Bi-Weekly Digest 5

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  • July 18: The Kyiv Independent presented an investigative documentary about unlawfully deported Ukrainian children “Unrooted”. The investigative documentary “Unrooted”, created by investigative journalists Olesia Bida & Danylo Mokryk and directed by Vitalii Havura, reveals the hidden operations behind the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. This film narrates the experiences of a specific group of children referred to as “Group 31,” who were forcefully abducted by Russian troops occupying Mariupol to Russia in May 2022. These children remain unable to return home, including Pylyp Holovnya, who was unlawfully adopted by Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has received a warrant of arrests from the International Criminal Court.
  • July 7: According to Ombudsman Lubinets, Russian families receive 28,000 rubles a month for each adopted Ukrainian child who was deported from temporarily occupied territories to Russia, and 156,000 rubles for a child with a disability. Currently, the Ombudsman’s office has data on 365 Ukrainian children adopted by Russian families.
  • July 6: Ukraine repatriated two children, 6-year-old Renata and 10-year-old Varvara, who had been unlawfully deported to Russia.  The children reunited with their mother, a POW, who returned to Ukraine on the same day.
  • July 4: Ukraine returned a forcibly deported family of mother and an infant from Voronezh, Russia. The family was transferred from Kharkiv region on March 16, 2022.
  • July 3: Putin signed an executive order in late April that set a deadline for applying for Russian citizenship in the occupied areas of Ukraine. Those who refuse and elect to hold onto their Ukrainian passports face losing their property rights, prison sentences, and deportation from their homes.
  • July 2: Oleksiy Talai, a member of the Belarusian Paralympic team, may be involved in the illegal removal of children from Ukraine. Belarusian oppositionists also reported that 2,150 Ukrainian children, in particular orphans aged 6 to 15, were deported to so-called health camps and sanatoriums on the territory of Belarus
  • June 30: The Prosecutor General’s Office announced the suspicion of three persons involved in the abduction of 46 Ukrainian orphans from the Kherson Children’s Home. Investigators named Russian State Duma deputy Ihor Kastyukevich and two Ukrainian collaborators — the so-called acting director of the Children’s Home Tetiana Zavalska and occupation administration official Vadym Ilmiyev — as the culprits.
  • June 29: The Russian authorities illegally transferred 1,184 children deported from the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories to “preliminary custody”. This is three times more than the occupiers declared publicly
  • June 28: The Belarusian opposition organization National Anti-Crisis Management (NAM) submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on June 27 alleging the complicity of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the illegal transfer of Ukrainian children. According to the organization, at least 2,100 children have been illegally transferred to Belarus amid Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.
  • June 27: Ombudsman Lubinets appealed to the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation Moskalkova with a request to facilitate the return of the bodies of teenagers Tigran Ohannisyan and Nikita Khanganov who were killed in occupied Berdyansk. There was no response to the appeal yet.
  • June 27: The Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights held a presentation of the Special Report of the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Human Rights “The Unfulfilled. Violation of the rights of Ukrainian children in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and in Russia: deportation, militarization, indoctrination.” The discussion discussed the most serious violations of children’s rights, legal qualification and prospects of proving deportation crimes in international courts. They also talked about what the state can do to protect the rights of the child.
  • June 26: The administration of Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia Oblast has been taking local children to Russia under the guise of ‘vacation,’ while actually kidnapping them from their homes and not returning them, Ukraine’s Center for National Resistance said.

Advocacy advances

  1. “The Forcible Transfer and Deportation of Ukrainian Children by Russia: Search for Solutions” webinar took place on July 12, 2023. The webinar was hosted by Georgetown University’s Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues and the Institute for Women, Peace, and Security in collaboration with organizations advocating for the return of deported Ukrainian children — Where Are Our People?, Razom for Ukraine, and the US-Ukraine Foundation.
    The webinar underscored the urgent necessity of promptly repatriating deported Ukrainian children, emphasizing the importance of avoiding any further delays resulting from Ukraine’s sluggish progress in resolving the ongoing conflict. Esteemed legal experts, including Kateryna Rashevska, Erin Farrell Rosenberg, Steven Schrage, and others, unanimously concurred that the international human rights and security organizations lack sufficient authority to facilitate the repatriation of Ukrainian children deported to Russia. The experts noted that the existing statutes governing these organizations are outdated and fail to align with the pressing challenges they purport to address.
  2. The Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, together with the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak, Ombudsman Lubinets held a meeting with the ambassadors of the G7 countries, the EU representation in Ukraine, and the heads of diplomatic missions of Turkey, the Republic of South Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Denmark, Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico in Ukraine. The main topic of discussion was the crimes of Russian aggression against Ukrainian children, namely forced deportations
  3. The International Center for the Prosecution of Crimes of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA) opened an office in The Hague, the European Commission announced on July 3. The center’s office in the Dutch city is set up with the Commission’s support and hosted by Eurojust, the EU’s judicial agency.

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