GENEVA — A U.N. watchdog group Thursday accused Russia of violating the rights of Ukrainian children in both Russian occupied territories in Ukraine and in Russia.
The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, a body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the convention, raised many concerns about the killings and injuries of hundreds of children by the indiscriminate use of explosive devices by Russia in Ukraine.
The committee also strongly criticized the forcible transfer and deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation “in violation of rights under the convention.”
Russia was one of six states parties whose record came under review during the committee’s latest three-week session. The states parties are the countries that ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In presenting its major findings, committee Vice Chair Bragi Gudbrandsson highlighted “measures that Russia has taken, including the presidential decree from January 2024 providing Russian citizenship to forcibly transferred or deported children in a simplified procedure.”
He said the committee also was concerned about “evidence that suggests that children are deprived of their Ukrainian nationality in violation of the rights of a child.”
According to the Ukrainian government, at least 20,000 children have been forcibly deported to Russia. Gudbrandsson said several reliable sources have confirmed the number.
“However, Russia denied this,” he said. “They submitted information that over 700,000 children had fled to Russia, to safety, as they defined it.”
He said the committee assessed the information and evidence that was presented and “it is our conclusion that there is evidence of forceful transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia.”
“We cannot identify the number of these children, but we know there are many and we can support this with the actual measures Russia has taken to simplify procedures to acquire Russian citizenship and to place Ukrainian children with Russian families,” he said.
Russia stands accused of trying to erase Ukraine’s cultural and national identity, a charge that the committee corroborates.
Committee Chair Ann Skelton told journalists in Geneva that the Russian delegation denied that Ukrainian children were being adopted. It said that the children were being fostered by Russian families.
“On the other hand, they also acknowledged that there were a lot of children who were being given Russian citizenship, which would also in itself mean that these children were losing their identity and were being given a Russian identity. We consider it to be a very big risk for the future — these children who are being indoctrinated.”
To ensure that no child is deprived of their Ukrainian nationality in violation of their rights under the convention, the committee has asked the Russian delegation to provide information about the precise number of children taken from Ukraine and about the whereabouts of each child.
Gudbrandsson said that was important so “parents and other legal representatives can track them, including through identification of such children … so the children can be returned to their families as soon as possible.”
The committee says it has received worrying reports of sexual violence, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture of children by the Russian authorities in the occupied Ukrainian territory.
The human rights experts say they also are seriously concerned about reports of violations of children’s rights in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, including “arbitrary arrests of children by Russian law enforcement officers, including for participation in peaceful assemblies.”
In both instances, the committee is calling on Russian authorities to investigate the crimes against children and to punish the perpetrators.
In his concluding remarks, committee Vice Chair Gudbrandsson urged the state party “to cease military operations in Ukraine without delay, to avoid further devastating consequences for children in Ukraine, Russia, and all over the world.”
In response, Alexey Vovchenko, deputy minister of labor and social protection of the Russian Federation and head of the delegation, said he valued the work of the committee and that “The state would be attentive to all the recommendations made by the committee.”
“However, the Russian Federation would not consider itself obliged to fulfill recommendations which were not aimed at fulfilling the rights of children in Russia,” he said, “but were biased and sought to interfere in the affairs of the sovereign state.”