President Volodymyr Zeleskiy asked a UN official for help in finding a solution to what Ukrainian authorities consider a grave consequence of 11 months’ war – deportation of thousands of children and adults to Russia.
For months, Ukraine has decried reports of mass deportations from Russia to Ukraine. These were often to distant regions thousands of kilometres away. Russia denied any allegations of criminal intent or mistreatment, and referred to the mass movements in Russian as evacuations.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that “the discussion focused above all upon our people deported to Russia by the occupiers”, referring to discussions with Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner For Refugees.
“These are our children, not adults. We need a mechanism to protect and return people, and to hold those responsible for deportations accountable. This issue can be solved by the U.N. institutions, which I believe is possible.”
Zelenskiy called Russia’s policies of holding people captive and forcing them to adopt Russian citizenship genocide. The “state-organised kidnapping” of children has been condemned by the Ukrainian foreign minister.
Grandi was on a six-city tour through Ukraine and said that he was particularly moved by the events surrounding the missile strike last week that claimed 46 lives in Dnipro, the capital city.
In a video posted to the UNHCR’s Twitter account, he stated that he had witnessed war at many locations. “But I can’t help but notice the apartments that have been broken into two parts… and when I find out that six children were killed under the rubble in one hit, I have little to speak of it.”
Zelenskiy has criticized the ineffectiveness of international organizations that attempt to address the problem of deportations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (57 nations).
Children of War, an official portal for Ukraine, lists 459 dead and 916 injured children in the conflict since 26 January. According to the site, 14,711 children were deported and 126 were returned.
Ukrainian human rights activists have spoken out against the deportation of hundreds and thousands of citizens.
According to the US State Department, figures ranging from 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainians have been cited, which includes 260,000 children.
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