President, let me begin by wishing a happy Independence Day to all Ukrainians. In 1991, Ukraine declared independence from the former USSR, with 92% of the country voting in favour in a national referendum.
Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign country was recognised by the United Nations, including the Russian Federation.
If Russia’s illegal invasion last year had succeeded there would be one fewer independent UN State today.
Ukrainians’ heroic resistance in the face of Russian aggression not only protects their freedom, but defends the United Nations Charter, with its basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
If Russia wins this war, it would give the green-light to a new era of international aggression where big countries can rewrite borders by force. None of us wants that.
We are deeply indebted to the Ukrainian people for their immense sacrifice. And we are proud to stand with them.
As we mark Ukraine’s independence, we reflect on Russia’s deliberate efforts to target Ukraine’s future – its children.
The United Nations has reported Russia is committing grave violations against children in its war of aggression – the first time a permanent Council member has ever been listed for doing so.
As well as killing children directly, and destroying their homes, their schools, their hospitals; the Ukrainian authorities report that Russia has, to date, forcibly transferred or deported over 19,000 children since 2022. President Putin, and his Children’s Rights Commissioner, are the subject of arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for their alleged role.
For Ukrainian families, these forced transfers and deportations have devastating and life changing consequences that will be felt for generations. Russia uses fear of this tactic to suppress dissent among Ukrainians living under temporary Russian control. It is also a deliberate attempt to erase Ukrainian culture, identity and statehood.
Russia has not attempted to preserve the identities of the children it has forcibly deported, as required by international humanitarian law. Rather, there is growing evidence that Russia has seriously violated this right, forcing children to assimilate with the culture of the state that is seeking to destroy their own country.
President, Russia also has a clear legal obligation under the fourth Geneva Convention to facilitate communication and reunification between children and their relatives or legal guardians.
Russia has failed to provide reliable information about the children it has transferred to its territory, particularly to those children placed with Russian foster families.
As OHCHR reported, children themselves have often been forced to trace and find parents or family members. This is an unacceptable burden to place on children, especially those dealing with the trauma of Russia’s illegal invasion.
Just 386 children have so far been returned. We thank representatives from Save Ukraine for their vital work on these returns.
We call on Russia to respect Ukrainian independence, return its children, withdraw its troops and end this war.