| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Russia forcibly removes Ukrainian children from occupied territories en masse

The Russian authorities continue to deport Ukrainian children from the occupied areas of the Kherson region, violating the basic principles of child protection in wartime by issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian children and adopting them. Russia deportation of Ukrainian children and their return to the territory of Ukraine remains one of the most difficult issues, because there is no dialogue with the Russians on this topic. In total, the aggressor country has already kidnapped more than 14,000 Ukrainian children. Now the Russians are in a hurry to take out Ukrainian children, because they understand that the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories will take place and do not believe that they can hold on the Kherson region. As for the geography of deportation, 57 remote regions of the Russian Federation where children are sent have already been identified. Among them are the Caucasus, Kalmykia, Tatarstan, and Sakhalin, which are socially and culturally alien to Ukrainian children. Conscious foreign culture immersion of minors is a violation of their rights under international humanitarian law. UNICEF and the Office of the UN High Commissioner has already taken it into attention.

Deportation is a new phenomenon of this war. There are different cases in official Ukrainian statistics about children taken to Russia. When Russians take out orphans and children temporarily left without parental care, as well as those who have parents. Children who were forcibly evacuated along with their parents are also considered deported. Even the allegedly voluntary evacuation to Russia or to the territories occupied by it is forced, because the aggressor country created the conditions under which Ukrainians, together with their children, are forced to go there. Russia, according to various sources, deported from 260 thousand to almost 700 thousand minors, as well as from 1.5 to 2.5 thousand orphans. At least 400 children have already become members of Russian families. Undoubtedly, the Russian practice of deporting Ukrainians from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, in particular the Kherson region, is an act of genocide. Both those who made such decisions and the perpetrators will bear responsibility for this.

The Council of Europe has taken on a key role in promoting the idea of creating a special tribunal to investigate the crime of aggression against Ukraine. This is confirmed by the PACE Resolution entitled “Legal and human rights aspects of theRussian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, adopted at the winter session. This is the first international document that details the first steps towards the creation of the tribunal and even its specific location – The Hague. The newly adopted Resolution proposes that a special tribunal in The Hague should complement the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. The two courts must agree on practical and legal steps, including the exchange of evidence, the detention of suspects, the development of common witness protection programs, and the sequencing of trials. The issue of the return of Ukrainian children is also on the PACE agenda. Separately, the Resolution mentions the crimes of the Russian military, including targeted killings, torture and ill-treatment of civilians and prisoners of war (POWs), abduction, rape, illegal imprisonment and forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian citizens, including children, to Russia or territories occupied by Russia. The head of the Lithuanian delegation to PACE, Emanuelis Zingeris, told Radio Liberty that the issue of the return of Ukrainian children is extremely important. He insisted that this issue be included in the resolution. After all, these children need to be returned as soon as possible, because they will go to Russian schools, and they will try to make “real Russians” out of them, they will be told about the Russian view of history, turning them into slaves of a totalitarian state. Russia itself called the removal of children a salvation from alleged shelling by the Ukrainian army, which was liberating the occupied territories. But war is not a reason to kidnap children from their parents, as the Russian Federation is doing in Ukraine now. It is prohibited by the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Taking Ukrainian children to Russia and trying to brainwash them, deprive them of their languages and cultures is another crime of genocide that needs to be prosecuted. In the meantime, Russian terror in Ukraine continues. And it can be stopped by the unity of the civilized world, in particular, the strengthening of sanctions influence on the Russian Federation and the timely supply of Western weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. After all, every terrorist must answer for his crimes: both personally and as a terrorist state – with his isolation and degradation.