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The alleged amendments to Russian law follow warnings by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month that children in the war-torn nation who were being deported to Russian families faced a threat of “illegal adoption”.
The ministry wrote: “In the course of the ongoing full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the Russian occupiers continue to violate the norms of international law and resort to unacceptable actions – the illegal and forced displacement of Ukrainian citizens, including children, among them orphans, children deprived of parental care, as well as children whose parents died as a result of Russia’s military aggression, across the state borders of our State to the territory of Russia.”
On Monday, in the wake of the new decree, the ministry said it views it as a means to ease “the admission of Ukrainian orphans or those left without parental care to Russian citizenship as an attempt by the Kremlin to legalise the illegal movement of Ukrainian children”.
It added: “By his decree, Vladimir Putin actually legalised the abduction of children from the territory of Ukraine.”
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Ukrainian children are reportedly being forcibly deported to Russia
Officials noted that Moscow’s actions grossly violate the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which obliges the occupying state not to alter the citizenship status of children, and the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Foreign Ministry also believes Moscow’s actions can be qualified as forcible transfer of children from one human group to another under international law.
Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said during the opening of the “Russian War Crimes House” exhibition in Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum took place, that Russia had forcibly deported 232,000 Ukrainian children to its territory since the start of the full-scale invasion.
According to Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the Mariupol mayor, the Kremlin has established “filtration camps” near its border with Estonia to prevent Ukrainians who had been forcibly deported to Russia from escaping to the neighbouring country.
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A report released by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in April claimed Russian troops had deported close to 500,000 civilians from Ukraine to Russia, where they were taken to “filtration camps in Russia near the Ukrainian border”.
OSCE investigators noted that “if (some of) these deportations were forcible (including because Russia created a coercive environment in which those civilians had no other choice than to leave Russia) and as they necessarily concern civilians who had fallen into the power of Russia as an occupying power, this violates in each case [international humanitarian law] and constitutes a war crime”.
A total of 4,113 civilians, including 264 children, have been killed in Ukraine since the launch of Russia’s full-scale offensive on February 24, the United Nations said.
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Nearly 5,000 people have been injured, with the majority of injuries caused by shelling or airstrikes, it added.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have come under a barrage of attacks, 2,337 people have been killed and 2,808 have been injured.
The organisation has warned the actual number of fatalities is likely to be much higher.
Ukraine’s estimates far exceed these.
According to the office of Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova, more than 682 children have been injured or killed in Ukraine since the start of the war.
The statement, posted on messaging platform Telegram, said some 242 have died while another 440 have been wounded.
The largest known numbers come from Donetsk (153), Kyiv (116) and Kharkiv (108).
The figures, the office added, are not final as it is hard to confirm reports in places of active fighting.
The total death toll includes numerous suspected victims of war crimes in areas currently or previously occupied by Russian forces, such as Mariupol and Bucha.
Ms Venediktova’s office said it had received reports of more than 10,000 alleged war crimes, with 622 suspects identified.
Kyiv authorities are moving fast and trying to carry out justice while the military conflict is ongoing.
Moscow denies committing war crimes in Ukraine.