Ukrainian children “deported” by Moscow: the OSCE points to a “massive” phenomenon
Hundreds of thousands of children have likely been transferred by Russia to areas under its control in Ukraine as well as to its own territory, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“There seems to be a plan to assimilate them on a massive scale,” Veronika Bilkova, a professor at the Faculty of law of Prague, who wrote the study together with two other experts.
It is difficult to determine exactly how many children have been deported, a policy that began as early as 2015, following the annexation of Crimea, she pointed out.
“According to the lowest estimates that we could find, their number is around 20,000. But Russian and Ukrainian sources suggest figures ten times higher, or even more”, detailed Ms. Bilkova. “So it really is a massive phenomenon.”
The 82-page report documents “multiple violations of children's rights”, with a “systematic pattern” aimed at integrating them into Russian families instead of helping them reunite with loved ones. Such a practice “may constitute a crime against humanity”, he concludes.
Under international law, no party to a conflict can evacuate children to a foreign country, except temporarily for compelling health or safety reasons.
Russia claims for its part to protect “refugee” children, but according to the authors of the document, it has taken “legal and political measures (…) to promote the obtaining of Russian nationality and their placement in families of 'reception'.
The young Ukrainians transferred are furthermore “exposed to a pro-Russian information campaign with the aim of re-educating them and are subjected to military training”.
The report is based on written sources, around twenty interviews and a visit to Kiev in April. Russia has refused to cooperate.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in March issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of “illegal deportation” of children.
Only 360 children have been recovered at this stage by the Ukrainian authorities, according to official figures which put the number of victims at more than 19,000.
The OSCE, which has 57 member states, was established in 1975, at the height of the Cold War, to foster East-West relations, but its functioning has been hampered in recent months, with Moscow blocking several important decisions.