Apr 12, 2022 - World

UN: Attacks on Ukraine's women and children risk "destroying a generation"

A woman with her children arrives at at a displaced persons' hub in Zaporizhzhia, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of Mariupol, on April 5.
A woman arrives with her child at at a displaced persons' hub in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 124 miles northwest of Mariupol, on April 5. Photo: Bulnt Kilic/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of human trafficking, rape and other sexual violence perpetrated against fleeing women and children are increasing in Ukraine, Sima Bahous, the United Nations executive director for women, told the UN Security Council Monday.

The big picture: "The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians has raised all red flags," said Bahous, who recently met with Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.

  • Bahous noted that dozens of women and children were killed in a Russian missile strike at a train station in the city of Kramatorsk while they were waiting to leave Ukraine. "This trauma risks destroying a generation," she said.

Meanwhile, Kateryna Cherepakha, president of rights group La Strada-Ukraine, said local organizations were collecting survivor testimonies about war crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops.

  • She said Russian forces had used violence and rape as weapons of war, noting an increased vulnerability of women and girls to the threat of kidnapping, torture and killing, but she said: "We don't want you to look at us only as victims of Russian invasion."

By the numbers: Nearly "two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been displaced" in the six weeks since Russia's military began its invasion of Ukraine, Manuel Fontaine of the UN children's agency told the Security Council Monday.

  • Four million Ukrainians have fled the country and some 7 million have been internally displaced, according to the UN.

What to watch: The International Criminal Court last month launched an investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Ukraine.

For the record: The Kremlin denies allegations that Russian troops have committed sexual violence and other war crimes against women and children in Ukraine.

Go deeper: What counts as a war crime and why they're so hard to prosecute

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Sima Bahous.

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