Video 08:40 26 Jan 2024

Zelenska urges partners for stronger action to return abducted Ukrainian children from Russia

Photo: Office of the President of Ukraine

Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, urged the world to act more united and faster in the fight to bring back abducted Ukrainian children. 

Out of over 19,000 such children, only 388 have been successfully returned home, she said in her speech at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rubryka reports.

"The last time we met for a debate on the deportation of Ukrainian children was almost a year ago. What I wanted to say a year later is that it's all behind us, that everyone is finally home. But that's not the case, despite the year-long rescue operations to free Ukrainian children from Russian captivity, which the whole country rallied behind…" said Zelenska. "So I urge everyone to act faster and more united. I call on national parliaments to join. We need to compel Russia to comply with the Geneva Convention and urgently provide comprehensive lists of names and whereabouts of Ukrainian children who were illegally deported, as this undermines the very idea of international law, which is cynically ignored and violated." 

She stressed that over 19,000 Ukrainian children have been in Russian captivity, but only 388 have been returned home.

"At this rate, it will take 50 years to bring them back. But during this time, Ukrainian children will simply forget their country. A person loses themselves in a shorter time frame. And we feel this even with the returned children, after what they've been told, that they're not expected at home, that they're not needed at home," said Zelenska.

According to her, Ukraine is open to cooperation with all members of the international community who have ideas on how to bring back Ukrainian children.

The First Lady pointed out that much has happened over the past year: from a previous resolution to a declaration dedicated to Ukrainian children adopted at the summit of heads of state and government of the Council of Europe to the creation of a consultation group of the Council of Europe on issues related to Ukrainian children, and the first meeting held by the international coalition for the return of Ukrainian children.

"And we are grateful to every country and person who cares. But time is against us. Recently, the Russian dictator ordered Ukrainian children to be granted Russian citizenship. His accomplice Mironov demonstratively took away a girl kidnapped from Kherson. We need to act faster. In fact, we don't have 50 years to save the children. Even a year is too much for a kidnapped child," she said.

Photo: Office of the President of Ukraine

In this context, Zelenska recalled the program of the Nazis during World War II to adopt deported children into Aryan families. Hundreds of thousands of children were counted, but only a small number returned home after the war.

"Because they no longer remembered and were immediately forbidden to speak their native language. But even now, you can read poignant journalistic investigations about older people searching and searching for their true families and origins because it doesn't give them peace throughout their lives. Do we really want this to happen again? Aren't there enough shattered fates in Europe and the world? Can we allow our world to be so terrifying and feel so free?" said the First Lady.

She also noted that every rescue of a Ukrainian child is a special operation involving many countries and tens of thousands of caring people, and then everything works out.

"But in the world, there are dozens of caring countries and millions of caring people. At least, I believe so. I believe that all the children of the world are our common children. Together, we can. But only together," Zelenska added.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) unanimously adopted a resolution, "The Situation of Children in Ukraine," calling for the recognition of the deportation of Ukrainian children as genocide of the Ukrainian people.

According to Yale University, over 2,400 Ukrainian children aged 6 to 17 were illegally taken to Belarus since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The deportation of Ukrainian children led to the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing arrest warrants on March 17, 2023, for the authorized children's rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, and the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

As Ukrainian Ombudsman Lubinets officially confirmed, over 19,500 Ukrainian children have been deported.

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