There is a critical need to protect Ukraine’s refugees, particularly the most vulnerable: the children. “There is no question that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has had a devastating impact on Ukrainian children,” said Beth Van Schaack, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice.
The UN Secretary-General recently issued his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, which tracks “six violations against children,” said Ambassador Van Schaack. “The report verified that in 2022 alone, Russian armed forces and affiliated groups were responsible for the murder and maiming of hundreds of children, rape and sexual violence against girls, hundreds of attacks on schools and hospitals, the abduction of children, the military use of schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access.”
Indeed, Russia’s military forces have been forcibly separating Ukrainian children from their parents by the thousands, and deporting them into Russia.
“A report issued by the U.S.-funded Conflict Observatory details Russia’s vast network of sites and highly organized processes to relocate thousands of Ukraine’s children to areas under Russian government control, both within Ukraine and within Russia, and to subject them to political re-education and russification. We know from all of this research that officials at all levels of the Russian government are involved, from President Putin himself, on down through very local-level officials who are facilitating these movements,” he said.
The United States is working hard to address the issue of crimes against Ukrainian children. For example, the Global Criminal Justice supports Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, “a mechanism established by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to coordinate support for Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General on their accountability efforts in Ukrainian courts,” said Ambassador Van Schaack. The Group “brings together multinational and multidisciplinary experts to aid in the collection and preservation of evidence; the investigation of international crimes.”
“Other elements of the [State] Department are working with our partners and with members of civil society to reverse and to prevent Russian government’s forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, to Belarus, and to parts of Russian-occupied Ukrainian. And we are deploying sanctions against individuals who can be identified who are a part of this vast system of abducting children,” he said.
“We understand that the work ahead of us in ensuring accountability for these atrocities is long and will require durable commitment from all elements of the U.S. government,” said Ambassador Van Schaack. “We are committed to that aim.”