Statement by representative of the Russian Federaion Mr.Sergey Leonidchenko at UNSC Arria-formula meeting on Ukraine

Thank you, Chair,

We have already heard usual myriad of fakes today, now let’s look at the facts.

Fact one: UNESCO confirmed that none of the World Heritage sites in Ukraine was damaged during the Russian special military operation. The coordinates of such sites were provided to our Armed Forces in advance and they are taking necessary precautions while planning operations against military targets.

Fact two: with regard to other sites it is the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense that refuses to provide to UNESCO written guarantees that such cultural property or its immediate surroundings will not be used in support of military effort. Such guarantees are an essential legal precondition for placing these sites under enhanced protection. Well, that sort of refusal from Ukrainian military is not surprising at all, taken mounting evidence of military positions being set up inside or in the vicinity of faxilities dedicated to religion, education, art, science and history in violation of international humanitarian law. In general using civilian facilities, including schools and kindergartens, for military effort and non-combatants as “human shields” is a standard tactics for Ukrainian military and nationalists.

Fact three: UNESCO Secretariat gets from us regular detailed reports about attacks by Ukrainian military on cultural historic and religious sites – only in Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic they destroyed 63 such objects – theaters, religious buildings, monasteries. Now they ruin civilian and cultural infrastructure with the help of weapons delivered by Western states. Pledges of the United States and its allies to allocate millions of dollars to help save cultural heritage sound hypocritical against the fact that they spend billions of dollars of arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Our reports also include information on a full-scale offensive on Russian culture and cultural sites that have started long before our special military operation. Demolition of monuments to Russian writers, poets, musicians as well as Second World War heroes, renaming of the streets devoted to them, confiscating and destroying school textbooks, Russian language manuals, Russian literature in general. All that deprives significant part of Ukrainian population of their basic human rights. Nationalist Kiev regime wants to “rewire” people, make them forget who they are.

Fact four: none of information provided with regard to these heinous acts by Ukrainian authorities finds its way into reports of the UNESCO Secretariat. It prefers to continue giving one-sided false narratives based on information submitted only by Ukraine.

Fact five: information coming from Kiev is not verified on the ground by the UNESCO Secretariat. The only hasty country visit was carried out just days before our today’s meeting to provide a proper media background. Why we say media – because staff under cameras literally galloped through a handful of sites in Kiev and Lvov in a manner that can be called everything but verification.

Fact six: verification is key since Ukraine produces fakes 24/7 and is not hesitant to use cultural sites for that purpose. Just most appalling examples. Precious wooden monastery of Svyatogorsk Lavra was deliberately set on fire by the Ukrainian military and nationalist battalions simply to blame Russia (detailed report was sent to UNESCO). Another abhorrent act – explosive demolition of the Mariupol theatre carried out by Neo-Nazis from “Azov” battalion with civilians still inside. The only purpose was to portray it as “Russian bombing” and create a catchy fake on the eve of yet another Security Council meeting on Ukraine so that Kiev regime may ask for more Western weapons. Civilians who survived that act of barbarism are giving their testimony and all responsible Neo-Nazis will answer for their crimes.

This brings us to an interesting question, what is exactly the purpose of our meeting today? Our Council colleagues from Albania spare no effort to introduce new false narratives regarding the alleged Russian violations in Ukraine. The accusations brought against Russia regarding alleged systemic destruction of Ukrainian cultural property, looting and selling such objects do not stand up to any scrutiny or criticism. Even a representative of the government of Ukraine invited to this meeting today spoke, and I will try to be close to her words, about several cases that can be considered as direct attacks. How can one infer a conclusion about systematic annihilation from these words? It is just a blatant lie.

Albania is a well-known ardent supporter of Kosovo’s independence. At the same time Kosovo can serve as a good example of truly systemic ethnic-based targeting and destruction of cultural property. Almost 100 Serb cultural and religious facilities there were destroyed or severely damaged. Some were hit by NATO bombs. But the rest were burnt to the ground, blown up or torn down by the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army”. That’s what you call targeted and systemic eradication of cultural values. How is Albanian support for Kosovo reconciled with these well documented facts? Another case of selective blindness?

More generally, when I look at the countries organizing today’s event as well as at some of its most vocal supporters I start to better understand why the phrase “holier than a pope” came to exist in English language. Let’s look at their own performance with regard to protecting cultural property.

Ukraine. One meeting can hardly be enough to describe all the abhorrent acts committed by the Kiev nationalist regime to eradicate everything Russian in the society in order to transform our neighborly country into an aggressive “Anti-Russia” construct. It’s not only about attacks on Russian language, history, culture, education. It is a shameful attempt of enforced Ukrainization of a large part of the population depriving people not only of their basic rights but also of their very identity. Only Neo-Nazis can do that to their own citizens. On July 11 we started to tell how Neo-Nazi views and ideology came to be inherent part of today’s Ukraine statehood. And we will continue to do so. Our Western colleagues demonstrate miracles of selective blindness every time Vladimir Zelensky posts a picture of yet another swastika-covered so-called “hero” of Ukraine. We do not have luxury of such selective blindness. We know all too well the horrors that Nazism, Fascism as well as their modern forms can bring. We have zero tolerance to these ideologies. The horrendous death toll of 27 million people lost during Second World War simply obliges us to.

United States. The “unprovoked, unjustified aggressive war of choice” by the U.S.-led Western coalition against Iraq resulted not only in destroyed infrastructure and horrendous number of civilian casualties. The country also lost large part of its invaluable cultural heritage. Cities like Mosul were razed to the ground, cultural and religious buildings turned into ruins. Tens of thousands of precious artifacts were looted and ended up in private collections in Western countries. Only in 2021 did Iraq manage to return nearly 18 thousand items. Most of them came from the US and the UK, also from the Netherlands, Italy and Japan. How many more are still in private hands of the few we can only guess. Exactly same situation repeated in Syria with carpet bombing of cities like Raqqa by US and their NATO allies. No mercy was shown for cultural and religious objects. Everything was reduced to shreds.

UK. The Great Britain participated in all NATO military adventures alongside the US and contributed to the destruction of civilian objects, including cultural, during a number of aggressive wars waged by this “purely defensive alliance”. However, since the looting of cultural property was touched upon I would like to refer to that issue specifically. Our British colleagues are holders of probably the largest collection of artifacts stolen from developing world during respective colonial and neocolonial enterprises. Whoever visited the British Museum knows what we are talking about. On the website of this museum objects stolen from ex-colonies are timidly called “contested” since the countries of their origin are actively seeking their return. Regrettably, so far to no avail. But this Museum is just a tip of the iceberg. How many more objects remain part of the private collections of the wealthy and noble? And how good are the chances for interested countries to have them returned?

And, finally Poland. This country is a real champion when it comes to waging war against memorials, graves and the dead. The campaign unleashed by Polish Russophobic authorities to rewrite the history and to erase from popular memory mass heroism of Soviet soldiers who gave their lives to liberate Poland from Nazis is most shameful. And it is conducted by the most shameful means – by demolishing memorials to those who perished and disturbing the remains of heroes who fought selflessly and died in the foreign country in the name of defeating Nazism. They already gave their lives so that you can have a future – just let them rest in peace.

I will not bore you with statistics – it is drastic. I will tell you my family story instead. My mother’s uncle Nikolay Pavlovich Barbukov joined the war against Nazis from day one when he was only 19. Countless days he fought in the reconnaissance unit. For his bravery he was awarded with the medal, he did not receive it though as he was killed in action just months before the Victory Day. He was buried with his comrades near the Polish village that they liberated. There was a small monument with names of Soviet heroes. Poles from that village even used to send small gifts to Nikolay’s mother as a token of their gratitude. At least until the monument was demolished, the bodies were exhumed and re-buried in a mass grave with no nameplates. That happened as a part of a large-scale campaign by Polish Russophobe authorities to wipe out from their country’s history all heroic deeds of Soviet soldiers. What they do is shameful – it’s a crime against truth and memory of the perished heroes. These attempts, however, are doomed to fail. The memory of warriors will live on in families like my own. Since in our country there is hardly any family that hadn’t lost loved ones at war or wasn’t otherwise affected by the Nazi plague. Their memory will also live on in Polish families like ones from that village.

I have finished my statement, Chair.