By Laura Gozzi
Russia’s forced deportation of Ukrainian children to areas under its control amounts to a war crime, UN investigators have said
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said there was evidence of the illegal transfer of hundreds of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The Commission’s report is categorical that Russia also committed other war crimes in Ukraine.
They include attacks on hospitals, torture, rape and wilful killings.
Ukraine government figures put the number of children forcibly taken to Russia at 16,221.
Russia has introduced policies such as the granting of Russian citizenship and the placement of children in foster families to “create a framework in which some of the children may end up remaining permanently” in Russia, the report notes.
While the transfers were supposed to be temporary “most became prolonged”, with both parents and children facing “an array of obstacles in establishing contact”, UN investigators wrote.
In some cases, parents or children told the Commission that once in Russia-controlled areas, transferred children were made to wear “dirty clothes, were screamed at, and called names.” They also said that “some children with disabilities did not receive adequate care and medication.”
The burden of contacting their parents fell primarily to the transferred children as the adults faced “considerable logistical, financial, and security challenges” in finding or retrieving their children, the report says.
It also quotes witnesses as saying that the smaller children transferred may have not been able to establish contact with their families and might, as a consequence, “lose contact with them indefinitely”.
The forced deportations of Ukrainian children “violate international humanitarian law, and amount to a war crime”, concludes the report.
The UN said that said that in addition to the rapes, killings and “widespread” torture, Moscow could be responsible for the even more serious “crimes against humanity” – notably the wave of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that began last October.
The commission is also trying to determine whether the bombing and siege of the city of Mariupol last May might constitute a crime against humanity.
The investigators said they had also documented “a small number” of violations committed by Ukrainian armed forces.
RuZZia must be smashed to bits. All these children must be returned intact.