Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 12, 2022
I shall now make a statement in my capacity as the Representative of the United States.
Thank you, Assistant Secretary General Msuya and Deputy Executive Director Abdi, for your very insightful briefings, which provide the Council – and the watching global community – an opportunity to hear of the immense suffering that has resulted from this unnecessary and brutal war, especially the suffering Russia is inflicting on children in Ukraine.
Your briefings underscore what all of us – all of us who do not live in Russia – have seen on our screens and in the media for the last two and a half months. Children in Ukraine have been displaced, hurt, orphaned, or killed. Of the nearly 14 million people forced to flee their homes since the conflict escalated, approximately half are innocent children; children who deserve a chance to live, grow, and thrive, but instead, are struggling every day to survive in horrific circumstances.
The danger to children is only increasing. Growing numbers of hospitals and schools have been destroyed, as we are hearing. In the first five weeks since the February 24 invasion, an average of 22 schools were struck every day. Since this war began, there has been more than 200 attacks on health care facilities and schools.
We heard news this past weekend, as other members have mentioned, of a bomb hitting a school in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka. It killed as many as 60 people, including many children. And reliable reports indicate that when first responders arrived at the school to assist victims of the bombing, Russia’s forces opened fire on them.
We have all seen devastating and gruesome images of mass graves. There are reports of individuals executed en masse; bodies marked with unequivocal signs of torture; and now we are hearing more and more horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls, as well as boys and LGBTQ persons.
The United States is particularly concerned about the situation in Kherson, where Russian forces have reportedly removed local officials and installed an illegitimate pro-Russian puppet administration. In recent days, these illegitimate proxies have increasingly indicated an 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 grave consequences. For example, schools would be forced to adopt the Russian curriculum, with the goal of trying to erase all signs of Ukrainian adult identity or Ukrainian culture.
In addition to fearing every waking day for their lives and safety, displacement poses particular risks for children. They become increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation and abuse. This is even more acute for those children who are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents or caregivers.
Ukrainians have reportedly been deported to Russia and processed through so-called “filtration camps” – many of them children. Meanwhile, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, has touted efforts to fast-track the adoption of children from Ukraine within Russia.
Children are being exposed to extreme violence, fear, and anxiety. This can have major psychological effects on children that will impact for generations. Unless appropriate support is provided, the trauma associated with these experiences can have serious and enduring negative consequences on their cognitive development for years to come.
Many on this Council have just now called for diplomacy to resolve this crisis. We agree that diplomacy and dialogue are essential to resolve this crisis, and Russia should show its commitment to pursing a peaceful resolution by silencing the guns and withdrawing its forces from Ukraine. We call again on Russia to end its war on Ukraine and to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law, including those regarding taking feasible precautions to avoid and to minimize harm to civilians, including children.
Additionally, all parties to the conflict should urgently facilitate safe and unhindered access for medical and humanitarian workers and supplies in order to ensure the provision of necessary humanitarian assistance and 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 upcoming annual report on children and armed conflict. Given the scale and nature of reported violations and abuses committed by Russia against children in eastern Ukraine between 2014 and 2021, and the evidence of alarming increases in violations and abuses by Russia across Ukraine since February 2022, the situation warrants a place in the report.
The international community has an obligation to protect children, as almost all of us around the table have said. Children, who are the most vulnerable among us. Member States should work collectively to ensure that innocent children – regardless of the borders in which they reside – can live without the imminent fear of death, shelling, and lifelong trauma.
Let us do our part. Let us not forget the children of Ukraine.