Russia’s Indigenous Peoples speak out against the war in Ukraine

Because of the war in Ukraine, Russia has been banned from attending this year’s United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which opened this week in New York.

Instead, a Ukrainian delegation, led by an ethnic Crimean Tatar, is taking their place.

Also in the Russian government’s absence, exiled and emigre Russian Indigenous Leaders have formed an anti-war coalition calling on their people in far east Russia, not to support it.

The coalition includes The International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia, the Congress of the Oirat-Kalmyk People, the Buryat Democratic Movement and the National Movement of Peoples of the North.

Gathered in New York at the United Nations forum, their joint statement will not go down well in Moscow:

We, representatives of the indigenous nations of Russia, call on our fellow citizens, servicemen and those liable for military service who belong to indigenous nations, and other nations of the Russian Federation — not to take part in the shameful war that is being called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

It would appear that soldiers from Indigenous regions have been killed in relatively large numbers since the war began, so their statement continues, with a plea:

Today you have a chance to save your life, the future of your nations, and the lives of thousands of innocent people in Ukraine. Stop taking part in hostilities. Do your best to block your colleagues from going to war in Ukraine. Disobey the orders of your superiors who order you to shoot Ukrainians and destroy Ukrainian cities.

It makes no sense to die for palaces, yachts, billions owned by Putin and his friends. Don’t give up your young life for their property. Do not commit sin killing civilians — children, women, and the elderly. Each of us must remain Human.Your families and loved ones are waiting for you at home. Oppressed, impoverished, native republics, districts, districts, and villages are waiting for you. Their future depends on each of you.

You may be wondering why all of this concerns me… an Australian who has never been to Russia? The answer is, I have no choice.

My wife Masha is a proud indigenous Siberian from Yakutia and a member of an organisation with permanent status at the UN forum, advocating for native people across vast far east Russia.

Since the start of the war, operating in Russia right now, is virtually impossible for her organisation, but as an Australian citizen, Masha is able to get to the United States to deliver their speech to the general assembly.

She has three minutes at the podium on Thursday and will explain that Russia’s indigenous people were never consulted nor gave their consent to this war — and that they too are victims.

She will also point out that sanctions imposed on Russia will greatly affect the Arctic regions, where life expectancy is already poor and that consideration needs to be given to establishing humanitarian corridors to these areas.

With the supply of essential medical equipment from Europe blocked, it is a matter of life or death in one of the most inhospitable climates on earth.

The forum continues next week. Updates to follow.