Russia to hold UN meeting over Ukrainian children taken to Russia
Russia plans to hold an informal meeting of the UN Security Council in early April on what it said is “the real situation” of Ukrainian children taken to Russia.
The issue has entered the spotlight after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to the abduction of children.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a news conference that Moscow planned the council meeting long before Friday’s announcement by the ICC. Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council in April.
The court said it was seeking Mr Putin’s arrest because he “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of (children) and that of unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.
The announcement of the warrants for Mr Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for children’s rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, was welcomed by Ukraine as a first step towards accountability by Russia for crimes since its invasion was launched on February 14 last year.
It was dismissed by Moscow, which is not one of the 123 countries that are parties to the court, and called the action “legally void” and “outrageous”.
The announcement followed a report on Thursday by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine which said there was evidence of the illegal transfer of hundreds of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The commission said parents and children faced many obstacles in establishing contact, with the burden falling primarily on the youngsters, with young children likely to be unable to make any contact.
It concluded that the forced deportations “violate international humanitarian law, and amount to a war crime”.
The Ukrainian government claims 16,221 children have been taken to Russia since the war began.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan was quoted by the Courthouse News Service as telling Russia during a conference of justice ministers from more than 30 countries in London on Monday: “Return the children, repatriate the children.”
Mr Nebenzia called the issue “totally overblown” and said Moscow wants to explain at the Security Council meeting, around April 6, that the children were taken to Russia “simply because we wanted to spare them of the danger that military activities may bring”.
He was asked whether Russia planned on returning the children, and replied: “When conditions are safe, of course. Why not?”
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