Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in Ukraine (with a focus on children and education)
We welcome Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF Omar Abdi, and Deputy Head of UN OCHA Joyce Msuya to this meeting. We closely followed their briefings.
Some delegations today touched upon topics other than children and education, that was initially announced as the agenda for this meeting. I would rather not react to this. Instead I will focus on the issue of children and education.
The topic of this meeting seems more than just relevant, because today we will focus not only on children, but also on their education which is fundamental for their further development as individuals.
For more than 8 years, Kiev’s regime in Ukraine has been waging a war on its own population. Maidan authorities revealed their plans regarding the children of Donbas when former President, Petro Poroshenko said the following about the people of Donbas, people of Ukraine, his people. “We will have jobs, they will not… We will have benefits for children and elderly, and they will not. Our kids will go to schools and kindergartens, while theirs will be hiding in basements… This is how we are going to win this war”. Unlike many other of his promises, he kept this one. Indeed, Kiev’s authorities did not let the Donbas children out of basements, because there was constant shelling that targeted schools, playgrounds, and critical infrastructure. However, our Western colleagues preferred to not notice it for political reasons.
Over those 8 years, UAF bombardments killed more than a hundred children in Donbas. Local residents have a tradition to take flowers to the “Alley of Angels” – a monument to the children who died at the hands of Ukrainian military who raised arms against their own people. Today, many Ukrainian prisoners are also taken there for disciplinary purposes, in order for them to realize who they have really been fighting with all those years.
From 2014 to 2022 in Luhansk People’s Republic, more than 200 educational facilities have been damaged, more than half of them being schools and kindergartens.
This spring, children die again from Ukrainian projectiles in Donbas. The number of orphans is growing, whose parents die under bombardments by the Ukrainian army. Russia helps the people of DPR and LPR with whatever it can. As of early May, more than 215,000 children who were left without parental care arrived in Russia. Part of them have come with their guardians or legal caretakers. Approximately 1,200 children have arrived from the orphanages of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. We engage closely with the DPR and LPR authorities to facilitate foster care for the orphans. There is an institute of provisional custody which lets such children be temporarily accommodated in Russian families. We dispatch humanitarian assistance to the children of Donbas. As for children-refugees, we enroll them in schools, whereby we engage all types of schooling: regular, domestic, inclusive, remote.
Russian armed forces take all efforts to ensure safety of children during the special military operation in Ukraine. We strongly condemn violations of international humanitarian law, especially those against children. Both deliberate attacks on children and other protected categories, and indiscriminate or excessive use of force, as well as use of schools for military purposes are unacceptable. Today we again heard some of our colleagues accuse Russian military of committing acts of violence, including sexual, against children. In particular, my British colleague said so, as well as some others. Those accusations are absurd. In this regard, let me refer you to the primary source of information. Ukraine’s Children's Rights Ombudsperson Daria Gerasimchuk said in an interview to Belsat: “Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office does not have a single confirmed fact of this”.
In cities, where armed action is in progress, Ukrainian military used many educational facilities as strongholds, wherefore those buildings were significantly damaged. We have a strong impression that IHL norms might be valid for whoever, but not for Kiev. UAF taking positions in schools, kindergartens, and other schooling facilities is a rule rather than an exception. This inhumane method of warfare puts children’s lives at risk, deprives them of their right to education and destroys Ukraine’s educational infrastructure.
Deliberate destruction of civil facilities is somewhat of Kiev’s signature style. And this is not “Russian propaganda” as some delegations here would want to believe. On 6 May we hosted an informal Arria meeting of UNSC members, where we gave the floor to independent foreign journalists, as well as ordinary people, residents of Donetsk and Luhansk. They did not even try to hide their emotions as they were speaking about pseudo-heroic Azov battalion shooting at civilians in their plain sight, including buses with children who tried to evacuate from combat zones. They also told everyone how those battalions kicked people out of their apartments, and patients from hospitals, and how they arranged hideouts in schools and kindergartens and turned them in arms and ammunition warehouses. There is plenty such evidence, which we painstakingly collect and put on record.
Actions of Kiev authorities cast a shadow on other “soft law” tools in the area of protection of schools and education. In particular, I am referring to the Safe Schools Declaration – a non-binding document, the importance of which our Western colleagues raise so often. What do we see? Ukraine that claims to have adopted obligations under this document completely ignores it. Thus Ukraine’s actions not only pose risks to children whom UAF use as a human shield, but also undermine the value of this document.
By the way, Ukraine readily targets schools not only on its own territory and in Donbas. Yesterday they bombarded a school in the village of Solokhi of the Belgorod region of Russia.
Let me draw your attention to another important aspect. Ukrainian nationalists, in particular the notorious Azov fighters, for many years have been working to recruit children in UAF and bring them up in the spirit of hatred to everything that is Russian. For these purposes, special camps were instituted in some regions of Ukraine, where children aged 7 to 18 were admitted. One of such facilities is an orphanage named “Piligrim” in Mariupol, where children were trained to become fighters in the future. Another such institution was a Ukrainian youth organization “Centruria”, which has radical Ukrainian nationalism at the core of its ideology. Reports about the training of children-soldiers popped up on many occasions, i.a. on Western TV, even before Russia started its special military operation in Ukraine.
In 2018, journalists from Associated Press could witness how teens from children’s camp “Azovets” were taught to “annihilate inhumans”, which made the reporters from the United States experience a cultural shock.
Since this discussion has to do with education, let me touch upon the quality of children’s education in Ukraine, that the Kiev regime purposefully adjusted to make it meet its narrative. We have analyzed more than 300 Ukrainian schoolbooks and can confirm that their authors had effected a chain of manipulations to distort history and historical truth. I do not even refer to the fact that Nazi collaborators were depicted as heroes in children’s eyes. What I mean to say is that present-day Ukrainian education seeks to indoctrinate young people against Russia from early childhood. They started to shape this image of Russia as an enemy long ago. In post-Maidan years it has become a common practice for Kiev’s educational system to issue materials teaching children to use firearms against “separatists” and “occupants”.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science is the institution that is responsible for total Ukrainization of the learning process and re-writing of shared pages of history of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. In 2016, this body endorsed 25 education programs “with consideration to the historical events of the recent years”.
History and geography curricula were modified the most. I have here with me an 8th grade geography schoolbook edited by P.Maslyak and S.Kapirulina. According to it, the predecessors of the French, Spanish, Portugese, Turks, and even Jews came from Ukraine. Let me ask my French colleague: Nicolas [de Riviere, PR of France], did you know you are a Ukrainian? If you do not believe me, go read this textbook. So it says. It has cast-iron logic: since the French are galls, they came from Galicia, which is Ukraine. Did you know that according to this book, Ukrainians and Poles are of a Slavic origin, whereas Russians are Finno-Ugrians? Belarusians were also denied their “Slavic-ness”. The book classifies them as a Baltic people.
“History of Ukraine” for the 7th grade edited by R.Lyakh and N.Temirova says that genesis of the Ukrainian people “dates 140,000 years back”.
A 9th grade history schoolbook edited by F.Turchenko and V.Moroko asserts that by the end of the 18th century, Ukrainians were “one of Europe’s largest peoples”. Here I must remark that M.Galichanets, author of a book called “Ukrainian nation”, is convinced that “the population of Eastern Europe entered the first millennium of the new era under the name Ukrainians”. Even though it is well known that no one actually referred to the people living in territories that constitute modern-day Ukraine as to Ukrainians. Even the works of Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century poet who is much honored both in Ukraine and Russia, contain no such term as “Ukrainians”. Dwellers of those lands were called “Rusins”, “Russians”, or “Malorossians”. But I will not delve deep into this topic, which is rather painful for my Ukrainian colleague. Lots of absurd examples can be found in Ukrainian school curriculum and textbooks. For instance, there is a historian in Ukraine, name is Valeriy Bebik. He argues that Constantinople used to be a colony of Chersonese (territory of present-day Sevastopol); that Hercules, a native Crimean, whose lineage started on the island of Khortytsia in the River Dnieper, was the progenitor of all Scythians. According to him, the city Mena in the vicinity of Chernigov gave his name to Egypt’s first pharaoh Menes; and that the “Ukrainian state” itself has existed for more than 7.5 thousand years.
Mr.Bebik is convinced that Genghis Khan, a great Mongol who lived back in 12-13 centuries, in reality was called Bogdan. You do not believe this? Then the author recommends that you should read the “Secret History of the Mongols”, where Genghis Khan is also referred to as “Bogdo Khan”. Of course, this is enough to assume that he was not a Mongol, but a true Ukrainian. Besides, the historian is certain that Genghis Khan went to battle with a Ukrainian trident and under “yellow-blue banners”. His main conclusion is that Ukraine is a cradle of civilizations. Mr.Bebik says he cannot rule out that even Jesus Christ might have been a Galician. I am serious now. It is a quote from his interview.
Some of you might wonder why I pay that much attention to this individual. After all, are there not enough crazy men who promote marginal and highly contentious theories? Of course there are lots of them. There are many in Russia, too. But there is one nuance. Valeriy Bebik is not an ordinary, but rather a renowned madman, and a leader of other crazy pseudo-historians.
In 2015, President Poroshenko said Ukraine urgently needed a “Ministry of Information Policy”, which in essence was a Ministry of Truth, or a Ministry of Lies, whichever name you like better. Valeriy Bebik was appointed Interim Chair of the Advisory Board of this Ministry, which in fact made him Ukraine’s chief historian.
Besides, this man was repeatedly nominated for Shevchenko National Prize – Ukraine’s state award for a significant contribution to developing arts and culture. This prize is awarded upon the decision of the President of Ukraine, who can grant it for works that “represent a supreme spiritual fortune of the Ukrainian people, enrich historical memory and authenticity of the nation”. So Mr.Bebik is not a pariah. He is actually the father of Ukraine’s modern historiography.
We hope that Ukrainian children will have an opportunity to continue their studies under a normal curriculum and never again be exposed to the nonsense that Ukrainian authorities spread among them now.