Deportation is an element of genocide

Deportation is an element of genocide

The facts of the deportation of children from Ukraine by the Russian authorities and their forcible Russification are elements of the crime of genocide. The children should be immediately returned to their families, and the perpetrators of these crimes should be brought to justice. This is stated in the PACE resolution adopted in Strasbourg.

The PACE called on the member states of the Rome Statute to execute the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Russian President Putin and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights of the Russian Federation, Maria Lvova-Belova.

The resolution was actually adopted unanimously. It was supported by 87 deputies. Conservative MP from Norway Linda Hofstad-Helleland voted against, while German Conservative MP Harold Weiel abstained.

The PACE document states that the practice of deporting Ukrainian children from orphanages and special boarding schools located in the occupied territories of Donbas to Russia began even before the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation. But after February 24, 2022, the process intensified significantly. Today, it is difficult to determine the true scale of forced displacement, the number of deported Ukrainian children and their whereabouts in Russia. However, data from various sources indicate that many thousands of Ukrainians became victims of deportation, and the price and consequences of this crime for the present and the future are enormous.

The resolution refers to information provided by the Ukrainian government, according to which, as of mid-April of this year, 19,384 children were taken from Ukraine to the Russian Federation, and only 361 were able to return home. “So the fate and whereabouts of thousands more children and civilians remains unknown,” the document says.

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Russia deliberately creates unbearable conditions for civilians in order to justify “evacuation” and offers them no other choice but to go to the Russian Federation, to the occupied territories, or to Belarus. There, they are subjected to illegal “filtering or torture and ill-treatment,” the document says. Many children taken out of Ukraine are illegally transferred to foster families, placed in orphanages or subjected to Russification methods.

The PACE notes that the organization and coherence with which the Russian occupation forces carry out the deportations “make it possible to conclude that these crimes are not accidental. They indicate the intention to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian identity, as well as the cultural and linguistic features of its people. Forcible displacements, illegal deportations and re-education of children, who are particularly vulnerable and in need of protection, are abhorrent in their aim to destroy all their ties to the Ukrainian identity.”

The Assembly called on the international community to consistently condemn these crimes of the Russian Federation, as well as to ensure that those involved in their commission are brought to justice. Among the persons who, in addition to Putin and Lviva-Belova, are accused of involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children, the resolution names “the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, the Ministers of Education and Health, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the President of Russia, at the regional level – governors of Krasnodar, Magadan, Kamchatka regions, heads of Tatarstan and the Republic of Adygea”. During the discussion of the resolution, an amendment was adopted, which included the ruler of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, in the list of those involved in the deportation.

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The debate, which preceded the vote on the resolution, was opened by the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, who addressed the PACE deputies via video link with an emotional speech. She recounted three tragic stories of families from Mariupol, whose children were forcibly separated from their parents and relatives and taken to Russia. Their rescue was possible thanks to the efforts of many people and the desire of relatives to find and return the children.

“These stories have a happy ending. And now we have 361 such stories. But there are impressive figures – more than 19 thousand. These are children who are still in Russian captivity. And these are only the data that we managed to confirm,” said Olena Zelenska, stressing that the whereabouts of many deported Ukrainian children is still unknown.

Ukraine needs all possible help to save them. In addition, the crime of illegal deportation of Ukrainian children requires punishment. According to Olena Zelenska, the International Criminal Court named only two suspects, although “in reality there are thousands of them, because this is not a random crime, but a whole specially created mechanism” aimed at kidnapping Ukrainian children.

The topic of the debate did not leave anyone indifferent in the session hall. Many speakers mentioned their children and families, stressing that a crime against a defenseless child is the height of treachery.

“A child’s place is at home with relatives, not in a foreign country or a foreign family. This is the basis of human life. Whoever destroys it violates the foundations of human dignity,” said Finnish deputy from the group of socialists Kimmo Kiljunen.

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His colleague from the faction, Icelandic MP Sunna Evarsdrottir, said that the abduction of children is a component of the crime of genocide, “and the nature of this crime places responsibility on all of us.” She called for the immediate creation of an international mechanism that would facilitate the search and return home of Ukrainian children deported to Russia. “We must prevent genocide and not repeat the mistakes of history. We must do everything to stop this terrible crime against Ukrainians as soon as possible,” said the politician.

The participants of the debate emphasized that the work on finding and returning children to Ukraine is difficult and sensitive. “Therefore, it is very important for the international community to work unitedly at the political and diplomatic levels. And our governments must financially support human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations involved in the return of children,” said Sandra Zampa, a Spanish deputy from the European People’s Party.


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi:

“Today there is an important political result in Strasbourg: a resolution was adopted at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which recognizes that the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia contains signs of genocide. And this is the first recognition of this fact at the level of such a high international organization that unites the states of our continent.

This decision will significantly help our global work to bring Russia, a terrorist state, and its officials, together with the leader, to responsibility precisely for genocide, genocidal policy against Ukraine.”

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