Evidence of “credible allegations” of sexual violence against children by Russian troops, and other violations of UN Security Council rules on young people in wartime, have been recorded by a senior British diplomat.
Dame Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, said there was evidence “Russia is committing four of the Security Council’s six grave violations against children in times of war”.
Violations listed in a 1999 council resolution include the targeting of children in conflict as well as recruiting and using children as soldiers.
She said alongside “credible allegations” of sexual violence against Ukraine’s children, there were continuing reports of forced deportations of more than 700,000 people, including many mothers and children, from Ukraine to Russia.
“There is now a very real risk of a lost generation, and the continuation of a cycle of violence, caused by Russia’s invasion and the devastation it has created,” she said.
Her comments came as UNICEF warned the conflict in Ukraine was a worsening “child rights crisis” with hundreds of schools attacked and almost 100 children killed in just the past month.
Omar Abdi, deputy executive director of UNICEF, told the UN Security Council children were paying “an unconscionably high price” in the war, with 239 confirmed killed and 355 wounded since Russia’s invasion began on 24 February.
There are fears the actual numbers are much higher.
And in his latest nightly address to his people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could not contain his anger about the growing impact on the country’s young.
“Last night they (Russian forces) hit the Chernihiv region, including schools,” he said.
“Of course, the Russian state is in such a state that any education only gets in its way.
“But what can be achieved by destroying Ukrainian schools? All Russian commanders who give such orders are simply sick, and incurable.”
The school year for Ukraine’s children effectively came to a standstill after the war began. At least 15 of 89 UNICEF-supported schools in the country’s east have been damaged or destroyed in the fighting.
Mr Abdi said: “These attacks must stop.
“Ultimately, children need an end to this war – their futures hang in the balance.”
Other key developments:
• YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook have been asked to archive content that could be used as evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. According to NBC News, four high-ranking Congressmen and women in the US have sent formal requests to the CEOs of each, asking them to “flag or mark content as containing potential evidence of war crimes and other atrocities”.
• Relatives and supporters of the Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant under bombardment in the southern port of Mariupol demonstrated in Kyiv, pleading for them to be rescued.
• One of Russian President Putin’s closest allies said the West’s increasing military support to Ukraine risked war between Russia and NATO.
• German industrial giant Siemens AG says it is exiting Russia, where it has operated for almost 170 years.
* Pressure on Europe to secure alternative gas supplies increased after Moscow imposed sanctions on European
subsidiaries of state-owned Gazprom and Ukraine stopped a gas transit route, pushing prices higher.
In mid-March, more than 15,000 schools resumed education in Ukraine mostly through remote learning or in-person hybrid options, Mr Abdi said.
“It is estimated that 3.7 million children in Ukraine and abroad are using online and distance learning options,” he added.
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But, Mr Abdi said, “enormous obstacles” to education remained, including school availability, resources, language barriers and movement of children and their families.
Mr Abdi and many council members spoke about what he called an “horrifying attack” on a school in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bilohorivka last weekend, when a bomb hit while women and children sheltered in the building.
US deputy ambassador Richard Mills said the blast killed as many as 60 people, many of them children.
However, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said his country’s armed forces were “making every effort to protect children during the course of the special military operation in Ukraine” and called accusations they have sexually attacked children “absurd”.
This spring, he said, children in the Donbas region are again “dying under Ukrainian shells”.
He accused Ukraine’s military of using many buildings and educational facilities as bases, “as a result of which they have been significantly damaged”.
He said this was “jeopardising the lives of children, depriving them of their right to education, and destroying educational infrastructure of Ukraine”.