NEW YORK/GENEVA/BEIJING, 1 September 2004 - Alarmed at the hostage-taking of 200 children in a school in Beslan in Southern Russia today, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy appealed for the "immediate and unconditional release of the children."
"Children must never be used for political purposes, and schools must never be degraded to places of violence," Bellamy said, speaking during an official visit to China. "They must be preserved as safe-havens for children to learn and play. If we don’t respect the sanctity of childhood, then we have nothing.”
Bellamy added the children's safety should be the paramount concern of all parties involved.
UNICEF has worked in Russia since 1997.
For more information, please contact:
Angela Hawke, UNICEF CEE/CISand Baltics, 00 4122 909 5433
Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF New York, 1 212 326-7269
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, 1 212 326-7426