Ukraine: Prospects for end to war look bleak, despite ‘encouraging’ grain deal

By United Nations

Ukraine: Prospects for end to war look bleak, despite ‘encouraging’ grain deal

The war in Ukraine shows no signs of ending, more than five months after the Russian invasion, and fighting is intensifying, the UN Security Council heard.

Ambassadors were briefed by UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo, who pointed to the recent agreement on the safe resumption of grain exports via the Black Sea as a bright light in the conflict, though acknowledging the dim prospects for peace.

“The grain agreement is a sign that dialogue between the parties is possible in the search to ease human suffering,” said Ms. DiCarlo, officially the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.

She added that the UN is making every effort to support the implementation of the deal, which was signed last week in Türkiye.

Diplomatic efforts needed

The war’s impact globally is “glaringly clear”, said Ms. DiCarlo, noting that the consequences will only become more pronounced the longer fighting lasts, particularly with the onset of winter.

“Despite the encouraging developments on grain and fertilizers, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of prospects for a shift towards a meaningful resumption of diplomatic efforts to end the war,” she told the Council.

“Escalatory rhetoric from any side, including about expanding the conflict geographically or denying Ukraine’s statehood, is not consistent with the constructive spirit demonstrated in Istanbul.”

Attacks continue unabated

Ms. DiCarlo said that since her last briefing in late June, deadly attacks by Russian forces have continued unabated, reducing many Ukrainian cities and towns to rubble.

The number of civilians killed, wounded, or maimed has also increased. As there were 12,272 civilian casualties, including 5,237 deaths, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

“This represents at least 1,641 new civilian casualties since my last briefing: 506 killed and 1,135 injured. These are figures based on verified incidents; the actual numbers are considerably higher,” she said.

Winter threat

Ms. DiCarlo also warned of reported efforts to alter administrative structures on the ground, including attempts to introduce local governing bodies in Russian-controlled areas, which raise serious concerns about the political implications of the war.

“As the conflict enters a more protracted phase, attention is increasingly turning to its longer-term humanitarian, recovery, reconstruction, and socio-economic impact. As summer wanes, the need for winterization planning is also becoming pressing,” she said.

“Regrettably, political dialogue has virtually ground to a halt, leaving people without the hope that peace will come anytime soon.”

UN agencies also continue to document damage and destruction to civilian infrastructures such as homes, schools, and healthcare facilities. The impact on the health sector is “particularly alarming”, she said, as there have been 414 attacks so far, resulting in 85 deaths and 100 injuries.

“This includes 350 attacks on facilities in areas of conflict, where on average around 316,000 patients were treated per month,” she said.

Assistance to millions

Since the start of the war, the UN and humanitarian partners have provided aid to some 11 million people, including in the form of food and livelihood assistance, protection services, mine clearance, and in accessing safe water and sanitation.

Nearly six million Ukrainian refugees have found shelter across Europe. Since the war began on 24 February, border crossings from Ukraine have totaled more than 9.5 million, while crossings to Ukraine numbered 3.8 million.

“We are concerned that winter will make it harder for the displaced or the returnee community to have access to shelter and health care,” said Ms. DiCarlo.

Impacts on women

She also drew attention to the war’s specific impact on women and girls, particularly in areas such as food security and health.

Women’s access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, is rapidly deteriorating, as is access to newborn and child healthcare. They are also now largely responsible for home-schooling, as access to education is severely hindered due to the constant threat of bombing.

“Further, women in Ukraine face significantly increased safety and protection risks,” she added.

“Incidents of gender-based violence, including allegations of sexual violence in conflict, have increased, but services for survivors are not provided in full. It is also likely that many victims and survivors are currently unable to report their cases.”

Ms. DiCarlo stressed that it is especially for these reasons that women must be meaningful participants in discussions and initiatives to shape the future of the country, including peace negotiations, recovery efforts, peacebuilding, and accountability efforts.