The report on the violation and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, war crimes, and crimes against humanity issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 4 May 2023 highlighted the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as one of the most widespread war crimes committed by invading Russian forces on the occupied territories of Ukraine.
The OSCE Mission established that a large number of Ukrainian children have been, since 24 February 2022 and even before this date, displaced from the territory of Ukraine to the temporarily occupied territories and the territory of Russia, according to the OSCE report.
“While the exact numbers remain uncertain, the fact of a large-scale displacement of Ukrainian children is not disputed by either Ukraine or Russia,” the report stated.
The OSCE Mission established the three most commonly indicated grounds for the organized forced displacement of Ukrainian children from Ukraine to Russia:
- the evacuation for security reasons
- the transfer for the purpose of adoption or foster care
- temporary stays in so-called recreation camps.
According to the OSCE report, while in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine or on the territory of Russia, Ukrainian children are placed in institutions or Russian families. The displacement forms include adoption or custody, guardianship, or transferring kids to Russian foster families.
“Ukrainian children find themselves in an entirely Russian environment, including language, customs, and religion, and are exposed to pro-Russian information campaign often amounting to targeted re-education as well as being involved in military education,” the OSCE report stated.
According to the report, Russia does not take any steps to promote the return of Ukrainian children and creates various obstacles for Ukrainian families seeking to get their children back.
The American Professor of History at Yale, Timothy Snyder, noted that the OSCE report on Russia’s forced deportation and assimilation of Ukrainian children is “an ironclad legal case.”
“Russians bring war to a city, then offer terrified parents a ‘recreation camp’ where kids will be safe, and then refuse to return the kids to the parents and hand the kids over to Russian families,” Snyder commented on Twitter. “This is just one way the Russian state steals children, and stealing children is just one Russian crime. But it’s essential cruelty, the combination of creating fear and exploiting it for a callous, almost unthinkable crime to parents and children, deserves attention.”
On 17 March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, alleging they are guilty of the war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
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