Resilience, Peace and Security

A statement on the crisis in Ukraine by Florence Gillette, head of ICRC delegation in Kyiv

A woman tries to stay warm after fleeing Ukraine following the Russian invasion, at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Ukraine's citizens are continuing to flee the country. Image: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Florence Gillette
Head of ICRC delegation in Kyiv, International Committee of the Red Cross
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International Security

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has released a statement on the Ukraine crisis.
  • Head of the ICRC delegation in Kyiv, Florence Gillette, has urged all parties to commit to their obligations under international law.
  • The ICRC calls for the protection of the civilian population, maintenance of law and order, and avoidance of the use of explosive weapons in highly populated areas.

As the conflict evolves and escalates, the anguish and fear people have endured deepens.

We are extremely concerned that the conflict is affecting very densely populated areas, including the capital Kyiv and other major cities. As we have seen time and time again in our work all over the world, when neighbourhoods become the frontline, the consequences for people – including children, the sick, the elderly – are simply devastating.

We are calling urgently on parties to the conflict not to forget their obligations under international humanitarian law. They must ensure the protection of the civilian population and those no longer taking part in the fighting, such as detainees or the wounded and sick. International humanitarian law is clear: all parties to the conflict have a legal obligation to ensure that military operations are planned and conducted in a way as to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects.

They must take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injuries and loss of life. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited, and ICRC therefore strongly urges the parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas and to avoid locating military objectives within or near such areas.

Considering mounting tensions and more arms in the streets, it will also be vital to keep taking steps to ensure law and order is maintained so the civilian population is not placed at further risk.

Any disruption to essential services like water, power, health facilities, can cause huge ripple effects. We have seen too many times in conflicts that the use of explosive weapons that have wide area effects can cause death, damage and destruction on a dramatic scale.

They leave deadly reminders of their destructive capacity, with unexploded ordnance that do not explode on impact often remaining buried in the ground or amid the rubble, endangering people long after the fighting ends.

After a grueling eight years of conflict, the last thing people need is more violence, death, destruction and despair. We call for all states to do everything in their power and influence to avoid escalating a conflict whose cost and consequences for civilian populations outpaces the capacity to protect and assist them.

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