PACE has demanded the safe return of Ukrainian children forcibly transferred to Russia or territory it temporarily occupies, as well as punishment of those who carried it out at all levels – pointing out that the documented evidence of this practice matches with the international definition of genocide.
In a resolution based on a report by Paulo Pisco (Portugal, SOC), the Assembly said there was evidence that deported children had faced a process of “russification” through re-education in Russian language, culture and history, citing examples of children being banned from speaking Ukrainian, exposure to propaganda, and visits to “patriotic” sites or military training.
These transfers of Ukrainian children were “clearly being planned and organised in a systematic way” as state policy, the Assembly said, and had the abhorrent aim of “annihilating every link to and feature of their Ukrainian identity”.
Speaking by video-link from Kyiv, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska recounted the personal stories of some children who had almost been abducted. She told the parliamentarians: “The Hague Court has named two suspects, but in reality there are thousands of them, because this is not an accidental crime. It is a whole policy, and a whole conscious mechanism by Russia – to alienate our children, depriving them of their families, names, language, roots.”
Although information is difficult to gather on the practice, the Ukrainian Government reported in mid-April 2023 that over 19,384 children had been deported to Russia – while the fate of many thousands more remains unclear.
The Assembly welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova on war crimes charges, and urged their enforcement.
The Assembly also called for access to Russia for the UN and International Red Cross and Red Crescent to gather information on deported children, and urged states to gather evidence of crimes – including genocide – that may have been committed.