More than 4,300 Ukrainian children, many of them orphaned, have been forcibly deported to Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine, a top Ukrainian official said on Tuesday, adding to reports that have prompted an arrest warrant for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Since Moscow’s invasion in February 2022, the Russian authorities have announced with fanfare the transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to be adopted and become citizens, The New York Times reported in October. On state-run TV, officials offer teddy bears to new arrivals, who are portrayed as abandoned children being rescued from war.
Ukrainian officials have documented 4,390 Ukrainian children who are “orphans, semi-orphans or deprived of parental care” and have been forcibly moved, Iryna Vereshchuk, a deputy Prime Minister in charge of the reintegration of formerly occupied territories, said on Ukrainian television on Tuesday, according to the Ukrinform news agency.
Vereshchuk said Moscow had been shameless about its abduction of Ukrainian children, and Russian families proudly flaunt those they have adopted.
Vereshchuk added that Ukraine was keeping the International Criminal Court apprised of such deportations, sharing information obtained by Ukrainian intelligence and the prosecutor’s office. She said that Ukraine was relying on pressure from the international community to “bring to justice those who commit the crime of genocide against our children”.
Some sources say that number is likely much higher. Children of War, a Ukrainian government-run website that tracks reports of children who have been killed, wounded, deported or gone missing during the war, said that more than 19,500 Ukrainian children had been deported since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began and that just 327 had been returned.
A US-backed report published in February found that the Russian government was keeping at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in camps in Russian territory, some of which are holding children before putting them up for adoption in Russia.