Not long after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his unjustified and brutal war against Ukraine, it became clear that Russia’s forces were specifically targeting civilians, particularly women and children.
“When men like President Putin start wars, women and children get displaced. Women and children get hurt. Women and children get raped and abused. And women and children die,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Since the start of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, Russia has bombed orphanages and maternity hospitals. We’ve seen mass graves with dead children stacked on top of each other.”
In this war, being a woman or a child carries an additional risk. By mid-April, about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, nearly 12 million people, had fled their homes. Of these, 4.6 million have left the country while 7.1 million are displaced within Ukraine. Ninety percent of them are women and children. The population dislocation and chaos amid the fighting have greatly increased the risk of trafficking of women and children, as well as incidents of gender-based violence and sexual assault against women and girls.
At the same time, as Ukrainian forces beat back and force out Russia’s troops from the towns and villages they occupied, horror stories are emerging from the survivors of women being kidnapped, brutalized, raped, and murdered, one at a time or by the score.
“On Friday, [April 8] a train station being used for civilian evacuations – mostly women and children – was struck by a Russian missile … Reporters saw at least twenty dead, including children,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
“According to the reporters, a large piece of missile on the scene had chilling words written on the side. In Russian it said: ‘for the children.’ That is what Russia’s war looks like,” she said. “What is happening to women and children in Ukraine is horrific beyond comprehension.”
“This is an active crisis that grows worse by the day,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. “These horrific acts remind us that we must support efforts to prevent them from happening in the first place. This means ensuring that women’s voices and rights are always respected and elevated. And it means ensuring that abuses against them, and against children, are held to account.”