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Ukraine, Canada launch coalition to return deported children

2 February, 2024 Friday
18:16

Canada's Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly has visited Ukraine to launch an initiative to return Ukrainian children, and reaffirm Canada’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity

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Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said this while visiting Kyiv on February 2, 2024. 

Ottawa will discuss this issue with other countries to unite and facilitate their return, the diplomat said during a joint press conference with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

"Throughout the winter, we have seen that the tragic impact of this war on human lives continues, with attacks on Ukrainian cities continuing unabated. Another reality of the war is the tragic and illegal removal of thousands of Ukrainian children from Ukraine. They have been taken from their homes, from their families and deprived of their own language," said Joly.

As the minister noted, the issue of returning Ukrainian children is a matter of humanity, and today Ukraine and Canada will launch a coalition to return them.

"We will help Ukraine create a legal case to return them. Canada will be using a network around the world. We will talk to many countries, including Brazil, South Africa, and Qatar. And we will inform the whole world who these children are," the minister added.

According to Joly, Ottawa will discuss with other countries the return of Ukrainian children and call for unification. It will also talk to those countries that have direct relations with Russia.

Deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia and Belarus

In the context of a full-scale invasion, Russia is deporting Ukrainian children en masse from the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are taken to the occupied Crimea, Russia or Belarus, allegedly for rehabilitation or to rest in camps.

On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. They are suspected of forcibly deporting Ukrainian children.

On April 27, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized the deportation of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia as genocide and welcomed the issuance of arrest warrants for Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova by the International Criminal Court.

The same day, Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing for the deportation of Ukrainians for refusing to accept Russian passports.

A special report presented by the OSCE on May 4 stated that Russia's forced deportation of Ukrainian children could be recognized as a crime against humanity.

On May 29, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets spoke at an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue of Russia's abduction of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. The Ombudsman said that Russia deliberately changes legislation to make it impossible for Ukrainian children to return home and uses, among other things, the forced change of their citizenship to Russian.

Lubinets also noted that Russia does not provide any data on Ukrainian deported children - it is not even known where they are and in what conditions. He also said that Russians use child labour and militarize Ukrainian children in the temporarily occupied territories.

Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets says Ukraine has confirmation that the forced deportation of Ukrainian children and prisoners of war took place on the territory of Belarus with the participation of the Belarusian authorities. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk said that Russia is changing the names and dates of birth of illegally deported children.

Later, evidence emerged of Belarus' involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children. On June 27, the Belarusian opposition submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court of the involvement of self-proclaimed head of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and his entourage in war crimes.

In return, the Russian State Duma stated that 700,000 Ukrainian children had been deported to Russia since 2014.

On July 17, the UK government imposed new sanctions against Russians involved in the illegal removal of children from Ukraine. These include the Russian Ministers of Culture and Education.

On August 1, the US State Department called on Russia to stop deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories and to return them home.

On August 11, the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that forcibly deported Ukrainian children are held in his country. He added that Russia, Belarus would continue to take children from Ukraine.

On November 23, the BBC wrote that the leader of the Just Russia political party, 70-year-old Sergei Mironov, adopted a 10-month-old girl abducted from the Kherson regional orphanage.

On December 7, 2023, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian parliament, Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said that the deportation of 19,540 Ukrainian children by Russia has been officially confirmed.

On January 25, PACE called on EU parliaments to recognize the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as a war crime.

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