Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Maria Zabolotskaya at the briefing of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Security Council


We thank High Commissioner Grandi for his briefing.

Assistance to refugees and solving their problems is particularly relevant in the context of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that unfolds worldwide. A series of ongoing armed conflicts, internal political difficulties in certain countries and natural disasters have led to the fact that last year was unprecedented as far as the number of people who were forced to flee their homes and home countries to seek protection. Undoubtedly, the current refugee crisis has surpassed the infamous 2016 in every respect.

When speaking about the crisis of forced displacement, we must first mention the unprecedented situation in Gaza, where Israel's brutal military operation has entered its eighth month.

The indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza has already forced more than 1.7 million Gazans to flee their homes to save their lives. However, wherever they find shelter and refuge, they remain in mortal danger. Israeli attacks on civilian targets, including refugee camps and other UNRWA shelter sites, have already killed 450 people and injured more than 1,400. Those who are selflessly providing assistance to Palestinian refugees are also being killed.

The situation in Rafah, where one million civilians are crowded together, is egregious. People are killed there every day, and that includes UN staff. Just the other day, an IDF attack on a tent camp of internally displaced persons northwest of Rafah killed at least 45 people, including young children, and wounded more than 200.

The scale of the humanitarian catastrophe is widening by the day. The Israeli military is blocking the entry of humanitarian aid. There is no water, food or fuel in Gaza. Those who manage to escape the bombings face hunger, infectious diseases and lack of necessary medical care.

Meanwhile UNRWA, a partner of UNHCR, that provides real assistance to Palestinian refugees, is still subjected to unprecedented political pressure and threats, including through the suspension of funding that it desperately needs now.

We realize that Palestinian refugees are not directly within UNHCR's mandate, but we hope that the High Commissioner, as one of the highest UN officials, will continue to monitor the situation and call on Israel to comply with its international obligations.


The situation in Gaza and the bullying of UNRWA clearly demonstrates the despicable trend towards politicizing the problems of refugees and IDPs. This is especially evident in the financing of humanitarian programs aimed at assisting refugees. Having provoked a large share of conflicts around the world, Western countries are extremely reluctant to fund UNHCR programs aimed at assisting refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and many other conflict-torn countries. Besides, Western countries are keen on turning the asylum seekers who arrive at their borders back to the developing countries. Against this background, the “golden billion” constantly expresses concern about the situation with refugees from Ukraine, ignoring the fact that a significant number of them are sent to Russia. This is the notorious policy of double standards and the division of the world population into “first class” and “second class” people.

The trend towards politization manifests itself especially clearly when it comes to the voluntary return of Syrian refugees. The West is effectively blocking this process, not only by denying assistance to those who wish to return, but also by torpedoing the implementation of early recovery projects, which is key to security and dignified repatriation. Instead, the West prefers to keep Syrian refugees abroad by all means and increase sanctions restrictions against Damascus, which affect the ordinary Syrians the hardest. At the same time, they do not care about the civilians in such notorious camps as Al-Hawl and Al-Roj, where thousands of women and children leave abandoned to their fate after escaping the deadly bombardments of Raqqa, Hajin, and Baghuz.

Nevertheless, we trust that UNHCR will continue to facilitate in the implementation of the initiative for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees to their homeland in coordination with Damascus. In that context, we should like to ask the High Commissioner how he assesses the real (rather than declarative) donor implications of the recent conference on Syria in Brussels.


Speaking of Ukraine, we should like to remind you of a number of important facts that you are unlikely to hear in briefings by international organizations or their officials. Since 2014, after the coup d'état in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of Russian and Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine have fled from Ukraine to Russia. The mass exodus from Ukraine to Russia continued in the following years due to the incessant shelling of peaceful cities of Donbas by the UAF. Since February 2022, local residents have been fleeing from UAF’s war crimes to Russia, and not to Ukraine at all. That is underpinned by statistical data. According to UNHCR data alone, our country has received more than 2.8 million refugees. However, in reality these figures are much higher. About 5.5 million people have arrived in Russia since the beginning of the special military operation. Compare it with the 4 million officially registered Ukrainian refugees in European countries.

The Russian side is making every effort to receive and accommodate these persons and to provide them with comprehensive assistance. The staff of the UNHCR office in Moscow can see for themselves the effective work being done in various Russian regions to ensure decent conditions for refugees.

Concern has been expressed here about Ukraine's energy infrastructure. However, a plain fact was omitted that massive shelling of cities and towns in Donbas, which Ukrainian authorities have carried out since 2014, has left residential areas in that region without water, gas, and energy; caused mobile network services to discontinue, and prevented deliveries of food and medical supplies to the affected areas. The inhumane water, economic and transport blockade of Donbas imposed by Kiev has brought the region to the brink of a humanitarian disaster. More than 600,000 seniors have been left without pensions, other social benefits have been canceled too. It should also be recalled here that the Ukrainian armed forces, thanks to supplies of Western-made artillery shells and long-range missiles, is attacking civilian objects in Russia. In the first 3 months of 2024, the UAF fired 22,000 rounds of ammunition, which killed 201 civilians in Russia. Dear High Commissioner, children in Belgorod do not have the opportunity to attend schools, but you must have not heard about this. 


In the context of the refugee situation, special attention should be paid to the African continent. Despite all the economic difficulties, African countries have been setting an example of solidarity and assistance to displaced persons for years, unlike the same Western countries. And in this they have the right to count on international support and recognition.

We share the concerns expressed with regard to the difficult situation of the Sudanese population because of the armed conflict that has lasted for more than a year. All neighboring States, including Egypt, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia and South Sudan, are experiencing the burden of the outflowing Sudanese refugees. Together, these countries have already received almost 2 million Sudanese. The number of internally displaced persons in Sudan itself, according to various estimates, varies from 7 to 9 million. This situation demands a systematic increase in assistance to the Sudanese authorities in resolving the entire range of humanitarian problems. I emphasize that it is important to establish cooperation precisely with the central authorities of the country, who bear full responsibility for normalizing the security situation and resolving the whole range of refugee and IDP problems.


Finally, we would like to draw attention once again to the tragic situation of refugees in the Mediterranean. It stands on the agenda of the Security Council, however today we have heard no information on this issue. Year after year, the Mediterranean remains a mass grave for many of those who attempt to reach European shores. The number of victims is increasing steadily. Horrific tragedies of deaths at sea occur regularly. At the same time, Western Europe shows no regret and makes no attempt to provide assistance. Instead of rescuing those in distress, the EU deliberately pushes them out of their “zone of jurisdiction”, condemning people to death. Interference in the activities of humanitarian NGOs who provide assistance to refugees continues.

The situation is inadmissible from the point of view of both international law and simple humanity. People are dying, but no one is responsible. It is clear that the situation is not going to change unless the refugees who have been rescued and intercepted at sea are assigned safe ports of landing in accordance with international law of the sea. We ask the High Commissioner to keep the Mediterranean region in focus and to continue to press the European Union to uphold international obligations, accountability and the fight against impunity.

Thank you.

Video of the statement