Ambassador Richard Mills
United States Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 12, 2022
I shall now make a statement in my capacity as Representative of the United States.
Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Msuya and Deputy Executive Director Abdi, for your very insightful briefings, which provide the Council – and the watching global community – with an opportunity to hear about the immense suffering that has resulted from this needless and brutal war. , especially the suffering that Russia inflicts on children in Ukraine.
Your presentations highlight what all of us – all of us who don’t live in Russia – have seen on our screens and in the media over the past two and a half months. Children in Ukraine have been displaced, injured, orphaned or killed. Of the nearly 14 million people forced to flee their homes since the conflict escalated, around half are innocent children; children who deserve a chance to live, grow and flourish, but who struggle every day to survive in horrific circumstances.
The danger to children only increases. An increasing number of hospitals and schools have been destroyed, as we hear. In the first five weeks since the February 24 invasion, an average of 22 schools were hit each day. Since the start of this war, there have been more than 200 attacks on health facilities and schools.
Last weekend we learned, as other members have mentioned, that a bomb hit a school in the town of Bilohorivka in eastern Ukraine. He killed up to 60 people, including many children. And reliable reports say that when first responders arrived at the school to help victims of the bombing, Russian forces opened fire on them.
We have all seen devastating and horrifying images of mass graves. There are reports of individuals being executed en masse; bodies marked with unequivocal signs of torture; and now we are hearing more and more horrific stories of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as boys and LGBTQ people.
The United States is particularly concerned about the situation in Kherson, where Russian forces have reportedly sacked local officials and installed an illegitimate pro-Russian puppet administration. In recent days, these illegitimate proxies have increasingly indicated their intention to “petition” Russia to annex Kherson. Russia is clearly seeking to assimilate these regions into its orbit. And for the children of Kherson, this would have serious consequences. For example, schools would be forced to adopt the Russian curriculum, in an effort to try to erase any signs of Ukrainian adult identity or Ukrainian culture.
In addition to daily fears for their lives and safety, travel poses special risks for children. They are becoming increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation and abuse. This is even more acute for children who are unaccompanied or who have been separated from their parents or guardians.
Ukrainians were reportedly deported to Russia and treated in so-called “filtration camps” – many of them children. Meanwhile, Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova has touted efforts to speed up the adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia.
Children are exposed to extreme violence, fear and anxiety. This can have major psychological effects on children that will impact generations. Unless appropriate support is provided, the trauma associated with these experiences can have serious and lasting negative consequences on their cognitive development for years to come.
Many members of this Council have just called for diplomacy to resolve this crisis. We agree that diplomacy and dialogue are key to resolving this crisis, and Russia must show its commitment to seeking a peaceful solution by silencing the guns and withdrawing its forces from Ukraine. We again call on Russia to end its war against Ukraine and to uphold its obligations under international humanitarian law, including those regarding taking practicable precautions to avoid and minimize harm to civilians, including children. .
In addition, all parties to the conflict must urgently facilitate the safe and unimpeded access of medical and humanitarian personnel and supplies to ensure the delivery of necessary humanitarian assistance and to allow safe passage for those seeking to flee, including children.
We join others in calling on the UN Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to add Ukraine as a “situation of concern” in the next annual report on children and armed conflicts. Given the scale and nature of reported violations and abuses committed by Russia against children in eastern Ukraine between 2014 and 2021, and evidence of an alarming increase in violations and abuses committed by the Russia throughout Ukraine since February 2022, the situation deserves a place in the report.
The international community has an obligation to protect children, as almost everyone around the table has said. Children, who are the most vulnerable among us. Member States must work collectively to ensure that innocent children – regardless of the borders in which they reside – can live without the impending fear of death, bombing and lifelong trauma.
Let’s do our part. Let’s not forget the children of Ukraine.