Statement by Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

Ukraine highly appreciates the initiative of France to hold this open debate. We take note of the presentation of the Secretary-General report on the issue at hand.

The report points to an overall failure of the international community in preventing violations against children and establishing universal protection of the rights of the child. It reconfirms the need to redouble efforts to implement ambitious international instruments and resolutions in practice. Deficiencies in following through with existing tools stand in the way of making much-needed difference for children.

The scale of violations committed against children as reflected in the report remains high with over 25,000 grave cases in 19 different conflict zones in 2019. This includes over 10,000 children killed or maimed, 735 cases of sexual violence against children, over 7,000 cases of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and nearly 500 attacks on schools. The report highlights that globally attacks on schools and hospitals committed by State actors nearly doubled.

While we all agree that there cannot be any tolerance for impunity for grave violations against children, the gap in establishing the accountability of all perpetrators, regardless of whether they are state forces or non-state armed groups, remains unaddressed.

The report statistics reflect the general situation of fates of thousands of children in conflicts. Unfortunately, many cases remain outside the scope of attention of the report, as there is not a single word in the document regarding the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.

It is quite baffling that while many of the United Nations bodies, agencies and funds, like OCHA, UNICEF and others, report extensively on the dire situation of children who suffer from the conflict that has been ongoing for the last six years, this dedicated report continues to overlook the issue despite numerous Ukraine’s requests, including public ones made in the Security Council Chamber.

The only reasonable explanation could be the absence of proper coordination in the United Nations system or problems in exchange of information between structures of the Organization. However, this self-imposed blindness and deafness was a matter of our concern from the very beginning of the Russian aggression and occupation of parts of the territory of Ukraine.

That is why I would like to repeat my call to include the reference to the situation of Ukrainian children, living in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine in Crimea and in the East of the country, in future relevant United Nations thematic reports.

Mr. President,

Even though we did not find this information in the SG report, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, OCHA and UNICEF report that 147 children were killed during the ongoing Russian armed aggression against Ukraine launched in February 2014 and thousands of children need assistance with physical and mental health problems.

Ukraine is among the most severely affected places in the world for casualties because of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. This is one of the main causes of conflict-related child casualties, leaving many children with lifelong disabilities.

In May this year, UNICEF reported that “At time when children and families in eastern Ukraine are living under COVID-19 related movement restrictions, an increase in shelling has resulted in numerous child casualties and damaged schools in the region, making life even more unbearable for the approximately 430,000 children caught up in the six-year long conflict”. The gravity of the situation is clear – only during one week in May six children were injured at home after their villages came under shelling.

More than 750 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed due to hostilities. There have been nine attacks on schools since the beginning of 2020, five occurring in April alone.

Attacks on schools and regular interruptions of educational process negatively affected education and general development of almost 670,000 children. More than 240,000 children living near the contact line regularly face shellings, landmines and explosive remnants of war, which makes the risk of receiving physical trauma and mental disorders higher with every passing day.

Militarization of education in the occupied territories, amounting to brainwashing and indoctrination, is a cause of separate specific concern.

According to OCHA, one-fourth of all children in Donetsk and Luhansk regions need psychosocial assistance. This is a direct result of activities of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and its occupation administration.

Mr. President,

OCHA reports that because of the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine about half a million children need humanitarian assistance or protection. Access to the temporarily occupied territories for humanitarian organizations was severely restricted by the occupation administration throughout the whole period of aggression and recently the situation was exacerbated even further by the spread of COVID-19.

Under the pretext of quarantine measures, the armed forces of the Russian Federation and its proxies have severely impeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, including children.

In addition, the real state of the epidemiological situation in the temporarily occupied territories is obscured by distorting data on the actual number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In this regard, Ukraine calls on the Russian occupation authorities to provide full access for international humanitarian organizations that would provide an objective assessment of the epidemiological situation in the region.

Numerous sources, including the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, reported that minors took part in active hostilities as part of the Russian occupation forces. In the occupied territories children also were and still are actively recruited to participate in militarized youth groups teaching them to use weapons.

Since 2014, the practice of recruiting and involving minors from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in hostilities against of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been widely used, which is a violation of the laws and customs of war and qualifies as a war crime.

According to Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which the Russian Federation and Ukraine are participants, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to prevent recruitment or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.

Mr. President,

The human rights and fundamental freedoms of all residents, especially children, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, where the situation according to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor amounts to an international armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, continue to be under constant threat.

Children deprived of parental care are among most affected group from Russia’s actions on imposition of citizenship in the Crimea. Since the beginning of the occupation the Russian Federation took control over administration of the institutions that provided care for such children. Consequently, fate and whereabouts of at least 4900 orphans and children deprived of parental care, who were residing in the Crimea as of the moment of the temporary occupation, remain unknown. An automatic imposition by the Russian Federation of its citizenship on these children and their illegal transfer from the Crimea is a violation of international law.

About 200 of Crimean children (mostly Crimean Tatars) are currently partly left without parental care due to the imprisonment of their fathers for political motives. While their fathers are detained, transferred thousands of kilometers away from home, and their family houses are brutally searched, children are being psychologically traumatized by appearances in their house of uniformed armed men, arrests and imprisonment of their family members.

In the context of the militarization of Crimea, school age Ukrainian citizens are specifically targeted by the so-called military-patriotic Russian education combined with the propaganda of hatred and hate speech. They are enrolled in militarized movements (like Yunarmia) and special military classes. They are being prepared to wage a war.

Mr. President,

Ukraine as a party to core international instruments related to the protection of rights of children supports all efforts to develop and secure social protection of children, to promote rights and wellbeing of children and to accelerate progress in the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children, to protect rights of children in conflict zones or during war or in the situations of occupation.

Due to the ongoing international armed conflict with our eastern neighbour and existence of the temporarily occupied territories in Ukraine, we pay special attention to the issue of protection of children. We took a number of measures, adopted targeted polices and amended our legislation to strengthen protection of children, providing them with social services and assistance in all spheres of their daily life. One of the recent examples is our endorsement last year of the Safe Schools Declaration confirming our commitments to protect education during armed conflict.

I would like to emphasize that the protection of children affected by the armed conflict and in the temporarily occupied part of the territory of Ukraine remains a priority for the Ukrainian Government.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the UN agencies for help in protection of children and remaining reliable partners in this area.

I thank you, Mr. President