February 28, 2024

UN experts expressed concern at the impact Russia’s war in Ukraine is having on children. (File)


Russia must end the forcible transfer of children from Ukraine and provide information about those already taken and ensure they are returned home, a UN committee said Thursday.

Ukraine says that 20,000 children have been forced to Russia since the war erupted in February 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the action “a genocide”. Russia denies the accusations.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, a panel of 18 independent experts, pressed Russia on the deportation allegations during a regular review of its record last month.

In their conclusions, published Thursday, the experts urged Russia to “put an end to the forcible transfer or deportation of children from occupied Ukrainian territory”.

Russia has said that “placements for evacuated children are arranged, first and foremost, at their request and with their consent”.

But committee vice chair Bragi Gudbrandsson told reporters the experts had concluded there was “evidence of forced transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia”.

“We cannot identify the number of these children but we know that they are many,” he said.

The experts demanded that Moscow “provide information about the precise number of children taken from Ukraine and about whereabouts of each child”.

This is needed so “parents or legal representatives can track them, including through the identification of such children and registration of their parentage, and ensure that children are returned to their families and communities as soon as possible”.

Deprived of nationality 

The committee, which monitors the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also voiced alarm at reports that Ukrainian children residing even just temporarily in Russia “are deprived of their Ukrainian nationality in violation of their rights under the convention”.

The experts highlighted a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin last month providing Russian citizenship to forcibly transferred or deported children under a simplified procedure.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March 2023 on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting children.

The ICC has levelled similar charges against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights.

Russia is not a member of the ICC and insists the warrant against Putin is “void”.

The committee on Thursday voiced concern about “the alleged responsibility of… Lvova-Belova, whose mandate is to protect children, in the war crime of unlawful deportation of children and that of unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine” to Russia.

It demanded that Moscow “investigate allegations of war crimes” against her.

More broadly, the experts expressed concern at the impact Russia’s war in Ukraine is having on children, pointing to the “killings and injuries of hundreds of children as a result of indiscriminate attacks… with explosive weapons”.

They called in particular on Moscow to ensure that hospitals and schools are not targeted.

They also voiced concern over the situation for children inside Russia, including reports that children, as adults, are being persecuted for expressing political opinion, and especially for criticism of the Ukraine war.

And they highlighted “widespread and systematic state propaganda in schools about the war on Ukraine”, calling on Moscow to “put an end to the politicisation and militarisation of schools”.

“We consider it to be a very big risk for the future of these children, who are being indoctrinated,” committee chair Ann Skelton told reporters.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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