Verification within Meta`s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program
The information that UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) Director General Omar Abdi said that during the current stage of war Ukrainian military uses schools as s information centres, shelters, supply hubs, or for military purposes has been spreading on the internet.
However, this is a manipulation: the words of the UNICEF representative were taken out of context.
Russian media shared Omar Abdi statement on May 12th, 2022. That day, he really made speech at a meeting of the UN Security Council. The speech was devoted to child rights in Ukraine after full scale russian invasion: «It is also a stark reminder that in Ukraine today, education is also under attack. In February, the school year came to a standstill when the war broke out. As of last week, at least 15 of 89 – one in six – UNICEF-supported schools in eastern Ukraine had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war. Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, whilst other schools are being used as information centres, shelters, supply hubs, or for military purposes – with long term impact on children’s return to education».
In this part of the speech, Omar Abdi does not explicitly state who uses schools for military purposes. At the same time, in the same speech he mentioned the shelling of the railway station in Kramatorsk city and the shelling of a school in Luhansk region have by russia. By the way, on May 18th, 2022, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine reported that since the beginning of the new stage of the russian-Ukrainian war, 161 educational institutions were completely destroyed by russian shelling, and another 1611 institutions were severely damaged.
There are other mentions on uses the schools for military purposes which could be found In different publications on the UNICEF website. UNICEF reports on the rights of children as a result of the war, but avoids any specific statements, such as acknowledging Russia’s responsibility for starting the war and destroying civilian objects by Russian troops in Ukraine.
UNICEF reports on the rights of children as a result of the war, but avoids any specific statements, such as acknowledging russia’s responsibility for starting the war and destroying civilian objects by russian troops in Ukraine. In the first three months of russia’s full-scale invasion, no mention of russia in the context of the war’s impact on education has appeared on the UNICEF website.
Before 2022, when war zones were limited to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, some international organizations claimed that both sides of the war were using schools as military bases. For example, this was stated in a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch.
In the conditions of warfare near or inside settlements (street fights), it is almost impossible to avoid the use of civilian objects for military purposes. However, russia and Ukraine cannot be equally responsible for the use of civilian objects. In 2014 it was russia that launched the aggression, while Ukraine is lawfully exercising its right to self-defense.
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