Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting Closing Remarks
As delivered by Deputy Chief of Mission Courtney Austrian
to the SHDM, Vienna
April 25, 2023
Thank you, Mr. Chair and thank you to both North Macedonia and ODIHR for organizing this important event.
As we heard from Yale University Humanitarian Research Lab in a side event yesterday, Russia has held at least 6,000 of Ukraine’s children across Russia and Russia-occupied Ukraine in a far-flung system of “re-education camps,”where they are subjected to pro-Russia indoctrination. The large-scale network of at least 43 camps extends from Russia-occupied Crimea all the way to Magadan in Siberia and to Russia’s Far East. The real number of these camps, and of Ukrainian children held, is likely much larger than what has been documented thus far.
These re-education camps hold children as young as four months old to as old as teenagers. Some teenagers at these facilities are reportedly given military training and indoctrinated into Russia’s imperialistic view of the world. Russian officials frequently block communication with family members or legal guardians in Ukraine when children enter the camps, preventing children from returning home, and from Ukrainian parents finding and retrieving their children. The United States is proud to join 44 OSCE participating States in invoking the Moscow Mechanism to examine the Kremlin’s forced transfer and deportation of Ukraine’s children, and we look forward to reviewing the report soon.
These past few days we had a chance to hear directly from very brave Ukrainian civil society organizations that are doing incredible work to document the Kremlin’s war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. We heard about women being stripped naked, beaten, sexually assaulted, and having their hair forcibly cut off while in Russia’s captivity. We heard about a Russian soldier beheading a Ukrainian captive while he was still alive and filming it as if proud of this act of depravity, and we have seen video of Russian soldiers castrating another Ukrainian prisoner of war. We heard about millions of Ukraine’s civilians forced to flee their homes due to the Kremlin’s attacks on their country. The United States remains committed to ensuring justice for Ukraine, and events like this are essential to bringing Russia’s war crimes and other atrocities to light.