russian Federation’s delegate blamed Ukraine’s propaganda for pushing that country into Nazism.  He denounced the demonizing of his country, as well as hatred of everything Russian, introduced year after year, with support from the United States and other Western allies.  After the 2014 Maidan coup, the Kyiv regime incited violence against Russian-speaking inhabitants of Ukraine, dubbing all those against it as terrorists, separatist puppets and monsters.

The United States delegate, meanwhile, strongly rejected Moscow’s efforts to distort history, noting that the General Assembly rejected its false narrative on Ukraine and neighbouring countries.  Pointing out that some have ignored that the Russian Federation illegally invaded its neighbour, he urged the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its forces and embrace diplomacy.

China’s representative countered, urging certain countries to stop forcing others to take sides.  The cold war mentality, the logic of hegemony and bloc politics “have long outlived their usefulness”, he added.

Offering a word of caution, Ukraine’s delegate warned delegates not to be deceived by Moscow’s anti‑fascist rhetoric, denouncing it as “another manifestation of aggressive mimicry”.  Noting that, a week ago, President Putin claimed that “the former Soviet Union was historical Russia”, he asked:  “What is next?”

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Kenya, Ireland, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and India.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:47 p.m.

Briefings

ALICE NDERITU, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said her office acts as a catalyst to raise awareness on the causes and dynamics of genocide, alert relevant actors to a risk of genocide and mobilize for appropriate action.  In addition, since 2019, her office has served as the focal point within the United Nations system for implementation of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.  She described the impact of divisive narratives on incitement to violence, recalling events leading to the Holocaust, in Rwanda in 1994 and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995.  The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide emerged from the shadows of the Holocaust, while the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights outlines that public incitement to genocide is a crime prohibited under international law.

She said the Genocide Convention identifies as punishable offenses conspiracy to commit genocide, direct attempts to commit genocide and complicity in genocide.  “The prevention of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is a legal obligation for States under international law,” she explained, noting that she has engaged States on the need to reinforce prevention and accountability efforts.  In an 18 March statement, she acknowledged the 16 March order by the International Court of Justice indicating provisional measures in the case concerning allegations of genocide, under the Genocide Convention.

She said she also called for the cessation of hostilities and the protection of civilians, acknowledged the important role of regional and international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis, and stressed the importance for all States to adhere to international human rights and international humanitarian law.  Even before the conflict, her office was working with the United Nations country team in Ukraine to support intercommunal dialogue.

On 14 April, she said she expressed strong concern over deteriorating conditions in Ukraine, called on those with influence to help restore peace and reminded religious leaders that advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited under international law.  Noting that the Human Rights Council Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine complements the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) monitoring mission, she said it investigates alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the country.  The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has also announced his decision to open an investigation into the situation in Ukraine.

She said determination of the commission of genocide can only be made by a court of competent jurisdiction.  Without judicial or quasi-judicial powers, her office does not determine whether specific situations, either ongoing or from the past, legally qualify as the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  “My main responsibility is prevention, not adjudication,” she clarified.  For that reason, she reiterated the call to end the war, ensure the protection of civilians and accelerate diplomatic efforts to make both possible.  Recalling that many people believe in the United Nations and envision a world where peace and justice prevail, she said the Council members must articulate an inclusive vision and propose a road map to end the fighting.

LIUBOV TSYBULSKA, Head of the Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security, underscored that “Russia wants to destroy Ukraine”, both literally — by killing and raping — and in a broader sense, eliminating its culture, language and history.  She recounted Ukraine’s history — a continuous struggle for survival and independence against the Russian Federation’s attempts at conquest — detailing mass famines; the murder and torture of Ukrainian writers, artists and architects in the 1930s; and the mass deportations of Ukrainian dissidents in the 1960s.  She then stressed that “this is exactly what is happening now” and pointed out that — although such crimes are “the modus operandi of the Kremlin” — the current war is extraordinary, with the Russian army demonstrating “barbarity that is difficult to imagine in the twenty-first century”.

She recalled that, as soon as the full-scale invasion began, Ukrainians would send photos and videos of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers and call acquaintances and relatives in the Russian Federation to explain the horrors of this war and arouse their sympathy.  Despite Ukrainian thoughts that Russians would condemn this lawlessness, what occurred was the absence of any compassion, en masse.  She detailed intercepted communications between Russian soldiers and their families urging them to rape and kill Ukrainians, stressing that “these are implications of the consistent work of the Russian propaganda machine”.  For years, Russian propaganda has been systematically dehumanizing and spreading hatred towards Ukraine and the West, and she said that “there is a lot of evidence for genocidal rhetoric”.

Detailing several examples from Russian media and political figures, she stressed that “colonialism became a mindset for the Russian people, a mindset with no room for democracy, human rights and freedom”.  Emphasizing that “the world missed how very dangerous processes have begun to unfold in Russia”, she urged those present to understand that this threat exists not only for Ukrainians, but to the entire Western world.  The Russian Federation has never reflected on its historical crimes, and therefore it repeats them with impunity.  The connection between what Russian propaganda has been saying for years and the mass atrocities committed by the Russian army in Ukraine must be studied, and those who have been spreading genocidal rhetoric must be held accountable.  She emphasized that specific people are behind these acts that have “flooded my country with blood and tears”, calling for them to be brought to justice.  “Unpunished evil returns,” she warned.

JARED ANDREW COHEN, CEO of Jigsaw and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, said that, when the Council was established, no one could have imagined a future where nearly 65 per cent of the world’s population is connected to something as complex as today’s Internet.  For the war on Ukraine, there are more hours of footage uploaded to YouTube, TikTok and other platforms than there are minutes of the conflict.  Missing from the discourse in those early decades were terms like “DDoS attack”, “malware”, “virus”, “trolling”, “online harassment”, “doxing”, “DNS poisoning” and “hacking”.

But, while these concepts are new for the Security Council, the motivations behind them — and the consequences — are as familiar as war and conflict itself, he said.  Noting that when he founded Jigsaw at Google in 2010 to help the next 5 billion people access the Internet, many were coming online in societies where censorship, corruption or violence were daily realities.  “Not surprisingly, all of the geopolitical baggage of the physical world has spilled over online,” he said.  “Like land, air and sea, the Internet has become a critical domain to occupy during war.”  Within seconds, content is disseminated to billions of people, narratives are amplified to mitigate a perceived threat — or even topple democratic systems.  This has brought digital and information warfare to the forefront of geopolitical conflicts.

While all wars begin as cyberwars, unfolding silently, invisibly and inexpensively, he said that, today, the types of attacks have diversified and democratized.  Nowhere has this been more clear than Ukraine, which since 2014 has been targeted by cyberattacks and offers the world a “crystal ball” for what is to come.  He highlighted five key attack vectors, focusing first on critical infrastructure and noting that distributed denial-of-service, or “DDoS”, attacks are among the most pervasive forms of attack.  In Ukraine, the Russian Federation has deployed DDoS attacks that have taken down connectivity by 15 to 20 per cent, and on multiple occasions, dropped Internet connectivity to zero.  In another effort, campaigns have aimed to create resentment toward Ukrainian refugees throughout Europe, a strategy that goes beyond Ukraine’s borders and focuses on grass‑roots movements to drive public and political support away from Ukrainian defence.

He said there have been attacks on conversation more broadly, with authoritarian regimes developing sophisticated strategies to disorient digital conversations and completely control the narrative.  He cited a case involving the creation of fake fact-checkers who sought to create confusion by “fact-checking” Ukrainian claims that were never made.  Such attacks have been amplified by a combination of real-people trolls and advanced chatbots.  He described the use of misinformation and disinformation to incite and justify extreme violence as a fourth attack vector, noting that his team’s research confirms the ability to leverage disinformation to motivate violence, especially animosity towards an outgroup.  Relentless Russian propaganda to its citizens that Ukrainians are “Nazis” likely dehumanized Ukrainians in the eyes of Russian soldiers, leading to the many war crimes now alleged against Russian forces.

He cited efforts to reconstitute the Ukrainian Internet as the Russian Internet as the fifth vector of attack.  This “soft substitution” of one for the other began after the Russian invasion of Crimea and is being accelerated in Donbass.  “Borders are still contested, but the digital frontier is now already frozen,” he said.  “It is increasingly urgent for this body to consider the digital implications of war and explore legal revisions to cover such threats.”

Going forward, he said Jigsaw’s “Protect Your Democracy” programme, among many others, offers free tools for protecting access to the free and open Internet, and defending websites against cyberattacks.  “We have no deterrence in the cyber domain and the world’s connected population is caught in the crossfire,” he explained.  States must find a way to settle on a deterrence doctrine for the cyber domain.  Companies and technology experts have badly needed expertise, but there is no magical algorithm or single fix.  It will take numerous experimental efforts, rather than a single grand effort, to protect the digital world, he said.

Statements

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, recalling how, in the early 1930s, the Nazis used virulently anti‑Semitic newspapers to help incite German people into persecution of Jews, noted other examples of hate speech, from Rwanda to Serbia to Kosovo.  On the eve of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin described Ukraine as an “artificial creation of the Bolsheviks” and decided that “Ukraine should be de-nazified”, he noted. “What begins with dehumanizing words ends in bloodshed,” he said, noting that the Russian propaganda machinery spread the utterly false claim that Ukraine had committed genocide in Russian-backed separatist-controlled areas.  Calling on the international community to stand firmly against genocide-deniers and history-revisionists, he added that the glorification of war criminals can be a major obstacle to reconciliation in post‑conflict situations.  “We need better education, critical thinking, free and professional media for informed citizens, and a responsible use of the Internet and social media,” he said.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said today’s presentations offer a sober look at how disinformation and misuse of the Internet by the Russian Federation during its brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine is causing suffering among Ukrainians.  The United States strongly rejects Moscow’s efforts to distort history for its own political purposes, noting that the General Assembly has rejected its false narrative about Ukraine, and other neighbouring countries, smearing them as neo-fascists and neo-Nazis.  He said the Council must uphold the Charter of the United Nations, recalling its special obligation to do so and respond to lies with truth.  It must be clear that attempts to change internationally recognized borders of a sovereign States through the use of force are unlawful and dangerous, a lesson drawn from the Second World War.  He cited reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians, namely torture, execution-style killings, rape — sometimes publicly — and the deportation of children to the Russian Federation for adoption, noting that the European Democratic Resilience Initiative will provide $320 million in new funding to defend human rights in Ukraine, with a focus on accountability for war crimes.  While some have called for a peaceful settlement, ignoring that the Russian Federation started the conflict by illegally invading its neighbour, he urged Moscow to immediately withdraw its forces and embrace diplomacy.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), noting that “history has shown us what happens when identity is weaponized”, said that — from the Holocaust to Rwanda to Bosnia — propaganda, disinformation and hate speech have paved the way for war crimes, atrocities and genocide.  Underscoring that “Russian propaganda and rhetoric towards Ukraine is therefore profoundly disturbing”, he detailed hate speech and false claims advanced by Russian State-controlled media and senior Russian figures directed at Ukraine and Ukrainians.  Against that backdrop, he pointed out that digital and social media platforms are powerful vectors for propaganda, disinformation and hate speech and called on media companies to strengthen their work to address this issue.  Adding that “hate speech can also be a war crime”, he called on the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and stop making such statements.

TRINE HEIMERBACK (Norway) cited reports of widespread and blatant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, many of which may amount to war crimes.  Condemning the unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine and calling for its immediate end, she recalled that, in March, the International Court of Justice ordered Moscow to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine.  “Russia must comply with this legally binding order,” she said, noting that it nevertheless continues its aggression and disinformation.  Such rhetoric is not only false, but it is dangerous, she stressed, noting that freedom of speech explicitly does not extend to the advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.  Countering incitement to violence requires dialogue, education and objective reporting, for which independent journalism and a free press — protected under international law — are crucial.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France), calling on the international community to address the specific challenges raised by new technologies, said it is vital to ensure that they are tools of peace and not of conflict and crime.  Expressing concern about the instant and massive disinformation campaigns online, she noted the power of modern communication tools in fighting crime and reporting news.  However, Internet and social networks are vectors for the rapid spread of manipulative and hateful discourse.  She said, condemning the war of aggression against Ukraine which claims more and more civilian victims every day.  Pointing to the dangers of the online discourse of hate, as well as the drastic restrictions on media within the Russian Federation, she expressed full support for all international, regional and bilateral mechanisms working to document the atrocity crimes in Ukraine.  Stressing that accountability is crucial, she emphasized the need to support the International Criminal Court, the commissions of enquiry and the fact-finding missions on the matter.

JAYNE TOROITICH (Kenya), noting that even accusations about human rights violations and war crimes have been weaponized in the information war, added that the surprise being expressed in European forums that this catastrophe is happening in Europe signals a historical blindness.  Europe, probably more than most regions, has suffered multiple genocides and hundreds of years of pogroms against minorities, she pointed out.  Noting that her country’s Constitution limits the right to freedom of expression to ensure it does not extend the right to propaganda for war and hate speech, she urged all leaders in the warring countries, their allies and supporters, to cease using derogatory concepts about the people of Ukraine or any other peoples.  Calling for consistent discipline against soldiers who abuse human rights, she also urged all mainstream media and social media outlets to remain vigilant.  The United Nations must undertake a thorough investigation into the human rights violations under way in Ukraine, she said, stressing the need for developing a global code of conduct for companies and early warning tools within a global Internet governance framework.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said history has repeatedly shown that atrocity crimes do not occur in a vacuum.  Warning against language that targets particular identities, as well as incendiary language that glorifies the past, she said seeking to rectify perceived grievances by resorting to military action against another State — to annex part of its territory — “has absolutely no place in the twenty-first century”.  The Russian Federation must stop its efforts to establish occupying authorities and change the Ukrainian State, she stressed, emphasizing that Moscow’s accusations of genocide against the latter are utterly false and cannot serve to justify the so called “pre-emptive strike back” launched by the Russian Federation.  Noting that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Moscow Mechanism’s mission has reported a clear pattern of international law violations by that country, she urged the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces and engage in true dialogue and diplomacy towards peace.  In the meantime, it must comply with its international legal obligations.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico) said the suggested existence of mass graves in Ukraine and evidence of the possible commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity could be unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity, as outlined in the preamble of the Rome Statute.  It will be up to the courts to make such decisions.  Mexico did not hesitate to support the establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine by the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court’s ongoing investigation to prosecute, try and punish the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.  He called for full cooperation by all States with these mechanisms.  Stressing that accountability for international crimes must always be the standard, regardless of where they are committed, he said all these crimes are equal and must be punished on the same footing.  He called on the Russian Federation to comply with the International Court of Justice’s 16 March order on provisional measures, stressing that these measures are compulsory.  Denouncing that residential areas in Ukraine continue to be targeted, in violation of international humanitarian law, he pressed the Council to support the United Nations towards a negotiated solution.

MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), recalling his country’s consistent domestic and international position against hate speech and intolerance, emphasized that constructive dialogue can serve as a basis for reconciliation.  Women are critical to long-lasting, peaceful solutions, and therefore, must be full, equal and meaningful participants in all peace efforts.  He also called on the Council to address the malicious use of technology to spread hate speech, urging the identification and employment of effective counter-narratives, support for media literacy and close engagement with the private sector.  Further, thorough investigations and data collection are essential for accountability, as impartially establishing facts and circumstances is fundamental to achieving justice for victims and survivors, as well as combating impunity more broadly.  He went on to stress that “the violence in Ukraine is a stark reminder that this Council must prioritize conflict resolution and de-escalation”, urging focus on a diplomatic solution that will ease human suffering.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), stressing that Ukrainian propaganda has been pushing that country into Nazism and fueling Ukrainian nationalism, said this is one of the key reasons for the current crisis in that country.  His delegation raised these issues in the Council in May last year during the informal meeting on neo-Nazism and radical nationalism in Ukraine, he said, adding that, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine, like other post-Soviet republics had the opportunity to build an independent State; however, the elites who came to power made ultra-nationalism a mainstream policy.  “The theory of integration” followed by the country’s founding leadership is based on an ideology of hatred and oppression of minorities, he said, adding that, from the beginning, there was a prevalent hatred towards Russian people.

When Ukraine became independent, he continued, Russians and Russian speakers were at least 60 per cent of the population; therefore, the Ukrainian authorities had to bide their time.  The demonizing of his country, as well as hatred of everything Russian, was introduced slowly year after year, with the support of the United States and other Western allies.  Citing various Ukrainian leaders, he said that after the 2014 Maidan coup, the Kyiv regime directly incited violence against Russian-speaking inhabitants of Ukraine.  The entire population was divided into first- and second-class citizens, with Russian-speakers and Russians deemed second-class citizens.  Further, all who were against the illegal Maidan authorities were dubbed by Kyiv as terrorists, separatist puppets and monsters, he said, adding that the post-Maidan years also saw dozens if not hundreds of murders of Russian-speaking politicians and journalists.  “We can talk of Ukrainian nationalism and inhumane speech for a long time,” he said, adding that, to save time, his delegation will be distributing a selection of statements by Ukrainian officials.

RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), citing the mounting human costs of the conflict in Ukraine, said deliberate attacks against civilians and indiscriminate shelling in densely populated areas remain unacceptable — especially strikes on houses, hospitals, schools and kindergartens.  Reiterating his call for the full protection of civilians to be observed by all parties, he described sexual and gender-based crimes as abhorrent and meriting the strongest repudiation by the international community.  Meanwhile, he voiced concern about reports of torture, summary killings, forced deportations and systematic violence, as well as the fact that humanitarian corridors fall short of being fully protected.  All parties must ensure safe, timely and unimpeded access for humanitarian personnel.  In addition, the conflict has worsened the global food crisis, with devastating impacts on the developing countries that are still struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said the war in Ukraine is an experimental laboratory of new ways the international community deals with armed conflict.  Stressing that hate speech, particularly on social media, has fuelled hostilities, he said those engaging it are compromising peace prospects.  He welcomed that the International Criminal Court launched an inquiry into the conflict in Ukraine, while teams of investigators visited the country shortly after the start of the war to gather evidence of possible war crimes.  The judicial system must be upheld, with judicial actors carrying out their work in an impartial, independent manner.  Perpetrators must be held accountable for their acts.  Noting that the Council has explored the risks faced by women and children when they flee, including of being forced into sexual slavery, he said these matters must be the subject of inquiries that are free from any pressure or ideology.  African victims of violence must also be taken into consideration.  He urged parties to respect the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, as well as the Council’s own resolutions, stressing that the global community has the tools to bring protagonists into dialogue and plan for peaceful coexistence.  He called for a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

DAI BING (China) said that the circumstances and causes of violations of international humanitarian law must be ascertained, any allegations thereof must be based on facts and — pending final findings — all parties should avoid unwarranted accusations.  He also stressed that sending in more lethal weapons will only fuel animosity, exacerbate conflict, trigger a wider humanitarian crisis and claim more innocent lives.  Further, social media must never become a lawless space for spreading hatred and inciting violence.  Expressing concern that certain social media platforms have adopted policies for political ends — allowing one-way hate speech — he called for strengthened governance for such platforms, which “should not be given free reign”.  He went on to advise certain countries to cease “adding fuel to the fire to serve their own geopolitical interests”, including by forcing other countries to take sides, which fosters antagonism and division within the international community.  The cold war mentality, the logic of hegemony and bloc politics “have long outlived their usefulness”, he added.

CAROLYN OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), reiterating deep concern over the war in Ukraine, said her country is equally alarmed by the acerbic rhetoric that has accompanied the conflict.  “No country or leader can claim to be unaware of the dangers of unrestrained words spoken in anger or with hatred,” she insisted, citing events during the Second World War, in Rwanda in 1994, in Srebrenica in 1995 and recently in Myanmar.  Such actions, borne out of a false feeling of superiority by one group over others, have been the bane of humanity, whether during slavery, colonialism or apartheid.  The Council must remain vigilant to incitement and hate speech, and act in unison to uphold its promise of “never again”.  She expressed support for the conduct of independent and impartial investigations to gather evidence and establish a basis for ensuring accountability for atrocious acts committed in Ukraine, voicing particular concern over fighting in Severodonetsk.  The need for a peaceful resolution is urgent and can only be attained through dialogue and diplomacy, she said, calling for greater efforts by the global community and regional partners to support talks between the parties.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India), underscoring his country’s belief in tolerance, harmony and pluralism, described terrorism as the antithesis of all religions and cultures.  The United Nations has the responsibility to ensure that countering hate speech and discrimination should not be limited to a select few religions and communities, but should encompass all those affected.  The conflict in Ukraine has impacted not just Europe, but the whole world, with destabilizing effects.  Calling for its immediate end, he voiced support for all diplomatic efforts — especially talks between Ukraine and the Russian Federation — as well as for an independent investigation into atrocities in Ukraine.  As rising fuel prices and food shortages are having a disproportionate impact on developing countries, all stakeholders must adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains.  “Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination,” he stressed, noting India’s provision of financial assistance and food to its neighbours.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said the “representative of Putin’s regime” has taken advantage of the Soviet Union’s Council seat to shift the responsibility for the current war on everyone else but his own country.  When a predator gains an advantage by presenting as a victim, it is similar to blaming the victim of rape for provoking the rape, he said, adding that, just as Nazis were brought to account in Nuremberg, future trials will provide comprehensive answers on how the Russian Federation turned into “an aggressive and inhumane regime”.  Recalling a history of appeasement, he said that, in December 1991, the Soviet Ambassador, then Council President, adjourned one meeting and then opened the next one as the representative of the Russian Federation.  Despite the 1994 war launched by that country on Chechnya, the country received an invitation to Council of Europe membership.  Despite committing in 1999 to withdraw its troops from the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, the Russian Federation continues to deploy troops in the Republic of Moldova.  Further, the world did not respond adequately to the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008, he added, noting that the attempted annexation of Crimea six years later and the conflict in Donbass are a logical development of that.

Noting how these developments led the Russian Federation to its current aggression, he added:  “Fascist aesthetics are easily traceable in the promotion of the ‘Z’ symbol, in the organization of mass rallies, in the consolidation of the propaganda of war and the incitement of hatred towards Ukraine and Ukrainians.”   Calling on the Council not to be deceived by that country’s anti‑fascist rhetoric, he descried it as “another manifestation of aggressive mimicry”.  As Ukraine is bleeding, fighting for its right to exist, there is no place for a dilemma between appeasement and accountability, he said, adding that, a week ago, Putin claimed that “the former Soviet Union was historical Russia”.  “What is next?”, he asked, wondering if the country’s representative will request a swap of nameplates in the Council from Russian Federation to Soviet Union.  The country’s conversion to an aggressive fascist regime has already been demonstrated, he said, stressing that his own country will fight it with resoluteness and bravery, as well as the unprecedented international solidarity.

RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), also speaking on behalf of Estonia and Latvia, voiced support for United Nations efforts to respond to situations where populations are at risk of atrocities or where crimes are being committed.  Emphasizing States’ responsibility to mitigate the risk of such crimes and to counter incitement to violence, he said that, for years, Ukraine has been among key targets of the Russian Federation’s disinformation, aimed at justifying an invasion.  High-level Russian officials and State media commentators have repeatedly denied the existence of a distinct Ukrainian identity, and false narratives have implied that those who identify themselves as Ukrainians are Nazis — and are therefore deserving of punishment or even elimination.  Meanwhile, Russian authorities have rewarded the soldiers suspected of mass killings and other atrocity crimes in Ukraine.  He urged Moscow to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its troops and equipment from Ukrainian territory. “Russian bellicose rhetoric unveils its true imperialistic intentions — if there is no clear and strong international response to stop it, the aggression against Ukraine will be just the beginning,” he warned, citing Moscow’s threats to also “take back” the territories of other neighbouring countries.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) said that Russian State propaganda led to numerous horrific crimes committed in Ukraine and underscored that awarding the soldiers who might be directly responsible for international crimes committed in Bucha and other Ukrainian villages is not only a mockery of innocent victims, but also a striking endorsement of the Russian Federation’s culture of impunity.  Expressing concern over Russian war propaganda, he said that the pretexts under which that country invaded Ukraine resemble past patterns of framing a targeted group as an existential threat to justify atrocities and characterize war as defensive and inevitable.  In the context of alleged genocide committed by Ukraine as a pretext for invasion, he called on the Russian Federation to comply with the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice’s 16 March decision.  Stressing that initial incitements to violence has turned to the commission of atrocities in Ukraine on an almost-daily basis, he detailed Slovakia’s efforts to properly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes committed in Ukraine on the national, bilateral, regional and international levels.

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