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Rights official: Russia using fake diagnoses to abduct Ukrainian children

Russia is utilizing at least six methods to forcibly relocate Ukrainian children onto its territory, according to Daria Herasymchuk, Ukraine’s President’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation of Children.
A demonstration in support of the safe return of children taken from Ukraine during the war, in Brussels in February 2023. Credit: Avaaz/X

One scheme of deportation involves establishing a fake medical diagnosis for a child to justify supposed “treatment” in Russia, Herasymchuk said. Additional scenarios include:

  • killing parents and then deporting children;
  • seizing minors directly from families;
  • separating children during “filtration”;
  • creating unlivable occupied zone conditions before proposing kids “vacation” in Russia without return;
  • transferring entire Ukrainian institutions with children while barring their extraction.

Herasymchuk made this statement at the Ukrainian-Latvian conference Russia’s War on Children in Riga, Ukrinform reports. The conference aims to support the return of children and family reunification, explore avenues of legal and political accountability, raise public awareness, and foster international support.

Thousands of abducted Ukrainian minors remain in Russian captivity, where they face attempts to forcibly assimilate them — whether by psychological pressure to renounce their Ukrainian identity, illegal adoption into Russian families while their real parents are still alive in Ukraine, or even coercion to become mercenaries for Russia’s war effort.

Russia is also forcibly transferring children to Belarus. Since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, over 2,400 Ukrainian children, ages six to 17, have been relocated to 13 different facilities within Belarus, according to Yale University research in November.

The unlawful deportation of children is a war crime. Deportation of Ukrainian children was the reason for the issuance on March 17th, 2023 of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant in The Hague for Putin and Russian children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova.

So far, Ukraine has returned over 500 of close to 20,000 children abducted by Russia through these tactics and others, as per Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights.

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