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The UN and the war in Ukraine: key information

Everything you need to know about the UN response to the war in Ukraine.
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What is happening in Ukraine, key information

Aggression against Ukraine

  • On the night of 23 to 24 February 2022, Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine. The United Nations considers this attack to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. It is contrary to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • The principles of the Charter of the United Nations cannot be applied selectively. The Member States have accepted them all and they must apply them all.
  • On 25 February, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Amin Awad of Sudan as Assistant Secretary-General to serve as United Nations Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine.
  • On 28 February, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened an investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted on Wednesday 2 March a resolution deploring the “aggression” committed by Russia against Ukraine (141 votes in favour, 5 against and 35 abstentions).
  • The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on 4 March calling for the “swift and verifiable” withdrawal of Russian troops and Russian-backed armed groups from the entire territory of Ukraine.
  • The UN Human Rights Council decided on 5 March to urgently establish an independent international commission of inquiry following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
  • On 16 March the International Court of Justice ordered Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine.
  • On Thursday 24 March, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly demanded civilian protection and humanitarian access in Ukraine, while also criticizing Russia for creating a “dire” humanitarian situation (140 votes in favour, 5 against and 38 abstentions).
  • The UN Secretary-General announced on 28 March that he was instructing the UN Humanitarian Chief to immediately explore with the parties concerned possible agreements and arrangements for a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.
  • On 30 March the United Nations appointed three human rights experts to investigate possible violations of international law committed during the conflict in Ukraine.
  • In a statement on Monday, 4 April, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was horrified by the images of people lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves in the town of Bucha. It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha.
  • The President of Ukraine addressed the Security Council on 5 April and challenged it to act for peace, or ‘dissolve’ itself
  • On 7 April, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting, minus abstentions, in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against.
  • End of April, the UN Secretary-General visited Russia and Ukraine.
  • On 26 April 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted a new resolution calling on the five permanent members of the Security Council to justify the use of the veto.
  • The UN Security Council adopted a statement on 6 May 2022 in which it strongly supports the Secretary-General’s efforts to achieve a peaceful solution in Ukraine. The Secretary-General welcomed the fact that for the first time the Security Council is speaking with one voice for peace in Ukraine.
  • On 12 May, the Human Rights Council approved a resolution at a special session on Ukraine calling for an investigation into the atrocities alleged against Russian occupation troops.

Emergency Humanitarian Appeal

  • On 1 March, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners launched coordinated emergency appeals totalling $1.7 billion to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to people in Ukraine and refugees in neighbouring countries. As of 25 April, this appeal was 70% funded.
  • On 26 April, facing a worsening crisis in Ukraine, the UN doubled its emergency appeal to $2.25 billion. So far, donor support amounting to $980 million has enabled the United Nations and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance to 3.4 million people in Ukraine. The revised financial requirements now mean 44% of the finding has been obtained. The estimated number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has also increased, from 12 million to 15.7 million inside the country.
  • The United Nations and its partners have provided more than 4.1 million people with humanitarian assistance and protection since the beginning of the war.

Protection of civilians is a priority

  • The United Nations is making the protection of civilians its priority and will intensify its humanitarian operations in and around Ukraine. The United Nations needs safe and unhindered access to all areas affected by the Russian military offensive. There is an urgent need to establish a safe passage for life-saving medical supplies and health personnel.
  • Addressing the Security Council from Geneva, emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday (5 April) that more than a quarter of Ukraine’s population had fled. “Perilous conditions are hampering our efforts to gain access to civilians – or for them to gain access to us,” he said.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has strongly condemned acts of violence against health centres, which are violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. As of 16 May, WHO has authenticated 218 attacks on health care since the war began.
  • The UN’s head of political affairs warned the Security Council on Friday (11 March) that direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.
  • On 11 March, UNICEF, UNFPA (the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency) and WHO called for an immediate halt to all attacks on health services in Ukraine.
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced on 11 March the use in Ukraine of Russian cluster munitions that have killed civilians.
  • According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of 17 May, 7814 civilian casualties were recorded, including 3752 deaths. The actual figure could be significantly higher as reported victims are confirmed. Tens of millions of people are in “potential danger of death“.


Europe facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that more than 6.2 million people have fled Ukraine and more than 8 million Ukrainians are internally displaced. This is the fastest forced population movement since the Second World War.
  • According to UNICEF, every second that passes, a Ukrainian child becomes a refugee.
  • It is important that solidarity with the victims of this war be extended without any discrimination. All people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or culture, must enjoy the same treatment and protection.
  • As of 8 March, UN agencies were present in each of the country’s 24 oblasts and had provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to 2.1 million people in Ukraine.
  • UNICEF is stepping up its efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of children on both sides of the line of contact who suffer daily from the consequences of armed conflict.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its operations to reach up to 3.1 million civilians through cash transfers and in-kind food distributions if needed. WFP staff in Kiev say food supplies are running out, with grocery store shelves almost empty. The agency plans to provide assistance in the form of in-kind food distributions, multi-purpose cash and food vouchers that can be used in select stores.
  • As of 7 April, WHO has delivered more than 185 tonnes of medical supplies to the hardest-hit areas of the country, providing half a million people with trauma, surgical and primary health care equipment. An additional 125 tonnes of basic necessities are also being delivered.


A conflict with disastrous humanitarian consequences

  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned that Ukraine could “freefall into poverty“.
  • OCHA has warned that the humanitarian situation has become appalling in the regions hardest hit by the conflict in Ukraine.


Nuclear facilities

  • Nuclear power plants should never be targeted by military operations. Military operations around nuclear sites and other critical civilian infrastructure are unacceptable, highly irresponsible and contrary to international humanitarian law.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is closely monitoring the situation.
  • “Military operations around nuclear sites and other critical civilian infrastructure are not only unacceptable but also highly irresponsible,” Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s chief of political affairs, told the fifteen-member Council.


Food security

  • According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the war in Ukraine is jeopardizing global grain supplies and food security.
  • FAO has warned that disruptions to production, supply and delivery chains for grains and oilseeds, and restrictions on Exports from Russia, will have a significant impact on food security. An additional 8 to 13 million people could suffer from undernutrition worldwide if food exports from Ukraine and Russia were permanently prevented by the war.
  • The UN Secretary-General has warned of a “hurricane of famine” and a “collapse of the global food system”.


Additional resources

Ukraine backgrounder

UNRIC Info Point and Library backgrounder on Ukraine - UN links and resources

Ukraine news