Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC open debate on children and armed conflict
Our appreciation goes to you, Ambassador Magalhães, and the delegation of Brazil for convening this open debate. We would like to thank Special Representative of the Secretary-General Virginia Gamba and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, as well as Mr. Patrick Kumi for their meaningful briefings.
Russia appreciates your concern for children.
The war unleashed by the Kiev authorities in 2014 against the population of Donbas had the most severe impact on children. During the eight years of the armed conflict in this region, hundreds of children were killed, thousands more were injured. The smallest victim of Ukrainian aggression was only 27 days old.
Children die as a result of artillery shelling and sniper fire, trip mines that Ukrainian military planted back in 2014-2015 on forest paths and near water reservoirs, and receive severe injuries. For 8 years by now, the children of Donbas were born, studied, lived and grew up under constant shelling from Kiev. Ukrainian armed formations cynically shell the civilian infrastructure of Donbas – kindergartens, schools, medical institutions. Children are killed, including from weapons supplied by the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and other countries that become accomplices in crimes against children.
Let me just give you the statistics for the week from 8 to 14 July. On July 8, Ukrainian Armed Forces fired at kindergarten No. 118 and a music school in Gorlovka, medical institution No. 3, an Olympic reserve school and a children's health and education center in Donetsk, and school No. 19 in Shakhtersk. On July 9, UAF fired at kindergartens No. 380 and 398, school No. 113 in Donetsk, a kindergarten in Gorlovka. On July 10, school No. 4, school No. 51 and primary health care center No. 3 in Donetsk, as well as school No. 19 in Gorlovka were shelled. On July 12, kindergarten No. 86 in Gorlovka, an orphanage in Makeevka, and a primary health care center in Donetsk were shelled. On July 13, Republican Clinical Psychoneurological Hospital in Donetsk was shelled, on July 14, school No. 46 in Makeevka was hit. These are statistics for one week only.
In total, in recent months, 249 civilians, including 16 children, were killed in the DPR alone, and 1,493 people were injured, of which 83 were children. As a result of shelling, 72 medical and 238 educational facilities were damaged.
But that's not all. The Kiev authorities do not disdain direct persecution of children. The situation with a schoolgirl from Lugansk, Faina Savenkova, is indicative. Her personal data was published in October 2021 on the infamous website “Mirotvorets” (peacemaker) because on the eve of the International Day for Protection of Children, she recorded an open address to the UN where the asked not to forget about the children of Donbas. She and her family immediately started to receive threats. We appealed to the Secretary-General for assistance in removing Faina's personal data from the website of Ukrainian neo-Nazis in order to protect her, but, unfortunately, to no avail. Meanwhile, the situation is only getting worse. I can say today that Russian NGOs have discovered that “Mirotvorets” has published personal details of at least 327 minors, putting their lives at real risk. Today we will convey information about it to the Secretary-General. I would also like to draw special attention of Ms. Catherine Russell to this unacceptable situation.
One of the goals of Russia's special military operation is protection of the population and children of Donbas from criminal acts of the Kiev regime.
According to the data of the Interdepartmental Coordination Headquarters, as of July 12 this year, 2,497,432 people have been evacuated to the territory of the Russian Federation from the dangerous regions of Ukraine, the DPR and the LPR since the start of the special military operation. Out of them, 392,890 were children. All these people left for our country voluntarily, saving their lives and the lives of their children. We strongly reject the unfounded allegations that the Russian authorities are engaged in child abductions.
In the entities of the Russian Federation, more than 9,500 temporary accommodation centers operate on a regular basis, there are operational headquarters for working with evacuees, which, among other things, include regional children's ombudsmen. Individual work is carried out with all refugees, they receive prompt assistance in solving various pressing issues related to further accommodation, provision with food and essentials, as well as payments of social benefits.
The office of Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights, pays special attention to families with minors; orphans and children left without parental care. Preschool children are provided with places in kindergartens, school children get enrolled in institutions of general and vocational education. Many of them are provided with targeted humanitarian and medical assistance, including psychological rehabilitation. The main goal is to help children forget all the horrors they experienced over the previous eight years, when Kiev, with the connivance of its Western sponsors, destroyed the civilian population of Donbas with impunity.
A separate area of activity of Russia’s Ombudsperson for Human Rights, Tatiana Moskalkova, is the search for relatives of minors whose parents died as a result of bombing and shelling by Ukrainian troops.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the rights of children to life and development, access to housing, healthcare, education and protection from all forms of violence. Children are entitled to special care and assistance. Russia helps the children of Donbas to exercise these rights.
We have taken note of Secretary-General's decision to include the situation in Ukraine in the next report as a situation of concern and to instruct his Special Representative to look into this issue. For our part, we are ready to cooperate with SG’s Special Representative for the situation in Ukraine, and share the information that we have.
The topic of child protection in the Syrian Arab Republic retains particular relevance, especially when it comes to areas out of governmental control. Against the backdrop of gradual stabilization of the security situation in most of the Syrian territory, the main obstacle to ensuring the rights of minors is a difficult humanitarian situation which evolves amidst the deteriorating socio-economic situation, caused by the "suffocating" sanctions of the US and the EU.
Washington must immediately stop the illegal occupation of part of the Syrian territory and plundering of natural and agricultural resources of this country. American troops must withdraw from the territory of Syria, where no one invited them.
Rights of children are systematically violated in areas controlled by illegal armed groups and terrorist organizations. They are recruited into combat units and involved in terrorist activities. Minors are deprived of access to education and become targets of propaganda of radical ideology. This sort of ideology is spread in IDP camps in the north-east of Syria (“Al-Hol”, “Rozh”), where, among others, family members of ISIL militants are kept.
Most Western states stubbornly refuse to engage in the repatriation of their citizens and their family members – despite the repeated calls of the Secretary-General and interested states in this regard. In contrast to them, we are actively engaged in bringing underage Russians back home from conflict zones in accordance with the instructions of the President of Russia. This work in Syria is carried out by a specialized Interdepartmental Working Commission headed by the Russian President’s Commissioner for the Rights of the Child. So far, 252 children have been returned from Syria, as well as places of temporary residence in its north-eastern areas. An effective algorithm of actions has been established to implement the relevant legal, organizational and preparatory procedures. In Russia, those children receive necessary qualified assistance. Measures are being taken for their medical rehabilitation and social adaptation.
We would also like to touch on the situation in Afghanistan. The many years of illegal occupation by the United States and its NATO allies of the Afghan territory has brought countless disasters to the population of Afghanistan. For many recent years, Afghanistan has ranked among leaders in terms of the number of recorded crimes against children, including those committed by the armed forces of the former leadership and their overseas sponsors. The presented report reflects the very sad statistics of violations against children committed in the first half of 2021, up to the flight of US troops from Afghanistan. After liberation from foreign occupation, the situation in Afghanistan changed drastically. It is also necessary that the United States return the funds stolen from the Afghan people, which are in American banks. Afghans are in dire need of these funds to restore the economy, overcome poverty, build infrastructure, schools and hospitals. The cynicism of the American authorities truly knows no limits – they talk about the rights of Afghan children and at the same time withhold money that belongs to the people and children of Afghanistan. Great Britain’s actions in Afghanistan were no less cynical and cruel. Suffice it to mention the facts revealed by the BBC that British special forces committed hundreds of murders of innocent civilians during night raids at the time of the stay of the British military in Afghanistan. Children also suffered from this. Moreover, information about these crimes has already received publicity in 2018-2019. However, then the scandal was put out thanks to loud statements made by representatives of the British Ministry of Defense. They claimed that an investigation was in progress and that perpetrators would be punished if such accusations were confirmed. As far as we understand, this was never done.
We urge the Special Representative to continue to keep the situation in Afghanistan in focus and carry out the necessary monitoring.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that we agree with the proposal made in the Brazilian concept note to pay attention to refugee children. We share the concern of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration in connection with the growing number of underage children forced to leave their places of residence. According to UNHCR, 41% (36.5 million) of the world's refugees and internally displaced persons are currently children.
Of particular concern is the situation in the Mediterranean, where people, including children, continue to die in an attempt to reach the European continent. Thus, according to the IOM, since the beginning of 2022, 970 migrants have been declared dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, of which 32 are children. 2048 people died in 2021, including 76 children.
We are convinced that the most effective way to solve the problem of all forced migrants, including children, is to eliminate the root causes that make people leave their homeland. This can be addressed successfully through political settlement in migrants’ countries of origin, as well as assistance in socio-economic development, state building and the fight against terrorism.
For our part, we will keep contributing to strengthening the international regime for the protection of refugees and solving migration-related problems, provide large-scale humanitarian assistance, and actively participate in political efforts to prevent and overcome crises.