Dmitry Berezhkov. Statement for the EMRIP session. Agenda point 3 “Study and advice on the impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples”

For more than 500 days, a horrible war has been going on in Ukraine, which has been unleashed by the Russian Federation. This war has claimed thousands of lives of Ukrainian civilians. Every day people die in their homes under bombs and missiles that president Putin is sending to destroy peaceful Ukrainian cities.

This war has claimed thousands of lives of indigenous peoples from both sides as the indigenous peoples of Crimea are being killed by Russian bullets while indigenous peoples of Russia, who continue to be the most vulnerable and most deprived population in our country, were forcibly drafted into the Russian armed forces and are dying in Ukraine as soldiers of the colonial Army.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine is the most horrible war of our time. For instance, the landmining of Ukrainian territories, including indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands, is even more intense than during the Second World War.

Over the last year, the Expert Mechanism has been developing a report on the militarization of indigenous lands. I recall that the publication of the report was postponed for one year specifically in order to give time to include information about the war in Ukraine in the report.

And what do we see as a result? The report contains no information at all about the war and how it impacts indigenous peoples’ lives in both countries. As far as Russia is concerned, a couple of bullet points say that indigenous peoples of Russia “were exempted from military service” “in the context of the conflict in Ukraine”. This is a lie and factually inaccurate. My indigenous friends from Yakutia were grabbed forcibly by the Russian Army for the war in Ukraine precisely because they are indigenous hunters. Because they have hunting experience while they have no formal employment (and because drafting them to the Army authorities even reduces unemployment in the region) and can speak indigenous languages, which Ukrainian soldiers could not understand.

The other point from the report is that “cross-border Sami cooperation has been seriously affected,” and Sami employees in Russia can not receive salaries. Are you serious? We gathered information about indigenous soldiers from Russia who have died in this war. Six Russian Sami young men were already killed during the war, a huge number for such a small nation [of 1500].. The Expert Mechanism didn’t mention this information in its report but mentioned lost salaries?

Everybody who follows indigenous rights in Russia clearly sees that Russian officials use exactly the same language in their propagandistic speeches, which used by the Expert Mechanism in its so-called Expert report on militarization.

This is a disgrace, and I have a question with regard to the above. When and why did the EMRIP from the human rights body transform into a Russian propaganda department? We understand that this is a draft and we insist it has to be changed to include real information from this war.