The war against Ukraine is in its 33rd week.

An illegal and unprovoked invasion that has brought such death and destruction. A war that has already cost the lives of thousands, including civilians and children.

The impacts of Russia’s acts of aggression go well beyond the borders of Ukraine. They are affecting global supply chains and the lives of billions of people around the world as prices of food, fertiliser, and energy surge.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last month, President Hichilema rightly highlighted how the war waged by Russia on Ukraine threatened to undermine development throughout the world, including here in Zambia.

It is a war that touches us all.

None of this was inevitable. It was a choice made by Russia’s President Putin to invade – for the second time in a decade -the independent, sovereign, and democratic nation of Ukraine. The rule of law, the international order set forth in the United Nations Charter, is at stake. We mourn the violation of such values as democracy, freedom, self-determination, and respect for individuals’ rights – values that we share with Zambia and its people.

Freedom fighters of Ukraine have regained some of what has been lost. Yet Putin has now gone further – claiming parts of Ukrainian territory as his own, against the will of the people, by means of rigged ‘referenda’ at the barrel of a gun and under conditions of intimidation, forced deportation and torture.

The people of these regions have consistently shown that they want to be part of Ukraine; the reaction and relief of local populations as Ukrainian troops win back parts of their territory is clear. And in areas of Ukraine once occupied by Russia, there are already thousands of open investigations into some of the most harrowing reports of torture, rape and the mass killing of civilian populations, including children.

The UN Secretary-General has stated categorically that Russia’s attempt to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine has “no legal value and deserves to be condemned.” He goes on to say “It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework. It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for. It flouts the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations. It is a dangerous escalation. It has no place in the modern world. It must not be accepted.”

Russia’s actions are a serious breach of the UN Charter, and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. These principles are part of the bedrock on which the UN is built; it is vital that we come together to uphold them. To demonstrate – as the UN Security Council did ten days ago – that Russia is isolated in its attempts to undermine the very fabric on which our co-operation and co-existence depends. This week, the UN General Assembly will demonstrate again the strength of its opposition to war and support for preserving Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the UN Charter.

Even in Russia, support is waning. While Putin declares a “partial mobilisation” of Russian citizens to fight his war, hundreds of thousands of those same citizens are crossing the border to seek a free and peaceful life elsewhere.

As the victims of past aggression and injustice of being denied the right to self-determination, Africa has a legitimate voice to raise – a call for the restoration of law and order, cessation of violence, peace and prosperity for all.

Speaking out when wrongs are committed – this is in line with the principles of non-alignment. The late President Kaunda was vocal in his condemnation of international actions that ran counter to the values and ethos he sought in his nation, regardless of who the perpetrators were and Zambia’s relations with them: “When they made a mistake, we said to the West that according to us they had made a mistake… The same goes for the East. If they did something wrong, we condemned them.”

Dr Kaunda loudly condemned the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Soviet bloc in 1968. Believing in his values, he stood up for citizens of a beleaguered country, declaring that “The Russians had no right to be there and we have said this without fear or favour.” To this day, the Czechs and Slovakians remain effusive in their gratitude for Zambia’s principled support.

As residents in your peaceful country, we cherish being able to work with Zambians for the betterment of humanity. In this grave moment, when sovereignty, security and democracy are being violated, we believe it is vital we come together to protect those principles we hold so dear. It is in this spirit that we appeal to all Zambians to unite to this common cause: a world where a nation’s territory is respected, where a person’s liberty is protected. Freedom for all.

Together, let us be victors in the struggle for the right.

Authored by the Ambassadors and High Commissioners to Zambia of Canada, the Czech Republic, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.