Mounting Reports of Crimes against Women, Children in Ukraine Raising ‘Red Flags’ over Potential Protection Crisis, Executive Director Tells Security Council
Increasing reports of sexual violence and human trafficking in Ukraine — allegedly committed against women and children in the context of massive displacement and ongoing fighting — are raising “all the red flags” about a potential protection crisis, the Executive Director of the United Nations gender agency warned the Security Council today.
Sima Bahous, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said she recently returned from the Republic of Moldova where she witnessed buses full of exhausted and anxious women and children arriving from Ukraine. There, they were met with dignity and compassion by volunteers from civil society organizations, many of which are being supported by UN-Women — as part of its coordination mandate — “to ensure that the gendered nature of this crisis is addressed with a gender-sensitive response”.
Condemning in the strongest terms an 8 April attack on a train station in Kramatorsk, which killed dozens of women and children waiting for evacuation from Ukraine, she also warned that “this trauma risks destroying a generation”. Allegations of rape and sexual violence perpetrated on those fleeing are now emerging, and the large numbers of displaced persons — with the presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainians in the current conflict — raises red flags.
Calling on all countries to support the Republic of Moldova and other neighbouring countries with resources and support, she said through all those horrors, women continue to lead and serve their communities. They make up 80 per cent of all health and social care workers in Ukraine, and many have chosen not to flee. Women parliamentarians, as well as Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, continue their work as bombs fall all around them. Saluting their courage, she emphasized that women must be involved in all efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis, stressing: “We know from experience that women’s participation makes response and recovery more effective and sustainable.”
Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergencies at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said its teams were offloading life-saving humanitarian supplies just a kilometre away from the Kramatorsk attack. Children, families and communities remain under attack, many do not have enough food, and attacks on water systems have left some 1.4 million without access to safe water. As of 10 April, the United Nations has verified 142 children killed and 229 children injured, but “we know these numbers are likely much higher”. Meanwhile, hundreds of schools and educational facilities have also been attacked or used for military purposes.
He stressed that nearly two thirds of all Ukrainian children have been displaced since the conflict began, and echoed reports of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence. Against that backdrop, UNICEF and its partners are doing everything possible, both inside and outside Ukraine. However, ongoing fighting is preventing access to many areas of the country. He recounted recent visits to reception centres for internally displaced persons — run mostly by women professionals — that offer access to health and psychosocial services, warm meals and temporary rest. UNICEF is also carefully monitoring the health, rights and dignity of women and girls as the risk of exploitation and abuse grows, he said.
Offering a civil society perspective was Kateryna Cherepakha, President of the organization La Strada-Ukraine, who said local human rights groups are currently consolidating efforts to save civilian lives and collect survivor testimonies about the war crimes committed by the Russian Federation. Despite clear indications of their status as civilians — and even as they seek evacuation — unarmed Ukrainian women carrying children have been brutally killed by Russian troops, she said, pointing to attacks on the railway station in Kramatorsk, as well as a maternity hospitals, kindergartens and shelters in Mariupol. Highlighting the increased vulnerability of women in local administrations to the threat of kidnapping, torture and killing, she said female prisoners of war have been exposed to torture and sexual violence.
However, she warned against viewing Ukrainian women as mere victims of the Russian military aggression. Ukrainian women volunteers, activists, journalists and human rights defenders are an integral part of her country and its resistance. Calling on all members of the Security Council, international institutions and Governments to demonstrate solidarity, she stressed the need for practical actions to stop the Russian Federation’s aggression.
As Council members took the floor, the representative of the United States said that when men like Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin start wars, women and children get hurt, displaced, raped and killed. Highlighting the 8 April missile attack on a train station being used for civilian evacuations, she said that a large piece of the missile had a message in Russian on its side saying, “For the children.” Anyone at risk before war — including women and children, religious and ethnic minorities, people living with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons — is now at heightened risk. In that context, she called for strengthened protection efforts, pathways to healing and access to justice for survivors, agreeing that women are far from passive victims in this war.
The representative of Ireland also sounded alarm over “bone-chilling” allegations that children are among those being abused in Ukraine. “Conflict-related sexual violence can constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account,” he stressed, adding that accountability must also extend to military commanders who fail to take all “necessary and reasonable” steps to stop such abuses or fail to ensure they are investigated and prosecuted. Warning of an emerging child-protection crisis, he said the international community has a responsibility to respond.
Poland’s representative said nearly 2.6 million refugees from Ukraine have already arrived in his country, the vast majority women and children who cross the border with no contacts and find themselves at risk of trafficking and abuse. They are physically and psychologically weakened, unfamiliar with their new surroundings and highly vulnerable to criminals. To protect them, Polish authorities have put measures in place at all border crossing areas and reception centres to control who has direct access to refugees, including through strict identification and registration protocols.
The representative of Ukraine said that, over the past week, many foreign leaders, journalists and United Nations officials have visited crime scenes in Ukraine and were shocked by what they saw. The Russian Federation has launched a policy of extermination against his people, he said, also noting that Ms. Cherepakha’s snapshot of the repressions being committed against Ukrainian women are just a few instances of many. Against that backdrop, the national prosecutor’s office is launching a special mechanism to document sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian women, and is closely cooperating with non-governmental groups and United Nations officials working in a similar capacity on the ground.
The Russian Federation’s representative, rejecting the ongoing distortion of his country’s special military operation in Ukraine and promotion of “fakes” by the West, described the attack in Kramatorsk as a classic false flag operation committed by Ukrainian forces. Photographs taken by witnesses made it possible to determine the type of rocket and the direction from which it was launched, both of which point to Ukraine as the perpetrator. Meanwhile, in the city of Irpin, a provocation borrowing the script from Bucha and Nemmersdorf is being prepared, with Ukrainian forces transferring bodies from a morgue into a building basement to stage a shooting event.
Also speaking were the representatives of Albania, France, Ghana, Mexico, India, Norway, Brazil, China, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Kenya, United Kingdom, Romania and Germany.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.
Request by Russian Federation to Remove Agenda Items Pertaining to Ukraine
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), taking the floor prior to the formal start of the meeting, said that while his delegation is not against adding today’s far-reaching item to the Council’s agenda, it is preferable to delete the two other agenda items pertaining to the situation in Ukraine — namely, those regarding letters to the Council from the representatives of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which date back to 2014. This reflects common sense, as well as the current situation, he said, asking the Council President to take the necessary procedural steps to amend the organ’s agenda in line with his request.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said today’s agenda item was proposed without prejudice to the 2014 letters referred to by the Russian Federation’s delegate. While the scope of the situation in Ukraine has grown far beyond the circumstances in 2014, “it is important to recognize its history”, and members may wish to refer to those items in the future. As such, those agenda items should be maintained, she said.
Mr. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) reiterated that his delegation is not against having meetings continue on approved agenda items, but expressed his hope that his comments will be considered.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), Council President for April, said the process for amending the organ’s agenda is governed by Note 507 and normally takes three years to complete. As such, she suggested the request made by the Russian Federation be discussed in a separate setting in the coming days.
SIMA BAHOUS, Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), expressed solidarity with Ukrainian women, men, girls and boys, stressing that the fighting must stop now. She recently returned from the Republic of Moldova, which despite still reeling from COVID-19 and other challenges, has opened its borders and homes for people fleeing fighting in Ukraine, mostly exhausted and anxious women and children. Sharing some of their stories, she said buses full of civilians were met with dignity and compassion by volunteers from civil society organizations at the Moldovan border.
In line with its coordination mandate, she said, UN-Women is supporting those who have been displaced “to ensure that the gendered nature of this crisis is addressed with a gender-sensitive response”. “This trauma risks destroying a generation,” she warned, condemning in the strongest terms the recent attack on Kramatorsk train station, which killed civilians and civil society members working in partnership with the United Nations. “Humanitarians are not a target; civilians are not a target,” she stressed.
Also citing allegations of rape and sexual violence perpetrated on those fleeing, she said the large numbers of displaced persons with the presence of conscripts and mercenaries — and the brutality displayed against Ukrainians in the current conflict — “raises all the red flags”. “A war of this magnitude impacts the world far beyond the borders of Ukraine,” she added, noting that the risk of human trafficking is increasing, with young women and teenagers at the highest risk. Calling on all countries to support the Republic of Moldova and other neighbouring countries with resources and support, she said through all those horrors, women continue to lead and serve their communities. They make up 80 per cent of all health and social care workers in Ukraine, and many have chosen not to flee. Women parliamentarians, as well as Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, continue their work as bombs fall all around them. Saluting their courage, she said: “They do this at great risk to their own lives.”
Against that backdrop, she noted that the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund continues to support civil society efforts in Ukraine and urged Council members to also provide their support. She also called on the Council to use all avenues to pursue the path of peace, stressing that Ukrainian women are asking to be part of the solution. “We know from experience that women’s participation makes response and recovery more effective and sustainable,” she said, adding that it is vital that women are consulted and engaged in all decisions and negotiations. Emphasizing that women need not be seen as victims, she nevertheless noted that they remain largely absent from all current negotiation efforts. The Council must ensure women’s active participation, she stressed, while also strongly echoing the Secretary-General’s calls for peace and an immediate cessation of hostilities.
MANUEL FONTAINE, Director of Emergencies, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that he returned last week from Ukraine. “In my 31 years as a humanitarian, I have rarely seen so much damage caused in so little time,” he said, describing the 8 April attack on Kramatorsk train station as particularly horrifying. That station has been a critical route for thousands of families fleeing Donetsk oblast, an area that has seen some of the war’s worst violence and destruction. “When the station was attacked, it was filled with families desperate to escape the mounting violence,” he said, noting the tragic irony that UNICEF teams were offloading life-saving humanitarian supplies only a kilometre away when that unconscionable attack occurred. “It is just one of many instances in this war where we have seen a blatant disregard for civilian lives and international humanitarian law,” he said.
Inside Ukraine, children, families and communities remain under attack, he continued. Of the 3.2 million children estimated to have remained in their homes, nearly half may be at risk of not having enough food. Attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages have left some 1.4 million people without access to water, and another 4.6 million have only limited access. The situation is even worse in cities like Mariupol and Kherson, where children and their families have now gone weeks without running water and sanitation services, a regular supply of food, and medical care. They are sheltering in their homes and underground, waiting for the bombs and violence to stop.
As of 10 April, he said, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified 142 children killed and 229 children injured. “We know these numbers are likely much higher, and many of them were caused by crossfire or the use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” he said. Recalling his meeting with children in a hospital intensive care unit in the city of Zaporizhzhia, he said all the systems that help children survive are under attack. Hostilities have damaged or destroyed hundreds of residential homes, and attacks on hospitals, health-care facilities, medical equipment and even health professionals continue, making it harder for people to access care. He added that hundreds of schools and educational facilities have also been attacked or used for military purposes.
Applauding the efforts of the authorities to ensure continuity of education, he warned that that can only be a temporary solution. “Lessons from the pandemic show the importance of children learning in a school with their peers and teachers,” he said. Nearly two thirds of all Ukrainian children have been displaced since the conflict began, forced to leave everything behind. Voicing deep concern over increasing reports of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, he welcomed the outpouring of support from neighbouring countries to welcome refugees, adding that it should be replicated globally for all seeking protection and asylum, “no matter where they are from”.
Against that backdrop, UNICEF and its partners are doing everything possible, both inside and outside Ukraine, amid difficult circumstances. Some progress has been registered in recent weeks, with teams and supplies able to reach Sumy, Kharkiv and Kramatorsk, among other cities. “But this is not enough,” he stressed, noting that ongoing hostilities are preventing access to many areas of the country. He recounted recent visits to reception centres for internally displaced persons — run mostly by women professionals — that offer access to health and psychosocial services, warm meals and temporary rest. “These services are critical, but they are not solutions,” he said, noting that resources are already overstretched. UNICEF is also carefully monitoring the health, rights and dignity of women and girls as the risk of exploitation and abuse grows and reiterates the need to ensure that children who have become separated from their families or who live in institutional care are protected, he said.
KATERYNA CHEREPAKHA, President of La Strada-Ukraine, noted that she was speaking on behalf of feminist and human rights organizations who are consolidating efforts at the national, regional and community levels to save civilian lives and collect survivor testimonies about the war crimes committed by the Russian Federation in her country. “I speak as a women’s rights activist, as a mother and now also as a displaced person,” she said, adding that women and children are the largest group of internally displaced persons and refugees. Even during evacuation, despite clear indications of their status as civilians, unarmed and carrying children, Ukrainian women have been brutally killed by Russian troops, she said, pointing to attacks on the railway station in Kramatorsk, the maternity and children’s hospitals, kindergartens and the theatre building in Mariupol.
Highlighting the increased vulnerability of women in local administrations to the threat of kidnapping, torture and killing, she recalled, among others, Olga Sukhenko, head of the Motyzhyn village. Ms. Sukhenko was tortured and killed with her husband and son after Russian troops occupied the village. Women are important actors of peace and security in Ukraine and they have become targets for the occupiers, she said, noting that there is no information regarding Ukrainian volunteer-medic Julia Payevska who was captured by Russian troops while organizing assistance in Mariupol. Women-prisoners of war have been exposed to torture, including sexual violence, while female journalists have been killed. The cases already reported are just a small part of the iceberg, she cautioned, adding that in the calls for help received by the national hotlines run by La Strada, “we see extreme traumatization and fear for life”.
Even those who manage to get to safer places are too traumatized to report, she said, adding that survivors need support, therapy and recovery assistance. Many of these cases will never be disclosed, she said, adding that “Russian invaders” are using violence and rape as weapons of war. “We do not want you to look at us only as victims of Russian military aggression,” she stressed, adding that Ukrainian women volunteers, activists, journalists and human rights defenders are an integral part of her country. Calling on all members of the Security Council, international institutions and Governments to demonstrate solidarity, she stressed the need for practical actions to stop the Russian Federation’s aggression.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that when men like Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin start wars, women and children get hurt, displaced, raped and killed. Highlighting the 8 April missile attack on a train station being used for civilian evacuations, she said that a large piece of the missile had a message in Russian on its side saying, “For the children.” Recalling her meetings with displaced Ukrainians in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, she said the mass displacement includes over half of all of Ukraine’s children. Anyone at risk before war is at a heightened risk of being targeted for physical and sexual violence during a war, she noted, adding that this includes women and children, religious and ethnic minorities, people living with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons. Pointing to sobering reports of traffickers targeting women as they seek protection abroad, she cautioned against waiting for lengthy assessments and data. The humanitarian efforts her Government is supporting in and around Ukraine are focusing on networks for survivors of gender-based violence, as well as programmes for child protection, including UNICEF’s mobile child protection teams. Stressing the need for pathways to healing and access to justice for survivors, she added that women are far from passive victims in this war, and they deserve to return to a peaceful Ukraine where they have a say in their own future.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), condemning the relentless brutality of the Russian Federation army against Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure, said that various pieces of the horror puzzle are falling into place, with mass graves and torture chambers and playgrounds studded with bullet holes. Highlighting the devastating impact of this war on women, he noted that thousands of them have been forced to flee their homes while others are bravely defending their country and offering humanitarian assistance. Women and girls face heightened risk of conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking, he said, expressing concern that Ukrainian children have been trapped in the national nightmare, with large numbers displaced and forcibly deported to the Russian Federation. Destroying educational infrastructure is criminal, he said, asking how does one explain war to traumatized children who had to leave their homes in a matter of hours. President Putin must realize that a war cannot be won through massacres, he said, adding that the massacres perpetrated during the wars in the Balkans did not help the perpetrators win any wars.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the recent attack against a train station in Kramatorsk might constitute a crime against humanity. “Indiscriminate attacks must cease,” he said, expressing deep concern over alleged sexual violence and expressing support for United Nations efforts to “establish the facts”. Greater support must be provided to sexual abuse survivors. Noting that attacks on hospitals may also constitute war crimes, he said murders and mutilations of children will be a “permanent stain” upon perpetrators and called on the Secretary-General to make use of the Council’s tools to protect children against serious violations. He went on to express support for United Nations actions to prevent human trafficking. He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the full withdrawal of Russian Federation troops from Ukraine’s entire territory, as called for by the International Court of Justice, and for humanitarian access, adding that the nearly 10,000 children who have arrived in France are able to attend school. He expressed support for investigation and documentation work by the International Criminal Court and noted that €500,000 has been granted to the related fund. He closed by saluting the courage of Ukrainian women on the frontline of the humanitarian, political and military response, recalling that there can be no lasting solution to the conflict without the full participation of women.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), expressing concern over the situation of women, children and older persons in Ukraine, strongly deplored the reported acts of widespread gross violations of international humanitarian law by the troops of the Russian Federation. Condemning the 8 April attack on the train station in Kramatorsk, he also voiced deep concern over the situation of the children of Ukraine who are being scarred by the horrifying images of war. “Children should never go through such experiences and must, accordingly, be protected by all parties in accordance with applicable international law,” he said, calling on the warring parties — especially the aggressor State — to redouble efforts for peace in the interest of Ukraine’s women and children. Ghana also condemns reports of trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, and exploitation, and urges humanitarian agencies to ensure that identified victims are provided with the needed medical and psychosocial care to overcome the trauma of abuse. Meanwhile, women leaders at all levels should be included in coordination mechanisms and decision-making processes, and not counted only as victims.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE (Mexico) said the information emerging from Ukraine paints a “truly devastating panorama”. Condemning the attack on the Kramatorsk train station — which killed dozens of civilians waiting to be evacuated and could constitute a war crime — he said women and children have been the most affected, representing 90 per cent of the refugee population and now facing the risk of trafficking and exploitation. Also spotlighting the trauma of war and its possibly irreversible impact on civilians’ mental health — as well as the serious damage on residential, education and sanitation infrastructure — he said UN-Women and the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, should continue collecting evidence and studying the many gender-related dimensions of the crisis. As Co-Chair of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, Mexico plans to convene a follow-up meeting to maintain the focus on the current topic and give it the prominence it deserves, he said.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India), noting that more than 4.4 million people have moved to neighbouring countries and another 7.1 million are displaced inside Ukraine, said that, having welcomed refugees for centuries, his country knows the importance of treating them equally and with dignity. “We need to keep the gender perspective in mind and act with sensitivity,” he affirmed, calling for a victim-centred approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict. Citing reports of more than 900 education facilities and schools either damaged or destroyed, he said students were among the 22,500 nationals whose safe return home India facilitated. Appealing for an immediate end to hostilities, he emphasized: “No solution can be arrived at by shedding blood.” He went on to reiterate the importance of humanitarian assistance.
BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland) strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s 8 April attack against a train station in Kramatorsk as yet another attempt to close escape routes for those fleeing this unjustified war. Widespread displacement and trauma, trafficking risks and reports of sexual violence, including rape, perpetrated by Russian soldiers proliferate, he noted, citing “bone-chilling” allegations that children are among those abused. “Conflict-related sexual violence can constitute a war crime and those responsible must be held to account,” he reaffirmed, emphasizing that accountability must also extend to military commanders who fail to take all “necessary and reasonable” steps to stop such abuses or fail to ensure they are investigated and prosecuted. He cautioned that a child-protection crisis is emerging, as the number of unaccompanied and separated children rises. “We have a responsibility to respond,” he said, calling for mitigation of the impact of trauma caused by family separations by offering psychosocial and mental health support, health care and education. He went on to remind Council members that April marks one year since they adopted resolution 2573 (2021) on the protection of civilian objects, while stressing that any peace talks must directly and substantively include diverse women so they can influence the outcome. “Without them, we have no hope for sustainable peace,” he warned.
MONA JUUL (Norway), noting that Ukrainian women and girls face a drastically heightened risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking, stressed the importance of a gender- and age-sensitive humanitarian response. “There is a tendency to forget that women are also at the front line in every way,” she said, pointing out that they also serve as combatants, as well as deliverers of basic and life-saving services. She went on to express alarm at reports that more than 60 per cent of Ukraine’s children are now displaced. The ongoing violence by Russian forces raises questions about possible war crimes or even crimes against humanity, she said, underscoring the importance of the ongoing investigations by the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) emphasized that the protection of children in armed conflict must be a priority at all times, even when the parties cannot find common ground for peaceful settlement of disputes. He called upon all parties to allow civilians to leave conflict zones and humanitarian organizations to reach those in need. Evidence of the psychological impact of sexual violence in conflict — a crime that affects women and girls, but also men and boys — suggests it is often lifelong and even intergenerational, he noted. Calling on all parties to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council and thanking UN-Women for its efforts to obtain gender-sensitive data, he warned that women and children forced into the condition of refugees or internally displaced persons are more vulnerable to crimes, including sexual violence and exploitation.
DAI BING (China) noted that women and children should be given priority protection in conflict. He called on parties in Ukraine to abide by international humanitarian law, protect women and children, respect the civilian nature of schools and hospitals and to provide special evacuation, rescue and medical assistance to women and children. He deplored that people were killed in the attack on a train station in Kramatorsk, stressing that the cause of the incident must be investigated. All refugees should receive equal protection under international refugee law, and he urged the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN-Women and UNICEF to continue coordinating support for humanitarian assistance. Psychological and social services should be provided to women and children, and education ensured. Expressing concern over reports of abductions, human trafficking and violence, he encouraged the parties to negotiate and to create the conditions needed for a ceasefire. All other parties should do more to facilitate dialogue and create the necessary conditions for progress in such talks. Imposing sanctions and providing weapons will not bring about peace, he added, noting that sanctions have triggered a food crisis for which the entire world pays a price.
MOHAMED ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said women are not only facing grave violations of international humanitarian law, but also gender specific risks. However, as agents of peace, their participation in prevention, peacebuilding, reconciliation and reconstruction efforts must be guaranteed. Noting that the overwhelming majority of the 4.3 million people who have fled Ukraine are women and children, he said that 89 health facilities across the country have been impacted by attacks, meaning that pregnant women lack maternity care. He cited “deeply disturbing” reports of conflict-related sexual violence and pointed to the conflict’s disruption to education, also stressing that “every child has a right to education”. He called on parties to guarantee women’s full and meaningful participation in peace efforts, especially in the design and implementation of processes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, adding that sex-disaggregated data collection is a valuable tool to strengthen accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. He also said a gender-responsive approach must be taken in all efforts, urging parties to allow for timely and unimpeded humanitarian access and reiterating the strong call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), noting that the number of displaced persons has reached 10 million — including innumerable children who have crossed Ukraine’s borders, unaccompanied — he affirmed that sexual violence and human trafficking are unacceptable, and that independent, impartial investigations must be undertaken. As the war drags on, massive population movements, the breakdown in supply chains and unsanitary conditions are all propitious for the outbreak of an epidemic. He advocated urgent action to meet civilian needs, noting with interest UNICEF’s efforts to bolster its mobile teams and provision of essential services to support children’s protection. Aid for women and children must be stepped up, including mental and emotional care services. Stressing that humanitarians require access to all people in need, he called on parties to forge a humanitarian ceasefire and to negotiate in good faith to bring about a halt to hostilities. “This war must end,” he insisted.
Mr. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said his delegation is familiar with the distortion of his country’s special military operation and promotion of “fakes” by the West as part of an intense information war. A new threshold, however, has been set by his counterpart from Albania, who listed an entire list of crimes ascribed to the Russian Federation without presenting any evidence for such claims. Citing staged events “in the tradition of the Syrian White Helmets”, he said the provocation in Bucha is still being promoted as a supposed crime committed by the Russian army, despite “irrefutable evidence” of its staged character. “I won’t get into the details” he said, as his delegation had presented its claims on 5 April, but he described the influence of the 1994 intellectual forefathers on today’s Ukrainian radicals, who created “crowd scenes” and gave special instructions on what to do. He also cited staged events in Nemmersdorf, which created a legend of mass murders and rapes by the Red Army but were debunked by various experts.
He said the Bucha provocation was then overshadowed by events in Kramatorsk, a classic false flag operation. On 8 April, Ukrainian forces used a Tochka U rocket to attack a train station in Kramatorsk, from 45 kilometres away from that area, killing 50 people. “The Russian army doesn’t have tactical missile systems, Tochka U,” he said. “They are obsolete; they have been replaced by Iskander rockets.” They are only used by Ukraine’s army, he insisted. Moreover, pictures taken by witnesses made it possible to determine the type of rocket and the direction from which it was launched — and that area is under the Ukrainian army control. It is also easy to identify the serial number of the Tochka U rocket Shu 915, a group of rockets regularly used to shell Donbas. He also pointed to a 14 March attack by the Ukrainian army’s 19 Missile Brigade in Donetsk. “The provocation in Kramatorsk was not very successful,” he said, noting that his delegation has also transmitted information to the United Nations about the staged discovery of mass graves in a town near Kyiv.
Describing multiple scenarios, he said that in Irpin, a provocation borrowing the script from Bucha and Nemmersdorf is being prepared, with Ukrainian forces transferring bodies from a morgue into a building basement to stage a shooting event. His delegation expects videos to be circulated by Western media. According to the Ministry of Defence, a town in the Sumy region under the control of Russian forces, Western media have been invited to organize a staged event. He went on to cite reports from residents in Odessa, where Ukrainian army members are wearing Russian military uniforms to prepare a false flag operation. “Please do not tell us later that we did not warn you about this,” he said. “Russia does not wage war against the civilian population.”
The intention is to present Russian soldiers as sadists and rapists, just as the Soviet victors of the Second World War were, he said, stressing that neither the goals nor the Russophobia of Ukraine’s propaganda has changed. Today’s reality, however, is different. In Mariupol, primary school 18 was held by the Nazi Azov battalion. He described how photos of a woman in a basement with her hands hacked off and a swastika burned into her stomach is still being passed off as a Russian war crime. In fact, Ukrainian society has been under the influence of nationalists for eight years, he said, with women presented in a savage light. He pointed to a patriotic video on social media featuring a Ukrainian actress uttering curses against the Russian Federation as she uses a sickle to cut the throat of a Russian soldier, evoking images disseminated by Da’esh. He also doubted that “peaceful Poles” can feel safe when the perpetrators of the Volhynia massacre in 1943 are hailed today as national heroes. There is another Ukraine which is being given the chance for peace, thanks to the Russian Federation’s special military operation.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), thanking all humanitarian actors in the region, added that while the Council has applauded the role of women as peacebuilders, it is also necessary to pause “and let the full weight of their suffering settle into our minds”. Drawing attention to the bombing of homes, hospitals, schools, businesses and other civilian objects, he said victims and survivors are fleeing bombs and bullets overwhelmingly fired by young men who are themselves dying in large numbers. “Mothers are on either side of the war,” he said, adding that it is inappropriate that there are no women at the table in the ceasefire negotiations. Humanitarian actors should ensure that their operations have the ability to aid women and girls, particularly those who are survivors of gender-based violence. For a world barely starting its recovery from the pandemic, he added, the war in Ukraine is a double blow.
TARIQ MAHMOOD AHMAD, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom and Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, said that President Putin’s invading forces are oblivious to the basic tenets of the Geneva Conventions, which distinguish between civilians and combatants. Condemning the statement by the delegate of the Russian Federation as a distortion of the truth, he said that what is true is that Ukrainian women have demonstrated fortitude and resilience. Displaced Ukrainian women and girls face heightened risks of trafficking and sexual exploitation by criminal gangs, he said, adding that the mounting evidence of war crimes in the country must compel the international community to do more to stand with Ukraine and work ceaselessly to investigate these crimes. His country worked closely with partners to refer the invasion to the International Criminal Court, he said, adding that any peace settlement must also reflect the disproportionate impact of this conflict on women and girls.
Taking the floor a second time to respond to the representative of the Russian Federation, Mr. HOXHA (Albania) rejected the assertion that he is embracing propaganda. “What we say here is fact-checked and corroborated,” he stressed, noting that the painful facts raised by his delegation are true, and mentioning them today was only necessary because of Moscow’s actions.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said the lies told today by the Russian Federation predictably “contained everything but the kitchen sink”. Expressing his hope that the Russian Federation’s proposal to remove the 2014 letters regarding Crimea from the Council’s agenda will not be supported by other Council members, he said since the beginning of its invasion Moscow has disregarded the need to protect civilians in Ukraine. Over the past week, many foreign leaders, journalists and United Nations officials have visited crime scenes in Ukraine — and were shocked by what they saw — all while the Russian Federation persists in adding items to its list of war crimes. Stressing that the world’s trust in Moscow and its diplomats is dead, he noted that the enormous suffering ongoing in Ukraine and said the Russian Federation has launched a policy of extermination against his people.
During today’s briefing, he said, the civil society briefer provided several examples of appalling repressions against Ukrainian women — of which there are countless instances. Against that backdrop, the national prosecutor’s office is launching a special mechanism to document sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian women. It is also closely cooperating with non-governmental organizations and United Nations officials working in that capacity on the ground. Adding that Ukraine will help ensure that full and transparent investigations are carried out, he called on UNICEF and UN-Women to continue their full-fledged monitoring of crimes against women and children, while also drawing the Council’s attention to Moscow’s flagrant violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said nearly 2.6 million refugees from Ukraine have already arrived in his country, the vast majority women and children fleeing fighting. Women and children crossing the border with no contacts or help are at a higher risk of trafficking and other forms of abuse. They are physically and psychologically weakened, unfamiliar with their new surroundings and highly vulnerable to criminals. Noting that reports are now emerging of sexual violence by Russian soldiers against fleeing Ukrainian women and girls, he said addressing the unique needs of women and children crossing the border is critical. Polish authorities have put measures in place at all border crossing areas and reception centres to control who has direct access to refugees, including identifying and registering the names of those accessing reception and accommodation centres; and the names and registration plates of those with whom refugees leave sites. He also noted the importance of providing access to the labour market and to basic services — including psychiatric, psychological and other mental health social services — once refugees have entered safe haven countries.
ION JINGA (Romania) strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s unjustified and unprovoked military attack against Ukraine, as well as reported atrocities by its forces. He reiterated strong support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, stressing that “24 February 2022 will remain one of the darkest days in history after the end of the Second World War”. Every day, women and children, older persons and people with disabilities are fleeing their homes. The international community must maintain its focus on the continued reports of horrific rights violations, he added, as Russian military actions disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. For its part, Romania is one of the largest receiving countries for Ukrainians fleeing the terror and working to find solutions to help those in need, whether on its territory or that of Ukraine. He described a two-stage approach involving emergency response to the humanitarian crisis — covering needs at border crossings, humanitarian transport and the transport of refugees to temporary accommodations — and the structural stage of developing protection mechanisms.
In that context, he said Romania set up six working groups to design inclusion and protection policies in the areas of health, education, labour, housing, vulnerable persons, children and youth. “The response to all this human suffering has been swift and all-encompassing,” he assured. Between 10 February and 4 April, more than 650,000 Ukrainian citizens entered Romania, and almost 80,000 are currently in the country. Between 10 February and 30 March, almost 4,400 Ukrainian citizens applied for asylum, he said, noting that they can benefit from accommodation in centres organized by the General Inspectorate for Immigration, as well as other material, financial, medical, psychosocial and legal support. All Ukrainian children in Romania, including those who do not apply for protection, have the right to be educated in Romanian schools, receive free boarding school accommodation, food allowance, school supplies, clothing and textbooks. In addition, UNICEF Blue Dot Centres have been set up at several border-crossing points to provide psychological and legal counsel to families and unaccompanied minors.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) expressed support for the work of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, as well as the independent investigation by the International Criminal Court. She added that all accountability mechanisms must take into account the gendered dimension of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Calling for women’s meaningful participation in decisions regarding humanitarian assistance, the refugee situation, peacebuilding, reconstruction and recovery, she said that the women and children fleeing Ukraine are at risk of falling victim to criminal activity. Further, she added, the disruption of education endangers the well-being of children who often arrive exhausted, traumatized and malnourished in countries of destination. Her Government is providing €20 million to UNICEF to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian children as part of its humanitarian package for the country.