Russia's bombardment of Ukraine's infrastructure proves that President Vladimir Putin has no interest in opening talks to end the war, a senior US official said on Tuesday.
Russia has been launching attacks on Ukraine's electricity and heating infrastructure since October, in what Kyiv and its allies say is a deliberate attempt to freeze Ukrainians into submission.
The attacks are “evidence that he [Mr Putin] has no genuine interest in negotiation or meaningful diplomacy”, said Lisa Carty, the US ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council.
“But he will not succeed, because Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and for the future of its children. And we will do everything in our power to keep hope alive in Ukraine.”
Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that “we confirm our willingness to conduct negotiations” and that “the aim would be to eradicate the root causes that forced us to start our special military operation in Ukraine.”
But, he argued, the west isn’t interested “in a political diplomatic settlement,” pointing to NATO’s decision to expand weapons deliveries to Ukraine at its November 29 meeting.
Speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron last week, US President Joe Biden offered a diplomatic opening in the conflict, now in its tenth month.
“Let me choose my words very carefully,” Mr Biden said. “I'm prepared to speak with Mr Putin if, in fact, there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war. He hasn't done that yet.”
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week rejected Mr Biden’s condition for restarting negotiations and argued that the US refusal to recognise Russia’s annexation in late September of four territories in Ukraine “significantly complicates” the search for common ground for a possible discussion.
During a UN Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine on Tuesday, France’s UN ambassador, Nicolas de Riviere, condemned Russia for violating international humanitarian law, including its attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Mr de Riviere said Moscow's actions amount to acts of terror and constitute war crimes.
“These acts are serious crimes, punishable by international law and they are part of grave violations established by this council's resolutions,” he said.
“France will continue to lend its full support to Ukrainian justice and to international jurisdictions, starting with the International Criminal Court.”
He added that his country will continue its support for Ukraine by organising an international conference on December 13 in Paris with the aim of responding to the urgent needs of the population as winter approaches and to set up a mechanism for co-ordinating aid.
Last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed forming a UN-backed special tribunal to try Russia for the crime of aggression in Ukraine.
France is the first major western country to publicly support the proposal.
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Paris last week issued a press statement confirming that it had begun working with European and Ukrainian partners on the proposal to “establish a Special Tribunal on Russia’s Crime of Aggression against Ukraine”.
Moscow expressed “outraged” over France’s statement.
Russia’s attacks have significantly damaged Ukraine’s power grid, triggering massive power, telephone and internet cuts as well as a reduction in water supplies throughout the country. The situation has been particularly critical for Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
The effects of the attacks on civilians have been compounded by the arrival of winter and below-freezing temperatures.
UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday that the ability of civilians “to survive in Ukraine is under attack”.
“The scale of destruction of the electrical and heating infrastructure requires the international community’s enhanced support to the government of Ukraine beyond what humanitarians can provide,” he said.
Mr Griffiths added that more than 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced, including 6.5 million who have been internally displaced and about 7.8 million refugees.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that 17,023 civilians have been killed since February 2022, including 419 children.
The World Health Organisation said that there have been at least 715 attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities in the country.
Mr Griffiths noted that Russian missile attacks continue to impede humanitarian agencies from providing aid to civilians, particularly in the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.