Burning apartment building in Bakhmut, Ukraine

This May 23, 2023 aerial photo shows widespread destruction in the frontline city of Bakhmut, Ukraine.

(Photo: Ukrainian Defense Ministry/ Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Two Years After Russian Invasion, UN Experts Demand Renewed Push to End Ukraine War

"We want peace to be established without delay. War and aggression violate the basic principles of coexistence between peoples and nations, human rights, and the U.N. Charter."

A group of United Nations experts joined anti-war campaigners on Friday—the eve of the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine—in urging the international community to ramp up diplomatic efforts to end the war and achieve lasting peace.

A day after United Nations human rights chief Volker Türk lamented that there is "no end in sight" to a war that continues to exact a "horrific human cost" on Ukrainian noncombatants, several dozen U.N. special rapporteurs and other experts issued a statement asserting that "the lives of millions of civilians continue to be at stake."

"They are children, women, and men who must always be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity," the experts said. "For them, peace is neither an empty word nor an abstract concept. It is the essential precondition for restoring normality to everyday life."

The statement continued:

There is no normality when people are killed, tortured, forcibly disappeared, sexually assaulted, displaced, deported, arbitrarily detained, or exposed to toxic or radiological substances. There is no normality when people are in fear of constant shelling and when air raid sirens sound every day, day and night, forcing people to escape to shelters. Life is disrupted when people cannot live in their homes, use hospitals, schools, and roads, or enjoy cultural heritage, because these places are under attack or destroyed. Survival is at stake when farmers are not able to work their lands because they are contaminated by landmines and explosives.

"As time passes without any prospect of peace, the trauma of war entrenches and will lead to even more suffering and devastation," the experts stressed. "We want peace to be established without delay. War and aggression violate the basic principles of coexistence between peoples and nations, human rights, and the U.N. Charter."

According to the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, more than 30,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed or wounded since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of his neighbor two years ago. Millions more Ukrainians have been displaced, many thousands have had their homes damaged or destroyed, and critical infrastructure including schools and hospitals lay in ruins.

"Some 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance—almost 40% of Ukraine's population," the U.N. experts noted on Friday. "This includes over 3 million people living in frontline communities who face severe shortages of resources and constant bombardment."

"While millions of people remain internally displaced in Ukraine, some 6 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have sought refuge abroad, which was one of the fastest and largest refugee exoduses in history and they currently make up the third-largest refugee population in the world," the statement said.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies of the peace group CodePink echoed some of the U.N. experts' concerns in an opinion piece published Friday by Common Dreams in which they also acknowledged the staggering toll the war has taken on those fighting it on both sides while blaming Ukraine's Western backers for impeding peace.

"While it is the Ukrainians and Russians fighting and dying in this war of attrition with over half a million casualties, it is the United States, with some of its Western allies, that has stood in the way of peace talks," Benjamin and Davies argued. "This was true of talks between Russia and Ukraine that took place in March 2022, one month after the Russian invasion, and it is true of talks that Russia tried to initiate with the United States as recently as January 2024."

The authors wryly noted that "U.S. and NATO leaders have repeated ad nauseam that they are arming Ukraine to put it in a stronger position at the 'negotiating table,' even as they keep rejecting negotiations."

"And so the war grinds on," they wrote, prolonging not only the death and suffering of civilians and troops alike, but also continuing the risk of miscalculations and escalations that pose an existential threat to humanity in the form of nuclear war.

This "will not change unless and until our leaders take a radically different approach," Benjamin and Davies concluded. "That would involve serious diplomacy to end the war on terms on which Russia and Ukraine can agree."

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