Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC open debate on Children and Armed Conflict

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July 5, 2023

Mme. President,

We thank the briefers for making an input in the discussion.

Children are one of the most vulnerable categories of population during conflict. In this regard, terrorist and extremist groups that are involved in armed conflicts continue to pose a particular threat. Their favored methods are recruitment of children, abductions, sexual violence, and the use of children as a human shield, as well as creating impediments for deliveries of humanitarian aid.

In terms of terrorist threat, the worst situation is unfolding in the Sahara-Sahel region, where terrorists are enhancing the scope and intensiveness of their activities. Suffice it to recall numerous crimes committed by Boko Haram or the abhorrent practices of ISIL and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. We are particularly concerned over the activities of ISIL-Khorasan in Afghanistan, which affect children. In Palestine, children are dying too.

A difficult situation is emerging in Myanmar, where ethnic armed groups are active. At the same time, we note efforts of the government of Myanmar to prevent grave violations against children, i.a. through implementing a corresponding national action plan.

Speaking of protection of children, we cannot fail to mention Syria. We are very concerned over the situation of children in the areas that are not controlled by Damascus – in Idlib and the northeastern region of the country. The dire situation in IDP camps Al-Hol and Roj in northeastern Syria has remained unresolved for years. Human rights watchdogs and HRC Special Procedures have long been talking about abductions of children for recruitment purposes. The latest such statement was made on 16 February this year. The United States as an occupying power in control of the camps refuses to resolve the problem. We once again call on all states to observe their obligations under international law and take steps to repatriate children of their nationals from armed conflict zones.


As for the situation in Ukraine, regrettably, the topic of protection of children was picked cynically for a dirty campaign that seeks to slander our country. The campaign started in Western mass media and was largely promoted by the so-called International Criminal Court that acted as a “laundry machine” for second-rate fakes. Now, to our bewilderment, the Secretary-General decided to add to this campaign. Now I suggest we should put things into perspective.

Since 2014, we have insisted that the United Nations must give a proper assessment to the crimes that the Kiev regime committed against the peaceful population in Donbas, children included. In the course of 9 years, steps of the Ukrainian side caused deaths to more than 130 children and injured 440 more.

Relevant authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics sent 2,000 signals to the EHRC and more than 1,500 to the ICC. During those nine years, they also reached out to the Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, the ICRC, and OSCE. However none of their appeals was heeded.

Starting from February 2022, the DPR and LPR have suffered more than 19,000 bombardments by the armed forces of Ukraine, whereby more than 5,000 civilians have been killed (including almost 200 children) and several thousand people injured (including more than 300 children). About 600 educational and more than 150 medical facilities were either hit or destroyed in Donbas. Shelling by Ukrainian armed forces caused deaths or heavy bodily harm to children in the Zaporozhye, Kherson, Bryansk, and Kursk Regions.

SRSG Gamba spoke of a poor maimed girl from Ukraine. At an Arria meeting of the Security Council members “Ukrainian Crisis. Evacuating Children From Conflict Zones” that we hosted in April, we had Mr.Evgeny Zhylitsyn, Head of the Children’s Division of the Donetsk Republican Trauma Center as a briefer. It is a pity SRSG Gamba did not hear him speak then, for he provided a detailed account about dozens of children from Donetsk and Lugansk who were maimed after UAF attacks on residential quarters or after stepping on Ukrainian landmines “Lepestok”.

Cruelty of the criminals from the Kiev regime is truly awful. Fighters from the notorious “Tornado” militia set up a real “torture room” in one of the schools in Lysychansk (LPR). Children were tortured and raped, and all this was filmed on video. In the LPR, there is a town with a peaceful name Shchastia (literally – ‘happiness’), where a school principal took part in trafficking of orphaned girls to the Aidar battalion for torture and sexual abuse.

Yet these figures and episodes found no reflection in UN documents. The Organization is not willing to receive objective information from the ground and pay attention to the fact that there are people living in Donbas and that nine years ago they were the first victims of the Ukrainian conflict. They are the people whom we are protecting today.

But even without the complete data on this matter, the Secretary-General noted in his report 80 cases of killing and hundreds of cases of maiming of children by the UAF, as well as hundreds of schools and hospitals that were destroyed by Ukrainian forces. Yet the Secretary-General preferred to not list the UAF as violators. A question begs itself: why? The children of Donbas, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk Regions, do they not need protection by the United Nations? Or do their lives have a different value? Do you think 80 is not enough?

The answer is obvious. Deaths of children in these regions of Russia do not fit into the picture of Ukraine as a “flagship of democracy” that Western media are trying to create, so they would rather silence down all such facts.

It is also obvious that the Secretary-General made a political decision. There is no denying that it takes certain courage to speak up against the UAF, for the blatant pressure of the West may be hard to withstand. It appears that the Secretary-General did not find such courage.

If the Secretary-General reflected at least some of the crimes of the Kiev regime, the Western members on the Council (as we heard today) in general proceed from the assumption that there have been no such crimes whatsoever. The reasons for that are obvious too. They strive to cover up for the crimes of the Kiev regime that they are complicit in, because deaths of people and destruction of schools and hospitals in Russian regions resulted among other things from using West-supplied weapons and West-trained personnel by the Ukrainian side. Besides, US representatives would brag occasionally that they share recon data with the UAF and also coordinate combat targets with them. In legal language, it means that the United States bears responsibility for the criminal activity of the armed forces of Ukraine.

But international organizations take no interest in such matters. That is why we made a decision to institute a parliamentary commission to investigate into crimes against children committed by the Kiev regime. This work will allow to restore the violated rights of children and hold the perpetrators accountable.

The “ostrich” policy as regards Kiev’s crimes against children also suggests demonization of Russia and our military. It is exactly this logic that underpins the scandalous decision of the Secretary-General to include Russian armed forces on the list of parties responsible for violations against children that is attached to the report.

Any non-partisan expert could confirm that there is no factual ground behind this decision of the Secretary-General. This follows from the report itself, which lacks concrete data. Cases of alleged violations are described in such a manner that does not allow to verify any of them. Besides, our inquiries for clarifying information did not yield adequate results. Armed action in Ukraine is surrounded by thick flows of disinformation, which originates from the biased Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine that is in fact controlled by the Kiev regime. Also, this disinformation is based on unverified data which the UN should have been checking on while interacting closely with the affected sides. In case of Russia, the Secretary-General opted for a quick and, as I said, political solution.

We saw the SG play along with Western states on numerous occasions. We cannot fail to notice the invariably biased nature of this list of sides that are the so-called violators. For example, one cannot find the US or its allies on the list. As if they do not have on record a chain of deadly interventions – Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Collective West consistently and systematically takes steps that are at odds with efforts to prevent serious violations against civilians.  This is eloquently evidenced by numerous cases of killing and maiming of children by the air strikes that NATO coalition launched indiscriminately against civilians in Afghanistan for many years.

By various estimates, these actions caused from 46 to 70 thousand casualties in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021. Up to one third of them were underage children. According to reports of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, about 40 % of all victims of NATO’s air strikes were children. One of the most infamous cases happened in July 2008 in Nangarhar, where American jets airdropped bombs on a wedding party, killing 35 children.

In July 2011, NATO’s air strikes killed 8 children (the youngest was only 5 days of age) in Khost. The 2012 record included 51 deaths of children caused by air force operations. On 29 August 2021, only two days before the hasty withdrawal of their troops, American military launched an air strike against Kabul, which did not kill ISIL fighters as Pentagon initially stated, but did kill 10 local civilians, including 7 children.

London recognizes responsibility of the UK military for deaths of 16 minors in Afghanistan. However, rights advocates argue that British officers may have killed up to 135 children, mostly during attacks of the UK air force and weapon use in densely populated areas. The crimes that British soldiers committed against children in Iraq are still being hushed up very carefully.

During the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO in 1999, approximately 90 children were killed. A 3-year-old girl called Milica Rakić, became a symbol of NATO aggression. She was killed in her home not far from Belgrade in April 1999, when NATO jets were bombing a military airport nearby. Air strikes damaged civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and day care facilities. The delayed effects of NATO’s use of depleted uranium munitions in Yugoslavia led to an increase in the incidence of childhood cancers and genetic mutations in newborns.

Despite all this, there was no listing for NATO, the Americans, or the British. This basically lifts all questions as to “objectiveness” of the UN mechanism for the protection of children.

What’s more, these people are arrogantly scolding Russia for crimes that were not proven by anyone.

Regardless of any reports, the Russian Federation reconfirms its unwavering commitment to protection of children in armed conflict, in particular in the course of the special military operation. We are taking systemic measures to prevent deaths of children and damage to schools and hospitals. All along, we have demonstrated our readiness to engage with the United Nations on this matter, specifically with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict.

Thank you.

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