UN probes claims Ukrainian children are being ‘forcibly deported’ by Putin’s forces and then offered up for adoption in Russia
- Michelle Bachelet said her office is investigating reports of child deportations
- She says some have allegedly been taken from orphanages within Ukraine
- Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s 7.5million children have been displaced
The UN is investigating claims that children are being sent from war-torn Ukraine and being forcibly deported to Russia where they are offered up for adoption.
The organisation’s rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office ‘has been looking into allegations of children forcibly deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation’.
These reportedly included children who were ‘taken from orphanages and subsequently offered for adoption in Russia,’ she said.
Evacuated children arrive at a train station in Lviv after the outbreak of war. The UN is investigating claims that children are being deported to Russia
The organisation’s rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office ‘has been looking into allegations of children forcibly deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation’
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said her office could not confirm the allegations, nor the number of children involved.
But she told the council: ‘We are concerned about the alleged plans of the Russian authorities to allow the movement of children from Ukraine to families in the Russian Federation, which do not appear to include steps for family reunification or respect the best interest of the child.’
‘We will continue to closely follow the issue,’ she said.
Several thousand young people are believed to have been moved to Russia since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion on February 24.
The UN began raising concern in March about the risk of forced adoption of Ukrainian children, especially around 91,000 who were living in institutions or boarding schools at the beginning of the war, many of them located in the country’s embattled east.
A girl rides a kick scooter past a destroyed residential building in the village of Horenka, Kyiv region
Asfhan Khan, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regional director for Europe and Central Asia, also warned this week that ‘adoption should never occur during or immediately after emergencies.’
Such children cannot be assumed to be orphans, and ‘any decision to move any child must be grounded in their best interests and any movement must be voluntary,’ she told reporters, insisting ‘parents need to provide informed consent.’
‘Regarding children that have been sent to Russia, we’re working closely to see with ombudspersons and networks how best we can document those cases,’ Khan said, adding that there was currently no access to such children.
She visited Kyiv, Irpin, Bucha, Zhytomyr and Lviv where she saw the impact of the war on the country’s 7.5 million children.
She said: ‘The numbers are staggering, and bear repeating. Nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s children are displaced – whether displaced inside the country or those who have fled across borders as refugees.
‘Children forced to leave homes, friends, toys and treasured belongings, family members and facing uncertainty about the future.
‘This instability is robbing children of their futures – trauma and fear can have long-lasting impacts on children’s physical and mental health.’
Khan claimed 277 have been killed and 456 injured although the numbers are likely to be an under-estimate.