The EU will organise a conference, in partnership with Warsaw and Kyiv, to help locate children abducted in Ukraine by Russia and return them to their country, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference at the end of the first day of the EU Spring Summit in Brussels, Ms. von der Leyen said the mass deportations of Ukrainian children were a horrible reminder of the darkest periods in European history. "This is a war crime,” she stressed. “We know that 16,200 children were deported, only 300 have returned since.”
Ms. von der Leyen noted that "these criminal actions" completely justified the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court on 17 March against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian presidential commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children during the Russian invasion.
“In partnership with the Ukrainians, (Polish) Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and I have launched an initiative to repatriate these children abducted by Russia. For this, we will organise a conference (…) we want to exert international pressure so that all possible measures are taken to trace these children,” von der Leyen said.
She did not give details of when or where this event would take place.
The aim is to help UN bodies and relevant international organisations get more complete information on the deported children, she said. “This also includes children who have been adopted or transferred to Russian foster families.”
She thanked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, present at the summit in Brussels on Thursday, for the support of UN agencies on the issue.
For his part, Council President Charles Michel described the kidnappings as “sickening and systematically implemented from the Kremlin.”