New York, New York
April 5, 2023
Since Russia’s illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine began, Russia has forcibly separated thousands of children, aged between 4 months and 17 years old, from their families or legal guardians and moved them to over 40 different facilities in Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine or inside Russia itself. At least two of these facilities coordinate the Russian government’s policy of forced adoption and fostering of Ukrainian children in Russia.
Many of these children still have family in Ukraine, while Russia’s brutal war has made others orphans. Now, they are being held by the country responsible for the death of their loved ones instead of being returned to their homeland. UNHCR Chief Filipo Grandi said in January that Russia is “violating the fundamental principles of child protection” by issuing Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption. Because of Russia’s actions, an estimated 1.5 million Ukrainian children are at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.
It is outrageous – outrageous – that Russia’s event today included Ms. Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Federation’s Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights. She is the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for her part in the war crimes being committed against children in Ukraine.
Russia also provided a platform for unrecognized officials from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. General Assembly Resolution ES/11/4 specifically called on all States and international organizations to not recognize any alteration of the status of the Donetsk region of Ukraine, and to refrain from any dealings that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status. Russia’s actions in highlighting these voices demonstrate its contempt for the UN General Assembly, the Security Council, and for international law.
Russia’s further attempts today to attempt to justify its systematic efforts to separate Ukrainian children from their families and their country by attempting to draw false parallels to other situations is appalling. You have to ask yourself at this point… what is the Russian Federation trying so desperately to conceal? If Russia is not trying to hide a systematic program to force Russian citizenship upon Ukraine’s children, then it should give humanitarian organizations full access. It’s as simple as that.
This is why the renewal of the mandate for the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Ukraine at the Human Rights Council last week was an important step. We are appalled by the COI’s findings on children, but unfortunately are not surprised. We will continue to support efforts to document the impact of Russia’s war on children, and we reiterate that those who are committing these grave sins against such vulnerable populations must be held to account.