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Canada FM Joly visits Ukraine to get Russia to return Ukrainian children

During her two-day unannounced visit to Ukraine, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joly will push for international support in reversing Russia’s deportation of Ukrainian children.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly. Photo: The Canadian Press
Canada FM Joly visits Ukraine to get Russia to return Ukrainian children

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is on a surprise two-day visit to Ukraine, coinciding with the nearing two-year mark of Russia’s extensive invasion. Her agenda includes revealing a new effort aimed at combating the forced deportation of children by Russian forces, CBC reports.

Last fall, Ukraine’s Human Rights Commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, reported over 19,540 Ukrainian children have been officially confirmed as deported by Russia, with actual numbers likely higher. Russia’s Children Ombudsman, Maria Lvova-Belova, claimed Russia “evacuated” 4.8 million individuals from Ukraine in 2022, including over 700,000 minors.

“Children cannot be used as pawns in war. In their faces, we see our humanity and Canada is proud to lead the effort alongside Ukraine to ensure their return home to Ukraine,” Joly said in a statement announcing her trip.

The Minister is expected to formally announce that in Kyiv today, CBC says. Joly will meet with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Joly will unveil a joint initiative with Ukraine aimed at urging global action to compel Russia to repatriate thousands of Ukrainian children unlawfully deported from conflict zones. The Canadian-led project focuses on increasing awareness and coordinating advocacy efforts, with Ottawa offering technical support to assist Ukraine in the return of these children, of whom fewer than 400 have been recovered from Russia.

Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children

Since the outset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it has escalated the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia from occupied areas, often changing their identities to obstruct family reunifications.

In March 2023, The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, concerning their involvement in the forced deportation of children.

The forced displacement of children from one group to another with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national group is considered a crime of genocide under point (e) of Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on Genocide, which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe previously emphasized.

Last October, Ukraine initiated Bring Kids Back UA platform, unifying efforts to return children deported by Russia. The initiative aims to ensure the safe return of these children to their families.

Int’l coalition formed in Ukraine to bring back Ukrainian kids forcibly deported by Russia

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