Tuesday, May 21, 2024
 
 

U.S. joins International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children

Washington is now the third member of the coalition recently formed by Canada and Ukraine
www.president.gov.ua
Inaugural meeting of the International Coalition for the return of Ukrainian children, Kyiv

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On March 7, the office of the spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State issued a media note, clearly meant to be circulated in the global media for International Women’s Day (the following day) stating that the U.S. had agreed to join the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children, aligning itself with founding members Canada and Ukraine. Both countries are the Co-Chairs of the coalition. 

The coalition itself is in its infancy; after several months of rushed preparation, it was officially launched in Kyiv on February 2, 2024.

The large-scale displacement, transfer or illegal abductions of Ukrainian children is undisputed. So far, fewer than 400 children have been successfully returned to Ukraine from Russia, of estimated thousands.

In March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against President Putin and Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, on the basis of reasonable grounds to believe that each bears responsibility for the war crime of “unlawful deportation of population (children) and of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

In its media note, the U.S. affirmed its support for the following text of the “Joint Declaration on the Creation of the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children” previously issued by Canada and Ukraine.

Joint Declaration text:

“We, the representatives of states and international organizations, including those who gathered in Kyiv on December 8, 2023, express deep concern over the fate of children who have been illegally deported by the Russian Federation from Ukraine or forcibly transferred within the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.

We note the report of the UN Secretary-General “Children and Armed Conflict” A/77/895–S/2023/363, in which Russia’s armed forces and affiliated armed groups are included in the list of parties committing grave violations against children in armed conflict. We also note that the immediate release and return of all unlawfully detained, forcibly transferred and illegally deported civilians, including children, have been repeatedly emphasized in the documents of the United Nations, particularly in the UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/ES-11/6 “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

Therefore, we state our common adherence to the following principles:

  • The high importance and priority of ensuring the best interests of the child, and the protection of children’s rights and freedoms, consistent with international law as applicable, in the context of the Russian Federation’s armed aggression;
  • International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected in the context of the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, including by addressing the illegal deportation and forced transfer of Ukrainian children by the Russian Federation;
  • The importance of adherence to international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols thereto, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Optional Protocols, among others, as applicable.

Existing members of the International Coalition are engaged in supporting a just outcome of the situation of illegally deported and forcibly transferred Ukrainian children, including in the following ways:

  • Expressing support for the principles of point 4 of the Peace Formula of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Action Plan “Bring Kids Back UA,” as well as the continuation of the fruitful consultations of national security and foreign policy advisors that took place in Copenhagen, Jeddah, and Malta in the year 2023 and in Davos in January of 2024;
  • Exerting all possible efforts to return Ukrainian children, in accordance with international best practices, who have been illegally deported or forcibly transferred by the Russian Federation and supporting the process of their reintegration and reunification with families or placement in family-based care settings, consistent with the best interests of the child;
  • Facilitating the delivery of all necessary humanitarian, medical, and psychological assistance to children and their families affected by the illegal deportation and forced transfer by the Russian Federation, with the aim of their reintegration, and the restoration of their well-being, health, and welfare;
  • Supporting efforts to bring those responsible for organizing the illegal deportation and forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to justice consistent with international law.

We invite other states and international organizations to join the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children and support its efforts.”

Museum of Civilian Voices publishes children’s accounts

On March 7, the Museum of Civilian Voices released a series of stories from children kidnapped by the Russians.

Natalya Yemchenko, the member of the Supervisory Board of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation said, “Can you imagine what it is like to be a child forcibly taken from your home, sent to a foreign country and made to live with strangers? What is it like for their families? And if the children do come home, how can they ever trust anyone enough to relax?”

“No one should have to face this ordeal yet thousands of Ukrainian children have been kidnapped by Russian war criminals. It takes a particular level of evil to target children.”

The stories are available in a unique, harrowing collection on the Museum of Civilian Voices website.

“The return of these children to Ukraine is the result of tremendous work by the state, caring professionals and volunteers. Once home, each of these children is in dire need of support and qualified rehabilitation,” Yemchenko said, adding, “We will continue to do everything we can to help these children and their families.”

 

 

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