Madam President, thank you for giving us the opportunity to participate today at this important meeting of the Council.
I would like to congratulate Ukraine on its Independence Day. On 24. August 1991 Ukraine became a free, democratic and sovereign state.
It is, however, sad that we congratulate Ukraine today, at a moment, when Russia continues, to attack relentlessly everything Ukrainian independence stands for: security, freedom and peace for all Ukrainians, and the sovereign right of Ukrainians to shape their own destiny without external intimidation and interference.
And thank you to the briefers for providing us with their valuable insights.
last month, this Council held its annual debate on children and armed conflict. The Secretary General’s latest report on this topic painted a bleak picture. One trend was particularly disturbing: 2022 marks the first year, since reporting started, in which government forces are the main perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights, such as the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access.
The most glaring and dramatic example of this development is Russia’s aggression against the children of Ukraine.
Russian armed forces and their affiliates continue to commit grave violations of children’s rights. Only last Saturday, seven people, including a 6-year-old girl, were killed, and 156 wounded after a Russian missile attack of the Central Square of the historic Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.
The UN has documented thousands of cases in which Ukrainian children have been forcibly transferred and deported to territories temporarily controlled by Russia or directly to Russia and Belarus.
We receive shocking reports of attempts by Russia authorities to erase their identity. Abducted children are being forced to speak Russian, forced to change their names, and threatened with adoption by Russian families.
For us, there can be no doubt: These crimes against Ukrainian children are war crimes and they must be treated as such.
Madam President, let me make three points in this regard:
First, it is paramount to ensure accountability – we owe to the victims. We must provide justice to the victims and deter future atrocities. The recent ICC arrest warrants are an important step to this end.
Second, we reiterate the call of the Secretary General to give child protection officers access to abducted children, in order to facilitate the children’s return to their families. Member States can consider increasing their support to international organizations, Ukrainian authorities and NGOs working towards this end.
Third, as the war in Ukraine continues, we urge the Russian Federation to immediately cease all atrocities against Ukrainian children, to spare no effort to protect them from violence, and to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We once again urge the Russian Federation to cease all hostilities, withdraw its troops from all of Ukraine’s territory, and respect Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and end this senseless war.
Finally, during the high-level Security Council meeting last month [17 July], several Member States proposed the return of deported children as a first confidence-building measure. We believe that these proposals need to be followed up for the sake of Ukrainian children and as a matter of humanity.
I thank you.