Statement by Albania on the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine delivered by Ambassador Eglantina Gjermeni Permanent Council meeting 1371 Thursday, 28 April 2022, Vienna

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson,
Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine continues to cause immense suffering, daily loss of life of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, mass forced deportations, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence and a humanitarian and economic crisis that is being felt across the globe.
The report of the experts of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism cited a clear pattern of violations of international humanitarian law and the most basic human rightsby Russian forces.Human Rights Watch noted that the evidence indicates that Russian forces occupying Bucha showed contempt and disregard for civilian life and the most fundamental principles of the laws of war.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Russian forces have indiscriminately shelled and bombed populated areas, killing civilians and wrecking hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure – actions that may amount to war crimes. According to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the ICC has reasonable grounds to believe crimes within its jurisdiction are being committed.
Today, I will dwell on the particular suffering, but also heroism, of women and girls in Ukraine. As the days go by, we see new gruesome pictures and we hear new chilling testimonies of women and girls raped by the Russian aggressors. A few days ago, the Executive Director of UN Women told the UN Security Council that they “were increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence”.
The evidence uncovered in Bucha, this landscape of horror, shows that Russian soldiers not only killed recklessly and sadistically in revenge for their defeat. A woman was held as sex slave, in a cellar, before being executed in cold blood. And 25 teenage girls were kept in a basement in Bucha and raped; nine of them are now pregnant. A group of Ukrainian women prisoners of war had their heads shaved in Russian captivity, where they were also stripped naked.
On another front, Russia’s shelling in Odesa on the eve of Orthodox Easter killed three generations of the same family: a grandmother, a mother, and her infant daughter. The painful stories go on and on. And by committing such despicable crimes and systematically denying them, the Russian perpetrators kill twice.
We pay tribute to thousands of brave Ukrainian women and girls who are fighting and striving for peace in their land and to those who have spoken up and are supporting each other in the face of these horrors.
Mr. Chairperson,
In Russia, on the other hand, we have seen public figures waging a campaign of “I am not ashamed” of the war,“Мне не стыдно”. Firstly, all those who support these crimes, silently or publicly, should really feel ashamed. Secondly, it is telling how they feel the need to justify these acts with this slogan, as if deep down they know that they are, indeed, shameful.
And thirdly, those responsible for all these crimes should bear personal accountability. The message should be one and clear: no one that has promoted, used or plans to use sexual violence as a tactic of war, will escape justice.
Coming from the Western Balkans, which in the not-so-distant past has been the stage of major conflicts and suffering, we have witnessed how sexual violence has been used as a tactic of war, particularly against women and girls. Sexual violence was a despicable weapon of war, an instrument to humiliate, widely used in the conflict in Kosovo in the late 90s. It has left a profound imprint on survivors and society alike. Even two decades later survivors still struggle for justice and healing.
But we will be there to sustain the process of accountability on Ukraine, until the end. No matter how long it will take. Albania has joined international processes and supports all efforts to collect and preserve evidence, to investigate and punish these despicable crimes. Earlier this week, Albania, together with France and in cooperation with Ukraine, co-organized a UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on “Ensuring accountability for atrocities committed in Ukraine”. The event was co-sponsored by around 40 UN member states.  
It is reassuring that Russia’s actions have triggered a remarkable alignment of international actors supporting accountability. It is our duty to rise up and do our part when innocent civilians are killed, when women are used as a weapon of war, when girls and boys are sexually abused.
Accountability is about protecting the foundations of humanity, the UN charter, the international humanitarian law, the OSCE principles and commitments, our common values and shared responsibility.
I kindly request this statement be attached to the journal of the day. Thank you!


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