Steve Sweeney at the UN: ‘The failure of Minsk is also your failure’

Every weapon the west supplies takes us a step further away from peace in a conflict that Ukraine simply cannot win.

This address was made to the United Nations security council by Steve Sweeney on the anniversary of the signing of the Minsk 2 peace agreement that was supposed to bring an end to the war in Ukraine back in 2015.


I am speaking to you from the city of Donetsk. In the background I can hear the familiar sounds of artillery fire, the blasts from the heroic air defences working to keep the people safe, the blasts from incoming – often western-supplied – missiles, alerts from the menace of drones that strike fear into the residents here.

We hear these sounds are because of the failures of the Minsk agreements. These accords should have been the framework that brought peace to the region, an end to aggression and the suffering of the civilian population.

It was hard to sell the accords to the people here. They had to be persuaded to stay within a federated Ukraine, with more autonomy, with the rights to speak Russian, for many their mother tongue, with the right to practice their traditions and culture without fear.

But they accepted it. They believed the guarantees offered by France and Germany along with the Kiev government. Time has proved they were wrong to do so. We know now that France and Germany had no intention of abiding by Minsk 1 or 2 – we heard from the horses mouths themselves. 

West chose the road to war

The failure of Minsk is also your failure. Nations not united and a Council that provides no Security. This is how the people see you when I spoke to them, on which I will expand later.

As we know, before February 2022 there was a road to peace, and a road to war. Unfortunately many of the most powerful nations on the planet chose the latter. They brought war to some of the world’s poorest people and in the most brutal way imaginable.

This conflict didn’t start in February 2022 for the people of Donbass. It started back in 2014 when the Ukrainian government launched airstrikes on its own people in Lugansk. When armed neo-nazi militias controlled the streets, killing at will and with impunity.

The failure of Minsk has real-life consequences – with homes, hospitals and infrastructure destroyed as thousands dead as a result, deaths that could have been avoided.

The human face of Ukraine’s terror operations

Behind the statistics are people with families, people who are loved, people with names. Like Lyudmila, Natasha, Viktoria and Irina – killed in a terror attack the Kievsky district of Donetsk city a few weeks ago.

Ukrainian forces fired western-provided weapons into a busy marketplace, 27 people were massacred. Old men and women selling homemade items at the side of the road, women baking bread. 

The first thing I saw was a babushka sliced in half, her legs nowhere to be seen. Next to her an elderly man, blood streaming from his head staining the snow red. I heard the screams as relatives found their loved ones. Walking through the scene I saw a hand, a foot, a leg … a face torn off. The stench of death, a community in shock.

These could have been your grandmothers, your mothers, fathers, sons or daughters. Killed on a Sunday morning, a bright clear day, the perfect sky for bombing.

Of course I expect the usual platitudes, that Russia is responsible for the killings, that it is the aggressor. Stock answers, superficial, but an insult to the memory of the dead and an insult to those living under constant shelling with western-supplied weapons.

The dead don’t have a voice, but the living do. And they are not afraid of Vladimir Putin, they are not afraid of Russia – who they see as protecting them from a potential genocide, the same that you are failing to stop in Gaza. They are afraid of you, of the member states sitting around this table, who instead of talking about peace, about security, about an end to conflict … agree more money and more arms to Ukraine to rain down on their communities.

But Ukraine constantly appeals to the west, saying it has no ammunition to fight with, that it needs weapons, aircraft, money and military support. Yet despite this, there is a never-ending supply when it comes to attacks on civilians. Schroedinger’s ammunition if you like.

We used to speak about the indiscriminate firing into residential areas.

But in the space of a few weeks we saw 27 killed in a marketplace, 28 in a bakery in Lisichansk, three killed outside a busy supermarket, next to the busiest thoroughfare in Donetsk – the scene of which I and my team came under fire from – we saw an attempt to strike the Palace of Culture when people were gathered for an event, with an emergency worker, Nikita Danilov, killed.

These are deliberate acts of terror, designed for maximum casualties and to break the will of the people. But these are not simply Ukrainian acts of terror, these are western-sponsored war crimes, and they are committed here on a daily basis.

The arms you supply are not used against the Russian armed forces. A marketplace is not a military base, a babushka selling home made jam or home grown fruit and vegetables is not a soldier.

Last September, I attended the scene of an attack in which an AGM-88 Harm missile destroyed a home in a poor, residential area close to the Kalmius river. It could have been much worse, as a gas pipe caught fire, the consequences unimaginable. 

I found remnants of the missile used in the attack – these are usually used to take out air defences or the like – and it was made in the United States, with an expiry date of 31 March 1991! Out of date stocks being rushed to the frontline.

This was just a week after an AGM-88 Harm crashed into a babushka’s living room on the ninth floor of an apartment block. She was killed as her daughter and granddaughter slept in the room next door.

Amongst the blood and the rubble, I saw a children’s tiara, dress-up shoes, a colouring book. The impact on children cannot be understated: 230 killed and 846 wounded since the conflict began.

I met one of them, 12-year-old Volodya. I attended the scene of an attack on his home in Donetsk. A western-supplied artillery shell crashed through his bedroom as he slept. There was blood everywhere. His leg was torn off and doctors battled successfully to save his life. 

I asked him later what he wanted. Peace, he said. Children here have the same hopes and dreams as those in every country across the world. But the children of Donetsk are having those hopes and dreams shattered, their dreams stolen by Nato, by the west and by the failures of the UN security council.

Cluster munitions have also now become a familiar sound in these areas. Just days after the US authorised their use, they claimed they first civilian victim, journalist Rostislav Zhuravlev.

He was killed as his car was struck – ironically as he was part of a group of journalists that had been reporting on the use of cluster munitions on civilians in Zaporozhye. Condemned by Unesco and the International Federation of Journalists, his death was celebrated by the NUJU, which welcomed the demise of “a Kremlin propagandist”. A war crime unpunished.

I attended the home of a babushka, wounded when a cluster munition ploughed into her kitchen as she prepared a meal. The remnants scattered across the local area, including a children’s playground. One eyewitness said she had recently moved to the area thinking it was safe; her previous four homes destroyed by Ukrainian attacks.

Last year, the peace of a Monday morning was shattered by a Himars attack in Donetsk city, striking a passenger bus during rush hour and destroying civilian homes. Most recently was the killing of 28 people in a bakery in Lisichansk in the Lugansk republic in the early afternoon, with scores buried under the rubble – a child and a pregnant woman among the dead.

Internationally banned petal mines litter the streets and continue to maim and wound civilians, shops displaying adverts warning people to remain vigilant and people advised not to walk on the grass. 

Drones are now also more of a menace, with 97 shot down over Donetsk city and Makeevka in just three days. In January, 966 drones were taken down over Donetsk, Makeevka and Gorlovka, with 200 attacks prevented. 

The west is ultimately responsible

Many are supplied through crowdsourcing platforms such as Fundrazr, which, despite being alerted to the fact they are used against civilians, continues to facilitate the purchase of the killer drones.

One British mercenary with links to intelligence services even boasts about the drone strikes and is proud to have supplied the UAVs. He has killed Russians, directly and indirectly, while also threatening to kill Vladimir Putin. Yet he is allowed to cross in and out of Britain freely.

Much of the community here in Donetsk lives without hot water, with water only supplied on certain days and constant electricity blackouts because Ukraine targets the city’s infrastructure, power stations and water supply – all of which constitute war crimes.

After the marketplace massacre, I went back to the scene and asked people what they thought of the UNSC. They said to me: where are they, why don’t they come here? They are just tools of the United States; they don’t care, our lives don’t matter to them, it is their weapons that are killing us, killing our children.

What happened there is a war crime, an act of terror, just one of many that stretch back for a decade, unreported and carried out with impunity. The people describe living here as “Donetsk Roulette” not knowing if they will live or die. They have had enough, they just want it to stop.

You have the ability to make it happen. You can bring this to an end. Use the anniversary of Minsk to set out a path to end the conflict, end the cycle of terror, the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people. 

Every weapon you supply takes us a step further away from peace in a conflict that Ukraine simply cannot win.

You owe it to Lyudmila, Victoria, Irina, Natasha, Rostislav, Volodya and the thousands that have been killed here with western-supplied arms.