Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Mr. Evgeniy Zagaynov at the UN Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict
We would like to thank the delegation of France for its initiative in convening and conducting today’s meeting. We would like to also thank the Secretary-General for his participation, and we note the briefers’ valuable contribution to our discussion.
We have studied the Secretary-General’s report (S/2017/821) carefully and share his concern regarding the ongoing lack of respect for international law during armed conflicts.
Children are particularly vulnerable in the face of such violations, and there can be no justification in cases where children or schools are deliberately targeted, or where children are recruited or used as human shields or suicide bombers in acts of terror. The international community must provide a coordinated response to such challenges.
Children also need emergency assistance in places where active fighting has already ended. In Syria, the de-escalation measures that have been established within the framework of the Astana process and the successes that have been achieved in fighting terrorism have enabled us to make significant progress on the humanitarian front. In carrying out this work, we keep children’s needs front and centre.
The humanitarian convoys bring food and medicine, but they also have schoolbooks and even toys. We are also organizing efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate schools and hospitals. Recently in Homs, the Russian military, which is continuing to fight terrorism in Syria at the invitation of the Government, literally raised a secondary school for 700 pupils from the ruins. In September and October alone, our doctors provided medical attention to approximately 400 Syrian children, while those who needed complicated procedures were sent to Russian hospitals.
These and other efforts are being carried out against a backdrop of humanitarian disaster in the utter ruin that is Raqqa. Those responsible for that state of affairs prefer not to talk about the plight of children and attempt to distract attention from it with established ploys. We agree that the united efforts of the international community on the humanitarian front would help us get results on the ground sooner.
We support the intention of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to cooperate with Member States. Most countries affected by armed conflict are making enormous efforts to improve the situation with regard to the protection of children, but they often need help from the international community. These kinds of efforts would be a lot more effective if constructive dialogue was established with the State concerned.
This year there has been a new approach to the preparation of the report. We found the inclusion of the sections on achievements and concerns interesting. However, we have questions about the change in the format of the annexes that list the parties to the conflict that have committed violations against children.
In particular, we believe that clarification is needed on the criteria used to determine who took measures to improve the protection of children and who did not. It would seem that putting parties in one category or the other does not always reflect the real situation on the ground where ensuring the safety and protection of children is concerned.
There is a whole range of standards in international humanitarian law aimed at protecting children and civilian infrastructure in armed conflict. We believe that at the moment there is no need to change or add to the existing international legal norms, including through so-called soft law guidelines. We think that what we need to do above all is focus our efforts on improving the effectiveness of our implementation of the documents we already have.
We would also like to suggest that the recommendations in the SecretaryGeneral’s annual report, just like the efforts of the Security Council, should focus primarily on approaches that have been developed and approved within the framework of the United Nations.
Our delegation has traditionally supported the mandate of the Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral for Children in Armed Conflict. We support maintaining its integrity and independence.
We hope that in the future the efforts in this area will be based on the principles of impartiality and objectivity. In that regard, ensuring that the information in the SecretaryGeneral’s reports is accurate and reliable is extremely important. There should be no place for politicization and double standards in these matters.
As usual, we have a few words to say about the statement by the Ukrainian delegation. Their attempts to use any opportunity to spread false allegations about Russia is hardly news, and we will therefore not comment on what was said today. We are more concerned about what is going on in Ukraine, with the connivance of Kyiv’s patrons, which is the authorities’ establishment of totally unacceptable and openly discriminatory measures. For example, legislation is being passed that will deprive thousands of Ukrainian children whose mother tongue is Russian of the opportunity to be educated in that language, in what is clearly their punishment for the fact that their origins do not conform to Kyiv’s anti-Russian policies.
With regard to south-eastern Ukraine, we would like to draw the Council’s attention to the fact that since the start of a conflict initiated by Kyiv, civilian structures, including schools and hospitals, have been systematically and indiscriminately shelled by Ukrainian artillery forces. In some cases, such as that of the shelling of School No. 63 in November 2014, in which two children died, there is reason to believe that the Ukrainian army targeted the school quite deliberately.
There have been many cases in which schools have been fired on, and their targeting by the Ukrainian armed forces has been documented in reports by United Nations observers and human rights activists. They also note that the Ukrainian Government’s establishment of special residence permits for the area of conflict is preventing children from getting access to health care and education. Kyiv’s blockade also has obvious consequences for the situation of the children of Donbas.
The future of children in eastern Ukraine and throughout the entire country is directly dependent on the restoration of peace. We are all well aware that the way to achieve that is through the implementation of the Minsk agreements. We hope that Kyiv will stop sabotaging them and finally acknowledge the importance of fulfilling the commitments it has undertaken, as well as its duty to comply with international humanitarian law.