Russia’s forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to areas under its control amounts to a war crime, UN investigators say.
The UN Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine said there was evidence of the illegal transfer of hundreds of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The Commission’s report firmly states that Russia has also committed other war crimes in Ukraine.
They include attacks on hospitals, torture, rape and intentional killings.
Ukrainian government figures put the number of children forcibly brought to Russia at 16,221.
Russia has introduced policies such as granting Russian citizenship and placing children in foster care to “create a framework in which some children may eventually remain permanently in Russia,” the report notes.
While the transfers were said to be temporary, “most became long-lasting,” with both parents and children facing “a range of obstacles in establishing contact,” UN investigators wrote.
In some cases, parents or children told the Commission that, once in Russian-controlled areas, transferred children were “made to wear dirty clothes, were berated and abused”. They also said that “some children with disabilities were not receiving adequate care and medication”.
The burden of contacting their parents fell primarily on the transferred children, as the adults faced “significant logistical, financial and security challenges” in finding or retrieving their children, the report said.
It also quotes witnesses as saying that the transferred smaller children may not have been able to establish contact with their families and as a result could “lose contact with them indefinitely”.
The forced deportations of Ukrainian children “contrary to international humanitarian law and amount to a war crime,” the report concludes.
The UN said that, in addition to the rapes, murders and “widespread” torture, Moscow could be responsible for even more serious “crimes against humanity” — notably the spate of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that began last October .
The commission is also trying to determine whether the bombing and siege of the city of Mariupol last May could constitute a crime against humanity.
The investigators said they also documented “a small number” of violations by the Ukrainian armed forces.