As the humanitarian situation in Ukraine declined, UN officials briefed the Security Council on 7 March. Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian Federation Permanent Representative, argued that safety for civilians in Ukraine is not a problem for Russia, because “we are not bombarding them,” but rather it is the Ukrainian radicals and neo-Nazis who were holding civilians hostage in cities and using them as human shields, not allowing them to leave, despite the fact that there were humanitarian corridors.
As it has been in the past, “we think that UNICEF’s views should be based on reliable tried and tested information,” Nebenzya began, and asked the council to consider the dangers of the proliferation of “small arms and light weapons many of which have fallen into the hands of radical elements including those who have been deliberately freed from prison.” An irresponsible step by Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the number of civilian victims at the hands of the radicals was increasing day by day, he noted.
“There is an information war going on, more likely a disinformation war, and we would say that in the West – in the free world – where Russian information resources are being turned off and where any information which contradicts your version of events is not allowed to be broadcast.”
He emphasised that safety for civilians in Ukraine was not a problem for Russians because Russians were not bombarding them but rather it was Ukrainian radicals and neo-Nazis who were holding hostage whole towns and cities and were making use of citizens as human shields. They were not allowing civilians to leave cities despite the fact that there were humanitarian corridors and that Russian units had declared a ceasefire.
Nebenzya explained that an agreement was reached that on 5 March a humanitarian corridor would be opened from Mariupol but the radicals in Mariupol violated this agreement.
“A radio conversation that was intercepted between two commanders of the nationalist battalion Azov … the radicals there were told to shoot at the legs of those who were heading for the humanitarian corridors. Those who risked life and limb to try and leave Mariupol, when they reached the checkpoints to exit the city, were shot on site by Ukrainian Nazis. There’s a great deal of video evidence of this. In Mariupol alone there were some 200 000 civilians who are in the crosshairs of the of the forces there,” he said.
The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk called the proposal to open humanitarian corridors towards Russia “absurd and unacceptable,” Nebenzya told the council, “it is clear to us that the Kiev regime is making use of all available and unavailable methods to wholeheartedly stop the exit of those citizens who wish to leave, and also foreigners who wish to go to Russia, because they’re scared that once these people are free they will tell the truth about the actions of Ukrainian radicals.”
He quoted a statement made that day by the Mayor of Sumy, Alexander Lysenko, together with the commander of the national battalion: “There will not be any green corridors. No civilians will leave to Russia and those who try to will be shot dead.”
“We are also particularly concerned that the Ukrainian radicals are continuing to hold hostage, as human shields, more than 1500 foreigners in a range of cities … we are shocked by news of the inhumane attacks by nationalists on student accommodation which has among other things caused the death of Indian students.”
Nebenzya pointed out that the cowardly practice of using the civilian population as hostages is “not just deeply immoral but also violates the norms of international humanitarian law including articles 57 and 58 of the first additional protocol to the Geneva Convention of 1949.”