Deportation, Treatment of Ukraine’s Children by Russian Federation Take Centre Stage by Many Delegates at Security Council Briefing
Delegate Questions Moscow’s Position in International Community Once Conflict Ends
The United Nations remains committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity amidst indefensible attacks on civilians and infrastructure, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as speakers took stock of the war’s impact on Ukraine’s children on the thirty-second anniversary of that country’s independence.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noting that today marks 18 months since the Russian Federation launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, said that “the numbers alone tell a horrific story”. Citing confirmed numbers of at least 9,444 civilians killed — including 545 children — and nearly 17,000 injured, she added that “the real figures are likely much higher”. And, since Moscow’s 17 July withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the fighting has only escalated.
Detailing Russian Federation attacks against Ukraine’s ports, cultural heritage and civilian infrastructure, she expressed regret that the UN still does not have the necessary access to verify allegations of violations against children in the territory of Ukraine under Moscow’s control or in the Russian Federation itself. Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are “indefensible”, she stressed, underlining the UN’s “unwavering” commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Kateryna Rashevska, legal expert at the Regional Center for Human Rights, then reported that Russian Federation agents have taken at least 19,546 children to that country from Ukraine since 18 February 2022. Among other violations, Russian Federation citizenship is imposed on them, and they are forbidden to speak and learn the Ukrainian language or preserve their Ukrainian identity. “Leaving Ukrainian children in Russia means continuing to violate their rights,” she stressed, urging the Council “to assist in the return of Ukrainian children”.
Also briefing the Council was Mykola Kuleba, Chief Executive Officer of Save Ukraine, who said that, when the Russian Federation began “its war of genocide against our country” in 2014, more than 1 million Ukrainian children ended up on the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas and were further deported to Moscow. Stolen and turned into weapons, thousands of them now fight against their motherland. “You have the power to help these children,” he underscored, urging the Council to act to reunify families.
In the ensuing debate, many speakers spotlighted the impact of violence on the civilian population, urging a cessation of hostilities and a resumption of dialogue. Others spotlighted the conflict’s global ramifications and called for the resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The treatment of children, however, took centre stage.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that Kyiv’s tragedy began when “the West chose Ukraine as a pawn to fight against and to weaken Russia”. Citing the war initiated by the “Kyiv regime” against its own Russian-speaking citizens in 2014, he stressed that his country was “compelled to come to the defence of women, children and the elderly, who were being destroyed by Ukraine after that country and the West unequivocally refused to comply with the Minsk agreements”.
Ukraine’s representative, however, stressed that the Russian Federation has pursued a policy of mass abduction and forceful indoctrination of Ukrainian children since 2014. “Russia’s aggression is about Ukraine’s future, and there is no future without children,” he observed, calling for relevant UN agencies and officials to properly monitor and report on the mass abduction of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation and Belarus.
Albania’s representative joined others in stating that Moscow “has failed to convince the world that its re-education camps and forced adoptions are, as portrayed, humanitarian actions”. He recalled that, based on hard evidence regarding the unlawful deportation of children, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the Russian Federation’s President and Commissioner for Children’s Rights.
The representative of Japan, similarly, stressed that no matter how much Moscow tried to mislead the world, “we are united in our voice that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is nothing but a flagrant violation of the UN Charter”. As families are being torn apart by unlawful deportations, he urged a just, lasting peace for Ukraine and spotlighted a recent conference towards that end held in Saudi Arabia featuring the participation of more than 40 countries.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates also expressed alarm over reports of child abductions and forced transfers in Ukraine, urging the parties to the conflict to facilitate the reunification of such children with their families and for States to cooperate with the Central Tracing Agency of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He also called for a cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic solution in accordance with international law.
Along those lines, Mozambique’s representative — recalling Africa’s experience in conflict mediation and resolution — underlined the indispensable nature of dialogue and diplomacy. The representative of Ghana also underscored that embracing dialogue and diplomacy remain Moscow’s best option for resolving its stated security concerns. China’s representative stressed that the “security of all States is indivisible”, adding that the Ukraine crisis demonstrates that provoking bloc confrontations and seeking absolute security “do not work”.
The representative of Ecuador, meanwhile, questioned whether the Russian Federation’s authorities have thought about the country’s position in the international community once the conflict ends. He underscored that States are not measured today by their nuclear power, the territory they snatch from their neighbours or the fear they instil. Rather, they are measured by their cosmopolitan culture, democratic institutions, tolerance, artistic creativity, technological progress and respect for law and human rights.
MAINTENANCE OF PEACE AND SECURITY OF UKRAINE
ROSEMARY DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, noting that today marks 18 months since the Russian Federation launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, said that “the numbers alone tell a horrific story”. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed at least 9,444 civilians killed — including 545 children — and nearly 17,000 injured. “The real figures are likely much higher,” she added, noting that some estimates put the total number of civilians and military personnel killed on both sides at 500,000. There is no end in sight to this war — launched in violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law — and, since the Russian Federation’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on 17 July, the fighting has only escalated.
Detailing “brutal and relentless Russian attacks” that have damaged grain-export infrastructure in Ukraine’s Black Sea and Danube ports, she stressed that attacks targeting grain facilities threaten to reverse the progress made in bolstering food security over the past year. “This could be catastrophic for the 345 million people already acutely food insecure around the world,” she emphasized. She also spotlighted the Russian Federation’s 19 August missile attack on a theatre in Chernihiv that took the lives of seven people — including a six-year-old girl — and injured more than 100 others. In recent weeks, dozens of civilians have also been killed in attacks on Kherson, Odesa, Donetsk, Lviv, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia and other regions of Ukraine. In some instances, sequential strikes have killed and injured not only civilians but first responders who rushed to help.
Attacks against Ukrainian culture and heritage have also escalated, she reported, noting that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has verified damage to 284 cultural sites since the beginning of the war. Another recent UN assessment — on the impact on the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam — concluded that the breach caused a far-reaching environmental disaster, the scale of which may not be clear for decades. She also stressed that the war has had a devastating impact on women, who represent the majority of the 6.2 million people forced to move to other countries because of the violence. Civil-society organizations led by Ukrainian women were among the first to respond to the full-scale invasion and, to support these efforts, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) has allocated over $14.6 million to finance over 120 civil-society organizations that support females both inside Ukraine and displaced in the Republic of Moldova.
Also detailing incidents of sexual violence and the destruction of schools and hospitals, she expressed regret that the UN still does not have the necessary access to verify allegations of violations against children in the territory of Ukraine under Moscow’s control or in the Russian Federation itself. Further, she expressed concern over the possible impact on civilians of the shelling of Russian Federation border communities and drone attacks deep inside that country, including Moscow. Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are “indefensible” and strictly prohibited under international law, she underscored. Observing that “today’s grim milestone of 18 months of war coincides with the thirty-second anniversary of Ukraine’s independence”, she underlined the UN’s “unwavering” commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
KATERYNA RASHEVSKA, Legal expert at the Regional Center for Human Rights, reported that according to the Ukrainian National Information Bureau, since 18 February 2022, Russian Federation agents have taken at least 19,546 children to that country from Ukraine — 3,855 of them orphans and children deprived of parental care — amounting to “a violation of Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime”, she stated. Moscow further refuses to transfer the list of evacuated children to the Central Tracing Agency of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). These considerations formed the basis of the decision of the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II to issue arrest warrants against Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin and his Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. She further pointed to the imposition of Russian citizenship on Ukrainian children, as “the right to preserve one’s identity is a prerequisite for exercising all human rights.”
She emphasized that if Russian Federation officials intended to act for humanitarian reasons, then instead of legislation for the simplified imposition of citizenship, they would facilitate medical care and remove obstacles to education and social benefits. “But this is not the case,” she stressed. Ukrainian children are recognized exclusively as Russian citizens, and there is no dual citizenship agreement between Kyiv and Moscow. She affirmed that raising these children by Russian citizens, as well as political indoctrination, Russification, and militarization in the education system, is a violation of several articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ukrainian children are forbidden to speak and learn the Ukrainian language or preserve their Ukrainian identity. For six years, she recalled, Moscow has not implemented the International Court of Justice order to ensure the right to education in Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages in Crimea.
She noted the transfer of at least 7,116 children to recreation camps in 2023 — some facilities being 9,000 kilometers away from their original homes. Due to the lack of access to these territories, confirming or denying the return of Ukrainian children home is impossible. She further cited additional checks at the border, long-term interrogations by representatives of Russian Federation law enforcement, the requirement to obtain Russian citizenship, forced nudity and polygraph examinations. She addressed the Council “with a clear call: to assist in the return of the Ukrainian children”. Although the relevant article to the Geneva Conventions was adopted by consensus, a General Assembly resolution is needed to define the obligations of each member of the international community in returning Ukrainian children — which should be a transparent process by appointing a third-party guarantor and concluding an international binding agreement. “Leaving Ukrainian children in Russia means continuing to violate their rights,” she stressed.
MYKOLA KULEBA, Chief Executive Officer of Save Ukraine, said he will be a “voice of Ukrainian children deprived of their fundamental and inalienable right to life and their right to maintain individuality, including citizenship, name and family ties”, adding: “Today I will speak in the name of the lost, the dead and the wounded Ukrainian children, deprived of these rights.” He recalled that Save Ukraine is the biggest non-governmental organization in his country that is rescuing children in Ukraine from the warzones and the occupied territories. It has been operating since 2014, when the Russian Federation started the “war of genocide against our country and our nation”, he reported, recalling that back then more than 1 million of Ukrainian children ended up on the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas and were further deported to Moscow. “These are stolen Ukrainian children, who were turned into a weapon by the Russian Federation”, he stressed, pointing out that thousands of these children are now fighting against their motherland. He also noted that since 2014, Moscow has been conducting these actions “quietly, hiding its crimes from the world”.
Noting that the Russian Federation “covers its military objects with the Ukrainian children”, he said that Moscow’s military forces have placed their equipment next to an orphanage in Kherson. He further cited several messages of Ukrainian mothers and children pleading with his organization for help to return their children from the occupied territories, while underscoring that the Russian Federation “deprived all Ukrainian children of the happy childhood and the chance to a normal life, while maintaining 20 per cent of them as hostages”.
“You have the power to help these children,” he underscored, adding: “On the Independence Day of Ukraine, which the Russian Federation recognized in 1991, I stand on the most powerful world platform and ask for your help and assistance, while I am assured that you have all the means to resolve this important and painful issue.” “Our children are not a weapon, not a shield, they are merely small children, who have the right to a happy childhood and life,” he stressed, adding: “Let’s reunite families, let’s reunite nations, reunite all of us around Ukrainian children.”
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for August, speaking in her national capacity, underscored that “Ukraine’s very existence is under attack”. Ukrainians have courageously fought back to defend their country’s sovereignty, freedom and democracy, as well as to return Ukrainian children who have been ripped from their homes. Since February 2022, the Russian Federation forcibly transferred or deported thousands of Ukrainian children, including babies as young as 4 months. “We don’t even know the location of so many of the children who have been forcibly transferred,” she decried, detailing stories of parents who freed their children. “Russia’s campaign of cruelty continues to this day,” she said, refuting Moscow’s claims that transfers of children are part of their “humanitarian evacuations”. The International Criminal Court has alleged President Putin is responsible for war crimes, she said, also spotlighting reports that Belarusian leaders have supported moving Ukrainian children to camps in their country. Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on two entities and 11 individuals, including those reportedly responsible for the forcible transfers and deportation of Ukrainian children to camps. Additionally, she noted that her Government is taking steps to impose visa restrictions of three Russia-installed purported authorities for their involvement in human rights abuses of Ukrainian minors.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) stressed that “we all have failed” when laws are not implemented, when commitments are not respected and when innocent people are hurt. Underscoring that there is no doubt regarding the aggressor in Ukraine, he said that the assault on that country’s present “is nothing short of an audacious bid to dismantle its future”. Credible reports have confirmed a well-prepared plan for the deportation of Ukraine’s children to the Russian Federation, and the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict listed the Russian Federation’s military forces among those who commit grave violations against children. He recalled that, based on hard evidence regarding the unlawful deportation of children, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 17 March for the Russian Federation’s President and Commissioner for Children’s Rights. Against that backdrop, he stated that — while Moscow continues to brainwash domestic opinion — “it has failed to convince the world that its re-education camps and forced adoptions are, as portrayed, humanitarian actions”.
DOMINGOS FERNANDES (Mozambique), recalling Africa’s experience in conflict mediation and resolution, as embodied in its Silencing the Guns initiative, underscored the indispensable nature of dialogue and diplomacy. Yet regrettably, urgent appeals for peace have not found fertile ground. Citing the unfortunate collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and the starving of resources to mitigate humanitarian emergencies in global hotspots, he emphasized that “we are reminded of the global ramifications of this conflict.” This disruption not only threatens individual nations but also erodes the framework of peaceful coexistence, destabilizes multilateral and collective security arrangements, and makes the fulfillment of multilateral commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals more difficult. “Now, more than ever, we are in dire need of a paradigm shift, that prioritizes dialogue in alignment with the UN Charter’s ideals and our shared values,” he stressed, advocating for a political and negotiated resolution of the ongoing armed conflict.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) underlined that, as a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in Ukraine continues to be elusive, it is essential to limit the impact of violence on the civilian population. The current dynamics of the conflict deprive millions of basic and dignified conditions for survival, a concern that grows deeper, especially with the coming winter. Accordingly, it is essential to increase the call from the international community for the cessation of hostilities, and for negotiations that bring a lasting solution. The resumption of dialogue can rebuild confidence where confidence and trust were shattered, and provide the means to resolve urgent issues, such as the situation of prisoners of war, humanitarian access, the security of nuclear facilities and the full resumption of transport of grain and fertilizers across the Black Sea, a claim made especially by developing countries, he emphasized.
ZHANG JUN (China) reiterated that all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity should be safeguarded, that all parties’ legitimate security concerns should be considered and that all efforts towards peaceful settlement of the crisis should be supported. Further, the international community should encourage the parties to exercise calm and restraint, achieve consensus and explore ways to create conditions conducive to peace talks. “The security of all States is indivisible,” he underscored, noting that the Ukraine crisis demonstrates that provoking bloc confrontations and seeking absolute security “do not work”. Also underlining the need to manage spill-over effects, he said that the Black Sea Grain Initiative “should not be easily abandoned”. All parties should strive for the early resumption of grain and fertilizer exports from the Russian Federation and Ukraine through dialogue and consultation. He added that the delivery of humanitarian assistance must be ensured and that measures must be taken to guard against risks to nuclear safety and security.
FELIX OSEI BOATENG (Ghana), voicing deep concern over the presence of Russian Federation troops in Ukraine, underscored that ending the war and embracing dialogue and diplomacy remain Moscow’s best option for resolving its stated security concerns. Urging relevant United Nations agencies to provide mental health and psychosocial support, he cited statistics on the harrowing post-traumatic stress disorder that about a quarter of the Ukrainian population have been diagnosed with. He further condemned deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure, notably health-care facilities, schools, residential areas, and food systems. Calling for the resumption of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he encouraged the parties to cooperate with the Secretary-General’s efforts to comprehensively address all bottlenecks. The purely military logic underpinning this war over the past 18 months will not deliver any durable settlement or sustainable peace, he stressed.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) underscored that, with its deliberate bombardments targeting civilian populations and infrastructure, the Russian Federation has inflicted unspeakable suffering on the Ukrainian people. Moscow is responsible for murder, maiming, illegal transfers of children, sexual violence against children, and attacks against schools and hospitals. Condemning the Russian Federation’s illegal deportations of Ukrainian children, she called on that country to return to Ukraine all deported children. She further recalled that the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants against President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Commissioner for the Rights of the Child. The Court — which operates in full independence — found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Moscow’s highest leadership is responsible for the deportation of Ukrainian children, she said, adding that acts of deportation of children constitute war crimes. Recalling on incident on 19 August, during which Russian Federation strikes caused the death of seven civilians and injured more than 150 people when a university and a theatre were targeted in Chernihiv, she urged Moscow to stop targeting the Ukrainian population and civilian infrastructure.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) observed that today not only marks 18 months since the invasion, but also since diplomatic efforts by the international community and the Council “were blown to smithereens” by bombardments that began while Council members echoed the Secretary-General’s call for Moscow to “give peace a chance”. Wondering how many more refugees, deaths and orphans it will take for the Russian Federation to end its invasion, he questioned whether that country’s authorities have thought about the Russian Federation’s position in the international community once the conflict ends. History repeatedly teaches that “nations unable to reconcile their past with their present pay a high price”, he observed. States are not measured today by their nuclear power, the territory they snatch from their neighbours or the fear they instil. Rather, they are measured by their cosmopolitan culture, democratic institutions, tolerance, artistic creativity, technological progress and respect for law and human rights, he stressed.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) noted that fighting in recent weeks has intensified in the south of Ukraine, with an increase in attacks by drones, missiles and other long-range weapons. Citing indiscriminate attacks continuing to target civilian populations and infrastructure, she voiced concern over the plight of millions of men, women and children left to fend for themselves, deprived of international aid. She called on the warring parties not to use mines, cluster munitions or other guided weapons. She further expressed regret that the momentum of hope represented by the Black Sea Grain Initiative seems to have evaporated, swept away by the sombre prospect of a war of attrition. Welcoming the extraordinary international mobilization of the United Nations — including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ winter response plan, and UNESCO’s initiative to train 15,000 school psychologists — she called on the parties to de-escalate and initiate dialogue to end the war.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), recalling that 92 per cent of Ukrainians voted in favour of their independence in 1991, said that Kyiv’s “historic resistance” not only protects its freedom, but defends the United Nations Charter. “If Russia wins the war, it would give the green-light to a new era of international aggression where big countries can rewrite borders by force. None of us want that,” he said, adding that those present are “deeply indebted to the Ukrainian people for their immense sacrifice”. Turning to Ukrainian families, that suffered forced transfers and deportations, he said that Moscow uses fear of this tactic to suppress dissent among Ukrainians living under its temporary control. “Russia has not attempted to preserve the identities of the children it has forcibly deported,” he stressed, pointing out that Moscow has also failed to provide information about the children transferred to its territory and placed with foster families. “Just 386 children have so far been returned,” he reported.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), recalling a military parade in Kyiv on 9 May 2010, with 2,500 military personnel from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Belarus, said that “only four years later” the fighters from the neo-Nazi battalions of “Azov” and “Dnipro-1”, during a similar parade, openly killed those who went out on the streets “to honour the memory of their grandfathers.” As a result, 99 people were killed and 119 wounded. Moreover, on the holiday eve, around 50 peaceful protestors, who stood up in defence of the Russian language, were burned alive at the Trade Union building in Odesa. “How were Ukrainians able to overnight replace the heroes who liberated the country from fascism with fascist collaborators complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians? How was an essentially Russian language country able to stoop to persecution of Russian language speakers?” he emphasized.
Noting that Ukraine’s population has reduced from 48.2 million in 2001 to “no more than 29 million people” today, he said that Kyiv’s tragedy began, when “the West chose Ukraine as a pawn to fight against and to weaken Russia”. Recalling the war initiated by the “Kyiv regime” against its own Russian-speaking citizens in the east in 2014, he said: “We were compelled to come to the defence of women, children and the elderly, who were being destroyed by Ukraine after that country and the West unequivocally refused to comply with the Minsk agreements.” Pointing out that everything linked to the Russian Federation was declared to be hostile even before the “special military operation”, he added: “Are you aware of any other country, where there is persecution on religious grounds taking place openly?” In this regard, he stated: “We have nothing to congratulate Ukraine on its Day of Independence,” adding: “Let the Ukrainian tragedy never again repeat itself.”
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said families are being torn apart by unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainians, including children. Countless critical civilian infrastructure, including power plants and dams, have been destroyed. Europe's largest nuclear power plant is illegally occupied, posing a risk of nuclear disaster. Moreover, Ukraine's grain exports have been hampered, grain prices have risen and vulnerable populations have lost access to food. “The world is being held hostage,” he said, adding: “The damage is too great to list here.” No matter how much Moscow tries to mislead the world, “we are united in our voice that Russia's aggression against Ukraine is nothing but a flagrant violation of the UN Charter”. He pointed to a recent conference on peace for Ukraine which was held in Saudi Arabia, with the participation of more than 40 countries, including Japan. “We continue to seek a just and lasting peace for Ukraine together,” he said.
FRANCESCA GATT (Malta), underscoring that the weaponization of food is unconscionable, voiced regret that the Russian Federation disregarded a UN proposal ending a lifeline for millions facing hunger. “The threat of famine, with people slowly starving to death, is a red line for international peace and security,” she asserted, calling for the restoration of the Black Sea Grain Initiative as a means to re-balance the global food market and contribute to Ukraine’s export of grains to the countries that need it the most. Moreover, threats regarding the potential targeting of civilian vessels navigating in the Black Sea waters are unacceptable, she emphasized, highlighting an incident last week, during which a Moscow’s warship fired warning shots at a cargo ship. She also sounded alarm over the recent attacks on the Kherson region — especially in Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donbas and Kharkiv — noting that missile and drone strikes have destroyed vital infrastructure, health facilities, religious and residential buildings.
SAOD ALMAZROUEI (United Arab Emirates) expressed alarm about reports of child abductions and forced transfers in Ukraine, stressing the need for parties to the conflict, without exception, to protect children and respect their rights in accordance with the specific framework stipulated in the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. He further urged the parties to facilitate reunification with their families and for States to cooperate with the Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC and the provision of information on children separated from their families. Last week, his country announced an aid package for the educational sector as the new academic year commences, in addition to humanitarian programmes responding to the needs of civilians in Ukraine and refugees in neighbouring countries. He reiterated the call for a cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic solution in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
RICCARDA CHRISTIANA CHANDA (Switzerland) said Ukraine’s Independence Day is supposed to be a festive day. Yet, it also marks a year and a half of the Russian Federation’s military aggression. Highlighting the disastrous consequences of the war, she said that almost 10,000 civilians have been killed in the last 18 months. She condemned the fact that waves of attacks continue to hit the country's cities and areas where civilians gather. In recent days, Moscow’s strikes have again claimed the lives of civilians, including children. Indeed, children are particularly affected by the consequences of this war, she said, adding that nearly two out of three children in Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes. Of particular concern are credible reports of deportations of children to the Russian Federation and forced transfers of children within the occupied territories. Added to this are the immense humanitarian needs: 17.6 million persons — almost half of Ukraine's current population — require humanitarian assistance and protection.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), noting the thirty-second anniversary of his country’s independence, said that it has always been a matter of national pride that such independence was restored peacefully and that Ukraine has developed, democratically, into a peace-loving nation, reliable partner and friendly neighbour. However, the only role that the Russian Federation assigns to Ukraine, he emphasized, is that “of a lawless colony, where the local population either bows to forceful Russification or faces deportation and repression”. He went on to recall that the first judgment in Nuremberg referred to numerous Nazi crimes against children. He also recalled that it contains a quote by Heinrich Himmler regarding Nazi forced-adoption practices “that sounds terribly relevant today”: “What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take. If necessary, by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us.”
Against that backdrop, he stressed that the Russian Federation has pursued a policy of mass abduction and forceful indoctrination of Ukrainian children since 2014. Ukraine has strong grounds to believe that several hundred thousand Ukrainian children were forcibly, unlawfully taken by the Russian Federation and subsequently exposed to aggressive brainwashing to erase their Ukrainian identity. He underscored that Moscow’s crimes against children — like those of the Nazis during the Second World War — are one of the most horrible markers of the war. “Russia’s aggression is about Ukraine’s future, and there is no future without children,” he observed, repeating a call for relevant UN agencies and officials to properly monitor and report on the mass abduction of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation and Belarus. Noting that the first verdict of the International Criminal Court — like that in Nuremberg — was related to crimes against children, he said that this “makes us believe that every Russian criminal eventually will be brought to justice”.
RYTIS PAULAUSKA (Lithuania), also speaking for Estonia and Latvia, said that 541 children have been killed and 1,139 injured, while many more were forced to flee their homes. Reporting that at least 3,281 education institutions have been impacted by fighting, 54 per cent of them in the eastern front-line areas, he pointed out that psychological effects of this trauma on children will have far reaching consequences on the future of Ukraine. Moreover, he underscored the importance of the situation related to Ukrainian children being forcefully deported to the Russian Federation and Belarus, subjected to “pro-Russia re-education” and military training, while also having been turned into Russian Federation citizens and illegally adopted. In this regard, he welcomed the recently adopted joint preventive plan of Ukraine and the United Nations to prevent and stop violations of children’s rights in Moscow’s armed aggression.
Reporting that more than 4 million refugees sought shelter in European Union countries, including 100,000 in Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, he said that his country has accepted over 8,000 pupils from Ukraine. While Moscow continues to destroy civilian infrastructure, its military strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have led to power outages, affecting that country’s agricultural sector, interrupting its water networks and denying access to essential services. The destruction of Kakhovka Dam on 6 June caused an unprecedented ecological catastrophe, he said, noting that 200,000 people in flood-affected areas rely on water distribution due to water contamination or drop of water levels in the reservoirs. “Russia’s war of aggression, enabled by Belarus, is a manifest violation of the UN Charter,” he emphasized, underscoring the importance of supporting Ukraine in establishing a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression.
THOMAS PETER ZAHNEISEN (Germany) expressed sadness that as the international community congratulates Ukraine on its Independence Day, the Russian Federation attacks everything that independence stands for: security, freedom and peace for all Ukrainians. Russian Federation armed forces and its affiliates continue to commit grave violations of children’s rights, he noted — just on Sunday, 20 August, seven people including a 6-year-old girl were killed and 156 wounded after a Russian missile attack on the central square of the historic Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. Recalling “shocking reports” of attempts by the Russian Federation to erase the identity of abducted children — forcing them to speak Russian, change their names and threatening them with adoption by Russian families — he stressed that these “are war crimes and they must be treated as such”. He urged Moscow to immediately cease all such atrocities, withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and “end this senseless war.”
SILVIO GONZATO, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that throughout the bloc Ukrainians have gathered with European Union citizens to mark the country’s independence, and that “its neighbour, Russia, continues to attempt to destroy by force”. In this regard, he emphasized the need for peace and the importance of holding Moscow’s political and military leadership accountable, while also calling for addressing the global consequences of this aggression. Welcoming the recent National Security Advisers’ meeting in Jeddah — at Ukraine’s initiative — he said the European Union will support Kyiv “as long as it takes”, also reaffirming the bloc’s support for Ukraine’s Peace Formula. He noted that the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine has started its support operations in The Hague and welcomed the establishment of the Council of Europe’s Register of Damage [of Damage caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine]. Turning to the forced deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children, he reaffirmed the Union’s support for the International Criminal Court’s mandate.
While condemning Moscow’s unilateral termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, he recalled that the deal has enabled the export of 33 million tons of grain and foodstuffs from Ukraine to 45 different countries, which played an instrumental role in reducing global food prices by over 23 per cent since the invasion. “Russia did not stop at pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Just hours after withdrawing, it started destroying Ukraine’s grain storage facilities and port infrastructure, not only in the Black Sea itself but also in the Danube,” he stressed, pointing out that the European Union will continue strengthening its “EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes” as alternative agricultural exports routes. Moreover, the bloc has provided €18 billion to address food insecurity until 2024, he reported.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said the dramatic developments since the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine in February 2022 have demonstrated that Ukraine’s independence needs to be defended in the most literal sense — on the battlefield. The key principles and objectives set out in Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula should constitute a basis for ending Moscow’s unlawful war of aggression, he emphasized, adding that all perpetrators should be tried before appropriate courts. Voicing particular concern over the fate of children in this armed conflict, he spotlighted a dedicated group of friends, co-created in Kyiv by his Government. Echoing the words of Poland President Andrzej Duda, he underscored that “the de-occupation of Crimea and the restoration of Ukraine’s full territorial integrity are necessary preconditions, not just for the security of the Azov-Black Sea region but also for the stability of the whole global security architecture”.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, noted that global concerns on systemic food security spiked after Moscow’s decision to unjustifiably withdraw from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and called on it to swiftly reconsider its resumption. He strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s continuous inhumane and brutal attacks on civilian infrastructure, as well as the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. “No amount of disinformation spread by the Russian Federation can deny the truth of the matter, nor shield individuals from accountability for these crimes,” he stressed. Collectively, the UN will hold those responsible to account in accordance with international law, also taking into consideration those who are facilitating the illegal war. Voicing strong support for President Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan, he stressed that Moscow can end the war immediately by ceasing its attacks and withdrawing its forces from the territory of Ukraine.