Ukraine wants G20 help on Russian deportations of children

Kyiv says thousands of its children have been taken illegally to Russia and that deportations should be investigated as a war crime.

Children play on top of destroyed Russian military vehicles and weapons outside St Michael's Cathedral
Kyiv says thousands of Ukrainian children have been forcibly moved to Russia since the country was invaded on February 24 [File: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

Ukraine wants this month’s G20 summit to address the plight of thousands of its children it says have been deported to Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff has said.

“The Russian Federation continues to commit its crimes in connection with Ukrainian children,” Zelenskyy’s office quoted Andriy Yermak as saying on Tuesday at a meeting he chaired of a group of officials responsible for child protection. “The removal of children continues.”

The United States envoy to the United Nations said in early September more than 1,800 children had been transferred to Russia from Moscow-controlled areas of Ukraine in July alone. Ukraine wants such deportations investigated as a war crime.

The statement from Zelenskyy’s office said Ukraine’s National Information Bureau showed 10,500 children had been deported or forcibly displaced. Ukraine’s minister responsible for reintegrating Russian-occupied territories noted at the meeting that only 96 children had been returned.

Last month, Kyiv said it was working to bring back 32 children it said had been forcibly removed from their parents and illegally adopted in Russia.

Yermak was quoted as saying Ukraine could count on UN help but he restated Ukraine’s lack of confidence in assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Unfortunately, due to the very passive position of international organisations, in particular the ICRC, today we are unable to determine the exact number, how many, and where our children are,” he said.

Yermak said discussions about the return of the children should start at the Group of 20 summit, which starts in Indonesia on November 15. Zelenskyy is expected to attend the meeting remotely, although Ukraine is not a member. It was reported this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin might not attend despite Russia being part of the grouping.

“We really need to draw the world’s attention to what is happening, because this is an absolute genocide of Ukrainians, Ukrainian children, our country,” Yermak said.

Russia has previously said it is offering humanitarian aid to those wishing to flee Ukraine voluntarily, with the Russian ambassador to the UN saying the kidnapping allegations were “a new milestone in the disinformation campaign by Western nations”.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters