‘Russophobia’ Term Used to Justify Moscow’s War Crimes in Ukraine, Historian Tells Security Council
Other Briefers Declare Russian Language Gradually Being Destroyed
The Security Council heard today dissenting assertions from three briefers — two calling attention to Russophobia in Ukraine and one countering that claim as a colonial endeavour to justify war crimes — in a meeting requested by the Russian Federation, as delegates weighed in with their own prescriptions.
Kirill Vyshinsky, Executive Director of Rossiya Segodnya, detailing several examples of modern Ukrainian Russophobia, spotlighted the forceful expulsion of the Russian people, lies against Moscow and the open hatred of Russians. Despite nearly one third of Ukraine’s population referring to Russian as its native language, the last 20 years have seen a deliberate shrinking of space. Ukrainian authorities have stopped any study of Russian language, eliminated it from schools, removed books and prohibited those in higher education from speaking it, even in private. There has also been a mass renaming of cities and streets; the destruction of monuments; and the seizure of churches. “We see an ideology of hatred for everything Russian, hatred of Russians, hatred of anyone who is somehow linked to Russia,” he underscored.
Dmitry Vasilets, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Trade Union of Law Workers, noting that he speaks on behalf of the millions of Russian citizens in Ukraine, added that speaking Russian was prohibited in schools beginning in 2020 and then in movie theatres, public buildings and other locations since 2021. “That is barbarism that has been enshrined in law by [Ukraine President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy,” he stated, emphasizing that the use of one’s mother tongue is a human right protected under international law. Citing various instances of discrimination, including on social media platforms, he declared that “the Russian language is gradually being destroyed”.
Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, pointed out that the term “Russophobia” is an attempt to justify the Russian Federation’s war crimes in Ukraine. The harm being done to Russians and Russian Federation culture is primarily due to Moscow’s own policies and actions, he countered, spotlighting the emigration of creative Russians due to its invasion of Ukraine; destruction of independent Russian journalism; attacks on culture, books, museums and other landmarks; mass killings of Russian speakers and citizens; and Russian Federation State television proclamations. The claim that Ukrainians are sick with a disease called “Russophobia” is simply colonial rhetoric and part of a larger strategy of hate speech, he stressed.
As the floor opened for discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation said that his country convened today’s meeting to underscore the threat of Ukraine’s Russophobia to international peace and security. What is happening now — from language bans to book burnings — is linguistic inquisition and obscurantism for which innocent people are suffering and dying. A long-term and sustainable peace in Europe cannot be built on Russophobia, he underlined, emphasizing that no condemnation of Moscow’s special military operation by the West can explain the Russophobia in those countries.
Challenging this assertion, Ukraine’s representative stressed that the mass graves in Bucha, Mariupol, Izium and other places have demonstrated the power of Moscow’s war propaganda in dehumanizing Ukrainians. This is a real hatred that has been deliberately fuelled for decades; directed against Ukraine; and resulted in war crimes, crimes against humanity and the breaking of that country’s sovereignty. In that regard, a future tribunal must establish accountability for all those who issued criminal orders and those who implemented and whitewashed them, he insisted.
The representative of Malta, asserting that today’s meeting is yet another cynical attempt to justify the unjustifiable, deplored Moscow’s dissemination of disinformation and misinformation. Despite today’s narratives which aimed to portray the victim as the aggressor and the aggressor as the victim, the facts are clear for all to see, he said. Moscow must stop its current war and the Council must redouble its efforts to ensure accountability and justice for victims.
Brazil’s delegate pointed out that “the mere repetition of national positions, in a format that shows clear signs of exhaustion, will contribute nothing to the end of the conflict”. It would have been more productive to discuss pragmatic means to achieve peace, a concept that has been largely absent from the Council’s debates, he maintained.
Mozambique’s representative, Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, warned parties against using toxic language. Such language creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust; adds fuel to an already acrimonious and destructive conflict; and makes the prospect for peace all the more fragile. “Given the global visibility of the conflict, the charged rhetoric that has become common amongst the belligerents risks normalizing hatred and incitement in other parts of the globe,” he cautioned.
In a similar vein, the representative of the United Arab Emirates stressed that the hatred of any group strips away empathy at a time when understanding is most needed. When the guns are eventually silenced, such intolerance and bigotry can hamper post-conflict reconciliation and sustainable peace. Against this backdrop, the Council must redouble its efforts to address the proliferation of hate speech and intolerance as “a worldview that supports xenophobia serves no one”.
Building on this, China’s delegate called on the international community to eliminate estrangement, prejudice and hatred. When phobias are used as a policy pretext, countries magnify differences, create imaginary enemies, concoct threat theories and pursue suppression while dragging the world into a quagmire of conflicts and disputes. Humanity is wise and capable enough to overcome these phobias by engaging in dialogue and tolerance instead of confrontation and exclusion, he said, emphasizing that “together, we can build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness and win-win cooperation”.
Also speaking today were representatives of Japan, Gabon, United Kingdom, France, Ecuador, Albania, Ghana, Switzerland and the United States.
The Russian Federation took the floor a second time and again in response to Mr. Snyder.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.
KIRILL VYSHINSKY, Executive Director of Rossiya Segodnya, noting that he was a journalist who worked in various Ukrainian media outlets, was arrested by security forces on a concocted pretext and went to the Russian Federation following his release, defined Russophobia as a demonstration and imposition of hostility against the Russian Federation’s people, its State and citizens. This rejection of that civilization’s status and culture is being doing publicly on media outlets and the Internet in a targeted fashion. Anyone who feels they are the Russian is having the right to life, dignity and free movement curtailed, he said before detailing several egregious examples of modern Ukrainian Russophobia. Among other things, there was a misanthropic call on Ukrainian television for Russians to be dealt with by destroying their families and children; a Ukrainian doctor who urged the castration of war prisoners because they are “cockroaches rather than people”; and an advertisement where a Russian soldier’s throat was being cut as the words “now we are exacting our bloody revenge on all of you” were said.
This is being implemented in practice, he stressed, noting that prisoners of war have faced atrocities and civilians have been shot in the Russian-speaking region of the Donbas. In March, Ukraine announced a draft bill introducing the concept of Rashism. There is also the forceful expulsion of the Russian people, lies being told against Moscow and open hatred of the Russian Federation and Russians not only in Ukraine, but also in other parts of the world, such as the European Union. For example, Poland’s Prime Minister admitted in March 2022 that Russophobia was already the mainstream.
Russians are the second most numerous community in Ukraine, numbering in the millions, he pointed out. Nearly one third of the population — over 14 million people — refer to the Russian language as a native language. Those who constantly speak Russian or use Russian are 53 per cent of the population. Yet, over the last 20 years, there has been a deliberate shrinking of the sphere for the use of that language. Discrimination against the Russian language is in the media and throughout the country, he asserted. Ukrainian authorities have stopped any study of that language, eliminated it from schools and said they would remove a large number of books. While books are not being burned demonstrably like the Nazis did in the 1930s, they are nevertheless being thrown into the trash. Everyone in higher education cannot speak Russian — not even in private — and is being supported by Ukraine’s ombudsman who promised to broaden and introduce this practice to other institutions, he continued.
He then spotlighted other manifestations of Russophobia which included a humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the cessation of freshwater through Crimean channels; the mass renaming of cities and streets; the destruction of a number of monuments; and the attacks and seizures of churches. “I could give you many facts about the Russophobia policies of the Ukrainian authorities — they reached their peak in 2022 and 2023,” he said, adding: “But, the conclusion is simple: recently Ukraine has seen systematic attempts in various areas of education, culture and the economy and everyday life. We see an ideology of hatred for everything Russian, hatred of Russians, hatred of anyone who is somehow linked to Russia.”
DMITRY VASILETS, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Trade Union of Law Workers, noting that he speaks on behalf of the millions of Russian citizens in Ukraine, said that country’s Constitution enshrines the right to speak and use different languages, including Russian. However, the criminal regime of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy represses the use of the Russian language. Beginning in 2020, speaking Russian was prohibited in Ukrainian schools, and in 2021 and 2022, it began to be prohibited in movie theatres, public buildings and other locations across Ukraine. Those found speaking Russian were even fined. “That is the barbarism that has been enshrined in law by Zelenskyy,” he stressed, noting that over 70 per cent of Ukrainians remain in favour of studying the Russian language in schools. Emphasizing that the use of one’s mother tongue is a human right protected under international law, he described the situation in Ukraine as a case of “linguicide”.
Urging the Council’s members to imagine not being allowed to speak or think in their own native language, he recounted his own experiences of being discriminated against for speaking Russian in Ukraine. Today, against the backdrop of the war and great humanitarian need, even humanitarian aid is being withheld from those who need it, if those seeking it do not address the authorities in Ukrainian. At least 30 per cent of Ukrainian citizens remain unable to use their own language. Recalling the adoption of a law that enshrined the Ukrainian language as the country’s official State language, he said that move impacted other ethnic communities — including Hungarians — but hit Russian-speakers hardest. He also noted that the use of some European languages, such as those spoken in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, is tolerated over the use of others. Citing various specific instances of discrimination, including on social media platforms, he declared that “the Russian language is gradually being destroyed” in Ukraine, which is totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century.
TIMOTHY SNYDER, Professor of History at Yale University, describing himself as a historian of mass atrocities and other crimes, said the term “Russophobia” itself clarifies certain things about the war. First, it shows that the harm being done to Russians and to Russian culture is primarily a matter of Moscow’s own policies and actions. Indeed, the term “Russophobia” itself is a form of imperial propaganda and an attempt to justify Moscow’s war crimes in Ukraine. Noting that he shares concerns over the harm being done to Russians today, he urged the Council to consider which actions over the past year have done the most harm to Russian people and culture. First, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has caused some of the most creative and productive Russians to emigrate away from the country. Meanwhile, independent Russian journalism has been destroyed, “so that Russians cannot know the world around them”. Citing a general trend towards censorship in the Russian Federation, he said that, in that country, hold a sign that reads “no to war” is likely to lead to imprisonment.
He went on to describe attacks on Russian culture through the destruction of books, museums and other cultural landmarks — all parts of the Russian Federation’s own State policy — and added that the idea of the “Great Motherland War” has also been perverted by associating it with a war being fought in 2023. He also drew attention to the mass killing of Russian speakers, and of the Russian Federation’s citizens, in Ukraine as a result of Moscow’s own invasion. Meanwhile, a generation of young Russian fighters — those that survive the war — will have been involved in war crimes, and find themselves wrapped up in guilt for the rest of their lives. However, he said, the very worst harm to the Russian people and culture is the State’s broad normalization of the idea of genocide. Indeed, Russian State television continues to present Ukrainians as pigs, worms, Satanists and ghouls, and proclaim that Ukrainian children should be drowned. “If we were sincerely concerned about Russians, we would be concerned about what Russian State policy is doing to Russians,” he stressed.
Moreover, he continued, the term “Russophobia” is part of a long-standing rhetorical strategy used by an empire when it attacks, claiming that it is, in fact, the victim. Citing the obvious and massive destruction of Ukraine, he said the setting of a war matters. The idea that the Russian Federation is the victim — even as it carries out a war of atrocity in Ukraine — is meant to distract from the experience of the real victims, in the real world. Against that backdrop, he rejected Moscow’s assertion that “our hurt feelings count more than other people’s lives”. The claim that Ukrainians are sick with a disease called “Russophobia” is simply a type of colonial rhetoric and part of a larger strategy of hate speech, he said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), requesting Mr. Snyder to provide examples, noted that his fairy tales and attempts at historical engineering shatter against historical facts. In delivering a brief overview of history, he pointed out that Russophobia has become Ukraine’s bullwork ideology. While 17.3 per cent of Ukraine’s population considered themselves as Russians in the 2001 census and 30 per cent refer to Russian as their native language, that country’s nationalist Government launched a brutal attack on all things Russian. Authorities were ready to kill Russian-speaking Ukrainians as demonstrated by the burning of more than 40 Russian-speaking activists in Odessa in May 2014 and the quotes of several figures — such as Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of the extremist Right Sector organization — in the days following the coup d’état of that year. Ukraine’s attempt to repeal a law on its language policy notably provoked Crimea’s separation and protests among Donbas’ inhabitants. For nine years, Ukrainian authorities have systematically destroyed everything that could be linked to Moscow, undermining the basis of a society that existed in cultural and civilizational unity with the Russian Federation for centuries. It has also discriminated and violated its international and constitutional commitments, he added.
Following the 2019 election, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy armed his country with Western aid, prepared for war with the Russian Federation and called on all residents who considered themselves Russians to leave his country, he continued. Those who did not — namely the residents of the Donbas — were then bombed, shelled and destroyed, not as a response to the Russian Federation’s actions, but rather out of the purposeful attempt to destroy Russian language and culture in an egregious violation of the Russian-speaking population’s rights. Highlighting several quotes, which, among other things, referred to the Russian people as “rats” who should be poisoned and destroyed, he stressed that what is happening now in Ukraine — from language bans to book burnings — is linguistic inquisition and obscurantism for which innocent people are suffering and dying. Yet, the West did not react to this at all. No condemnation of Moscow’s special military operation can explain the extent of Russophobia in those countries, he asserted. He then directed the Council’s attention to Kyiv’s seizure of churches, parishes and monasteries and emphasized that his country convened today’s meeting to point out the threat of Ukraine’s Russophobia to international peace and security. A long-term and sustainable peace in Europe cannot be built on Russophobia, he underscored.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that, last week, once again, missiles struck various civilian areas of Ukraine. Deploring that use of violence and renewing his appeal for dialogue and a ceasefire, he said the Security Council’s attention has so far not produced any results on the ground. He encouraged a reflection on the current dynamics of the Council’s meetings — and on the role of the Council — while pointing out: “The mere repetition of national positions, in a format that shows clear signs of exhaustion, will contribute nothing to the end of the conflict.” At the same time, Brazil stands against efforts to isolate the Russian Federation at diplomatic fora and through unilateral sanctions, which are not approved by the Council. At this point, it would be more productive to discuss pragmatic means to achieve peace, a concept that has been largely absent from the organ’s debates. Grievances and security concerns from both sides will have to be addressed. Turning to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is about to expire, he urged the parties to seek a swift renewal and encouraged all Member States to avoid actions that may compromise its implementation.
MAGOSAKI KAORU (Japan) noted that various forms of discrimination, harmful rhetoric and incitement related to the war in Ukraine exist. While that must never be tolerated, it nevertheless remains true that no allegations of discrimination can justify the use of force. “If anything, the unlawful Russian invasion of Ukraine might actually have given rise to harmful rhetoric and incitement towards those who align themselves with the unjustifiable aggression,” he stressed. In line with the resolutions of the General Assembly, he reiterated the demand for Moscow’s immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and for a cessation of all hostilities.
CHRISTOPHE NANGA (Gabon) voiced his deep concern that “there is nothing positive on the horizon” with respect to the conflict in Ukraine and its impact on entire generations of people. Calling on the parties to show restraint and refrain from incitement to hatred, he said such actions will only push a political solution and lasting peace further away. The parties should take action to fight hate speech and abide by the provision of the Charter of the United Nations, which prohibit discriminatory language based on any forms of identity. He joined other speakers in appealing to the parties to come to the table and urgently agree on a political resolution.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) stressed that the hatred of any group is an exercise in closing the mind that succeeds in stripping away empathy at a time when understanding is most needed. His country has consistently taken a strong stance against intolerance in all its forms, he noted, emphasizing the collective responsibility of the Council to ensure that respect for others becomes the global norm. In areas of conflict, the Council has seen intolerance taken to the extreme in that lives are lost, communities destroyed and histories erased. When the guns are eventually silenced, intolerance and bigotry can hamper post-conflict reconciliation and sustainable peace. As such, the Council must redouble its efforts to address the proliferation of hate speech and intolerance, including through modern technology. The Council must also prioritize conflict resolution and ultimately a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine as a lasting peace must be its objective, he insisted. Welcoming the efforts of all parties towards the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he pointed out that its existence shows the promise of constructive dialogue even in the midst of conflict. “A worldview that supports xenophobia serves no one,” he emphasized.
FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom) said “Russophobia” is just another in Moscow’s ever-growing list of excuses to justify its war in Ukraine. “The fact that they are inventing so many of these is itself a good indication that they know none of them stands up to full scrutiny,” he said, declaring: “We are not Russophobes […] we do not want Russia to fail as a State, as the Russian delegation sometimes claims.” Instead, the United Kingdom desires a Russian Federation that is prosperous and stable — “just one that does not invade and try to annex its neighbours”. Outlining the massive cost of war over the past year, he cited thousands of deaths and widespread reports of atrocities. To build domestic support for his war, President Vladimir V. Putin’s Government is pushing out propaganda about Ukraine, aimed at dehumanizing the people it is killing and delegitimizing the country it is invading. “All while falsely claiming that Russia is somehow the victim,” he said, rejecting false claims that Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, “cockroaches”, “grunting pigs” or “scum and freaks”, and calling for an end to the killing and propaganda.
DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France) pointed out that Russian Federation is once again tying to divert attention by alleging the existence of discrimination so that the Council looks away from the atrocities and abuses Moscow continues to commit in Ukraine. This strategy is not new, she noted, emphasizing that Moscow has sought to distort reality since the beginning of its war of aggression. However, this propaganda strategy does not work and Moscow will not succeed in its unjustifiable war by cultivating the myth of so-called Russophobia. The reality is that the Russian Federation is carrying out illegal and unjustified aggression against a sovereign State, Ukraine, in flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. This aggression goes hand in hand with mass violations constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity, she continued before emphasizing that her Government’s resolve is stronger than ever. France will stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine for as long as necessary, ensure that justice is done and support the efforts of Ukrainian courts and the International Criminal Court. She called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and fully respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that embattled country.
MONICA SOLEDAD SANCHEZ IZQUIERDO (Ecuador) rejected all forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms on intolerance in any context — be it during peace or war — and regardless of origin. Rejecting also the corrosive narratives exacerbating the conflict, she pointed out that they are all the more appalling in seeking to justify armed violence. “What greater act of xenophobia, contempt or dehumanization can there be than war?”, she asked. In addition to claiming human lives, destroying civil infrastructure and ruining livelihoods, war affects the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, and is a pretext for the violations and abuses of these rights. She then called on the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine’s territory within its internally recognized borders and cease hostilities as demanded by the General Assembly on a comprehensive, just and lasting peace adopted during its eleventh emergency special session on 23 February.
ARIAN SPASSE (Albania), recalling a June 2022 Council meeting on the topic “incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes”, said that at the time, delegations referenced many historical examples — from the genocide in Rwanda to the Holocaust during the Second World War — in which massive atrocity crimes were planned and executed, based first on the dehumanization of an entire people. The same is now happening in Ukraine, he said, noting that calls for “de-Ukrainization” are now being followed by atrocity crimes — killings, deportation of civilians and the destruction of cultural sites, among others. However, Ukrainians today are more united than ever, and are heroically defending their country. “The world has been clear in distinguishing the wrong from the right, the perpetrators from the victims,” he stressed, recalling that the majority of United Nations Member States recently voted in the General Assembly to condemn Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine. Moscow’s self-imposed isolation is not a result of Russophobia, but of the fact that the world is not ready to accept its crimes, invasion and violations of international law, he said.
KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) urged all Council members to remain focused on efforts to resolve the aggression against Ukraine and to address the concerns of civilians. “While we do not underrate the potential for the perceived concerns of ‘Russophobia’ to be an underlying driver for the actions of some parties in the war against Ukraine, our assessments do not lead us to conclude that there is systematic and widespread State action against ethnic Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine,” she said. What lies underneath such accusations is, in fact, the attempt by a larger neighbour to assert — through brute force and subterfuge — dominance over its smaller neighbour. Voicing her strong condemnation of all violations of human rights and freedoms, she said such mechanisms such as the Human Rights Council, Council of Europe, International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court provide appropriate channels for redressing such abuses. She also underscored the need to adhere to the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of another State, noting that the Russian Federation’s choice of force against Ukraine “excessively outweighs any threats it perceives as arising from ethnic-related attacks against Russian speaking people”.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta), noting that today’s meeting is yet another cynical attempt to justify the unjustifiable, reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of the Russian Federation’s aggression. Despite today’s narratives, which aimed to portray the victim as the aggressor and the aggressor as the victim, the facts are clear for all to see, he asserted as he deplored Moscow’s dissemination of disinformation and misinformation. Stressing that there is no alternative to multilateralism and the rules-based international order, he urged all to fully implement the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other pertinent human rights treaties. For its part, Moscow must also respect the International Court of Justice’s April 2017 order on provisional measures concerning the application of that Convention and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Regarding the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, he called on the Council to redouble its efforts to ensure accountability for all violations, which must include justice for victims of atrocity crimes and sexual violence, as well as the abductions and forcible deportation of children. As an important first step, Malta supports establishing a register of damages. He then reiterated his Government’s full support for Ukraine and called on Moscow to stop its war.
ANDREA BARBARA BAUMANN-BRESOLIN (Switzerland), noting that the “truth is the first casualty of war”, stressed the importance of avoiding propaganda, hate speech and divisive language. The misinformation and propaganda that accompany the war against Ukraine reinforce mistrust, deepen divisions and increase hostility, she added. Opposing all attempts to justify the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, she insisted Moscow cease all combat operations and withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory without delay. Noting that information that is fabricated and disseminated to cause harm can never form the basis for frank and constructive dialogue, she urged Council members to refrain from and oppose harmful rhetoric.
GENG SHUANG (China), reiterating his Government’s willingness to play a constructive role, urged the international community to support the peaceful settlement of the conflict. To stop wars, the international community must eliminate estrangement, prejudice and hatred and sow the seeds of peace, solidarity and friendship. Regrettably, however, phobias have become the logical premise and policy pretext with which certain countries create imaginary enemies, concoct threat theories, pursue containment and suppression and stoke division and confrontation. As a result, differences are magnified artificially; disagreements are hyped up to the neglect of commonalities; tensions are reinforced and perpetuated and the world is dragged into the quagmire of conflicts and disputes. Noting that some politicians have contracted Sinophobia, he cautioned against a zero-sum-game mentality, the perpetuation of policies of containment and suppression, and confrontation. “The world has already been thrown into chaos by the Ukrainian crisis — do they want to create another one to change the world beyond recognition,” he asked. Humanity is wise and capable enough to overcome various phobias and get along through dialogue instead of confrontation and tolerance instead of exclusion, he said, adding that “together, we can build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness and win-win cooperation”.
JOHN KELLEY (United States) welcomed all serious discussions on the detrimental impacts of hate speech and harmful rhetoric. However, he expressed regret that today’s meeting was not harnessed for that purpose. Referring to the Russian Federation’s many claims that it is the victim of the current war, he said the term in English for such assertions is “gaslighting”. Over the last year, the world has heard countless excuses for Moscow’s aggression — claims that the Russian Federation is not the aggressor, that it must “de-Nazify” the Ukrainian Government and that it must fight drug addicts and Satanists in eastern Ukraine. However, nothing can obscure one central fact: “Russia is not the victim that it claims to be.” Urging Moscow to address the real actions committed by its forces on the ground — including war crimes, torture of those in detention, deportation of Ukrainian children and the rape of Ukrainian women — he said the string of propaganda emanating from Moscow is only intended to mask the true goal, namely erasing Ukraine from the map and subjugating its people. Against that backdrop, he said, Ukraine’s self-defence is an appropriate and necessary response to a war of aggression that violates the Charter of the United Nations and has caused unspeakable suffering.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique), Council President for March, speaking in his national capacity, reiterated his grave concern over the continued escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and the harmful rhetoric and incitement to violence used by parties to the war. “Given the global visibility of the conflict, the charged rhetoric that has become common amongst the belligerents risks normalizing hatred and incitement in other parts of the globe,” he warned. Such language not only creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust, but also adds fuel to an already acrimonious and destructive conflict and makes attempts at finding a negotiated solution difficult, and the prospects for peaceful coexistence more fragile. Citing calls by the Secretary-General, he warned the parties against using such toxic language and called upon their respective leaders to earnestly commit to peaceful solutions in line with tenets of the Charter of the United Nations.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, said that some Council members have energetically and unconvincingly attempted to bring examples of hateful statements. The quotes and citations advanced in the Council do not work because it was the Ukrainian authorities and not the Ukrainian people that are the issue, he pointed out. “Where did you hear at least one call to the de-Ukrainization of Ukraine or to wipe Ukraine off the map?”, he asked, noting that his Government is concerned for Ukrainians and is wondering what led them to the criminal regime in their country.
SERHII DVORNYK (Ukraine), spotlighting the brutal execution of the Ukrainian solider Oleksandr Matsiievskyi for saying “Glory to Ukraine”, pointed out that the horrific footage being circulated has reminded all of how hatred kills. This is a real hatred — and not fabricated stories that the Council has been obliged to listen to — that has been deliberately fuelled for decades; been directed towards an entire nation; and triggered the breaking of a country’s sovereignty, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Noting that he would discuss recent developments on the ground at a later meeting in the week, he voiced his regret — but not surprise — that the Russian Federation flooded the Council with superfluous requests. Such a response manifests its weakness and lack of credible arguments, he pointed out, adding that Moscow is prompted by its fear and realization of imminent accountability. The mass graves in Bucha, Mariupol, Izium and dozens of other places have proven the power of the Russian Federation’s war propaganda in dehumanizing Ukrainians and removing any moral safeguard from its soldiers’ mindsets. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits any national hatred and war propaganda that constitute an incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, he emphasized.
The history of the past contains powerful reminders of when one nation — poisoned with propaganda and hatred — waged a war of elimination against other peoples and nations, he continued. False claims about the discrimination of Germans were used as a justification for aggressive expansionism, annexations and atrocities. With so many similarities to the Russian Federation’s course of action, it is clear that the Kremlin’s criminal regime should also find itself in the docks after their miliary defeat in Ukraine, he said. It will be up to the future tribunal to establish accountability for all those responsible for issuing criminal orders, implementing them and whitewashing them for internal and international audiences, he then declared. That tribunal should also facilitate a process of moral penance and deep reflection where the Russian Federation can contemplate the role of its leaders and army in committing atrocities in Ukraine. Such a reflection — if underpinned with trials, remembrance, education and reparations — can notably result in that country’s return to the family of civilized nations and a commitment to never repeat the horrors of the war against Ukraine, he said. He called on all Member States to engage actively in ensuring justice for all victims by holding all perpetrators accountable.
Mr. SNYDER, responding to the Russian Federation request for sources, referred to him to his President’s website which showcases his speeches denying Ukraine’s existence on the grounds it was invented by Nazis and by communists and that a Viking baptized himself a thousand years ago. “I do not comment on the historical validity of these arguments — I simply point out that these are a matter of public record; these are the statements of the President of the Russian Federation,” he said. He also referred him to the genocidal remarks of Dmitry Medvedev on his Telegram channel and clarified that he was simply quoting the Russian Federation’s State television which are significant not only as expressions of the Russian Federation, but also as a mark of genocidal motivation for the Russian population. Presenters on Russian Federation television themselves have been worried aloud about the possibility of being prosecuted for war crimes. Regarding questions on the sources of atrocities in Ukraine, he pointed out that the simplest thing to do would be to allow Russian journalists to report freely from Ukraine and for everyone else to visit Ukraine and ask its people about the war. “As a historian of Russia, I look forward to the day when there can be free discussion of Russia’s fascinating history,” he said as he referred that country’s representatives to even more resources. “To claim that a country has no history is genocidal hate speech, and in that sense, and only in that sense, this session has been useful,” he added.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), responding, noted that Mr. Snyder had not responded to his question and instead delivered another briefing.
Mr. VASILETS, taking the floor a second time, reminded the representative of Ukraine that he, in fact, represents an entire country — including many people who are Russian-speaking and have Russian heritage. Turning to Mr. Snyder, who seems to represent the views of NATO countries, he pointed out that the bloc’s weapons have caused great suffering and mass destruction in Ukraine. While Western politicians often come to Bucha and other destroyed cities for photo opportunities, not a single cent in reconstruction funding has yet actually been received, he stressed.
* The 9279th Meeting was closed.