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ISW: Russia admits to forcibly transferring nearly 5 mn Ukrainians, including 700K children

Qatar mediated the return of 4 Ukrainian children from Russia; however the difference between the Russian list with hundreds and the Ukrainian list with thousands of deported children complicates the process.
Credit: The New York Times
ISW: Russia admits to forcibly transferring nearly 5 mn Ukrainians, including 700K children

Kremlin-appointed Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova reiterated previous admissions that Russia has forcibly transferred nearly 5 million Ukrainians, including over 700,000 children, from Ukraine to Russia since launching its full-scale invasion in 2022, ISW reported in its daily report.

Lvova-Belova claimed Russia has “accepted” approximately 4.8 million Ukrainians, 700,000 of them children, and placed 380 Ukrainian orphans in foster care in Russia between April and October 2022.

Lvova-Belova attempted to justify Russia’s actions, alleging Ukrainian authorities act “against the interests of children.”

The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said “Russian authorities have conducted a large-scale campaign to deport Ukrainians to Russia,” and concluded that “forced transfer of civilians to an occupying power’s territory constitutes “deportation” under international law.”

On 16 October Qatar mediated the return of just 4 Ukrainian children aged 2-17 from Russia back to Ukraine.

ISW said, citing an official source, that more Ukrainian children may be returned in the future as part of the Qatari-mediated negotiations. However, the process has been complicated by Russia providing a list of only hundreds of Ukrainian children currently in Russia while Ukraine has identified thousands of deported children.

On 4 May 2023, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued a report on the violation and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law highlighting 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 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.

On 16 October Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba discussed the issue of returning deported Ukrainian children and civilians with Bujar Osmani, the chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Foreign Minister of North Macedonia.

“We agreed that concrete OSCE projects will be developed based on this report, and they will be implemented. This will help more effectively deal with the issue of returning deported Ukrainian children,” the minister explained.

In April 2023, PACE recognized the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as genocide.

“The Assembly emphasizes that the forced displacement of children from one group to another with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group is considered a crime of genocide under point (e) of Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on Genocide,” a PACE resolution said.

The document emphasized that the practice of illegally exporting Ukrainians to the Russian Federation from the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts began even before the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation, in the form of the deportation of children from orphanages and children with disabilities from specialized institutions.

In general, as of August 2023, at least 380 deported children have been returned from Russia to Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale war

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