Ukrainian President Olena Zelenska’s wife has called on world leaders to help ensure the return of thousands of Ukrainian children taken by Russia. Children are also taken to Belarus.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Zelenska said that more than 19,000 children were forcibly transported or deported to Russia or Ukrainian territory under Russian occupation. So far, only 386 have returned home, Al Jazeera reports.
The Ukrainian government announces that 16,226 children have been deported to Russia, and 10,513 of them are said to be known in Kiev. Some fear that there could be more missing children.
In Russia they are for children “said that their parents don’t need them, that their country doesn’t need them, that no one is waiting for them,” said Zelenska.
“The kidnapped children were told that they were no longer Ukrainian children, but Russian,” she added.
Kiev claims that the children are being indoctrinated and robbed of their national identity, which is the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky called it genocide in his speech before the General Assembly.
“These children are taught to hate Ukraine, and all ties with their families are severed,” said Zelensky. “This is very clearly genocide”.
Russia, on the other hand, rejects the accusations and says that it actually saved children from the horrors of war.
More than 500 children have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian attack in February last year, and hundreds more have been injured.
Zelenska is the Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres and called on the entire UN to help save Ukrainian children. “Help us get information about children taken to Russia. Help us take children from occupied territories through special safe corridors. Our children need justice,” she said.
48 children to Belarus
Zelenska’s call comes at a time when the Belarusian state news agency Belta reported that on Tuesday “three week vacation” 48 children arrived from Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporozhye. These are parts of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed.
Belta reported that the initiative was organized by a Belarusian charity with the support of the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.
The Guardian reports that according to published photos, the children were carrying Belarusian flags and were surrounded by police, including in riot gear. Belta also reported that the children “thanked” Belarusian authorities.
In June, representatives of the Belarusian opposition handed over material to the ICC that allegedly showed that more than 2,100 Ukrainian children from at least 15 Ukrainian cities under Russian occupation were forcibly transported to Belarus with Lukashenko’s approval.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant in March
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Russian Commissioners for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belovaamong others due to the suspicion of illegal deportation of children and illegal transfer of children from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The Guardian writes that the allegedly abducted children are children whose parents sent them to summer camps organized by Russia and from which they did not return, children whose parents were arrested by the Russian occupation authorities, and children who were in lost their parents in the fighting.