Putin Arrest Warrant Shines Light on Deportation of Ukraine’s Children
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia’s abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children since its invasion of the country is so well-documented and terrifying that as Russian forces prepare to withdraw from the southern city of Kherson in June, Last fall, doctors at a hospital there rushed to hide babies and fake them. their profile.
Olha Pilyarska, head of the hospital’s neonatal anesthesiology department, recalled in an interview on Saturday that when the Russian soldiers arrived, staff at Kherson Regional Hospital said the infants were too sick. Heavy can’t move.
“They put lung ventilation devices near all the children,” she said.
These efforts saved 14 children from being caught up in a systematic campaign to move thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to be resettled in adoptive families and prepared to become Russian citizens. When The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday about the eviction of children by force, it is a strong recognition of the actions not only carried out in public but continues to this day.
Arrest warrant add Putin’s name to the list of notorious tyrants and dictators accused of humanity’s worst crimes. But this case is unusual in that the allegations are not made public years after the abuses began, but take effect in real time. The judges in The Hague cited the need for urgent action as the deportation was “supposedly ongoing”.
Although the court quickly issued an arrest warrant earlier— against Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, for example — war crimes investigations often take years, which means that charges are not made public until long after the crime has occurred. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan charged in 2009 with war crimes starting in 2003.
But Russian authorities, not disguising the deportations, put the children on display at photo sessions on Red Square and at lavish concerts commemorating the war. They have also signaled that more evictions are underway.
Across southern Ukraine, local Russian proxies leaders are issuing new “evacuation orders” ahead of an expected Ukrainian military offensive this spring. Such orders are often a prelude to increased evictions. And about a month ago, Russian forces closed all roads leading from the occupied areas to the rest of Ukraine, making it much harder for people to escape. Now the only open roads go deeper into the occupied territory or into Russia.
“The Russians are deporting more and more people from the temporarily occupied districts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson,” the National Center of the Resistance of Ukraine, the government agency that monitors events in occupied Ukraine, said on Tuesday. Six, pay attention to the public statements of Russian local authorities.
More than a year into the war that has turned into a bloody showdown, the leaders of Ukraine and its allies are facing off against each other. hesitant — though still strong — in favor of the continued supply of military equipment to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say the arrest warrant highlights the moral imperative of the conflict.
“World leaders will think twice before shaking hands or sitting at the negotiating table with Putin,” Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, said of the arrest warrant. “It’s another clear signal to the world that the Russian regime is criminal.”
Russia, like the United States is not a party to the international court, rejecting this order is pointless. Its leaders have made it clear that they intend to continue deporting children to Russia in what they see as a humanitarian act.
The court in The Hague has also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the Kremlin’s commissioner in charge of children’s rights, who is the face of the deportation program. She spoke proudly about organizing a large-scale system to get children out of Ukraine. After the arrest warrant, she vowed “to keep working.”
Mr. Putin, in a televised meeting with Ms. Lvova-Belova last month, endorsed the work. “The number of applications by our citizens regarding adoptions from the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, from the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions is also increasing,” he said.
The scale of deportations in Ukraine over the past year is something that has not been seen in Europe for generations.
United Nations estimated that 2.9 million Ukrainians moved to Russia since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion, but it is impossible to quantify how many were able to voluntarily go and how many were forced. That number includes about 700,000 children, according to both Russians and Ukrainians, and most are believed to be with their families.
The exact number of children separated from their parents or orphaned is unknown. Russia admitted transferring 2,000 children without guardians; Ukrainian officials say they confirmed 16,000 cases, although some of them may be relatives.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a statement Friday following The Hague’s announcement that “the true, full number of deportees could be much higher.”
Karim Khan, the court’s chief prosecutor, said the court had identified “at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and daycares”. He said these deportations, carried out with the aim of permanently removing children from their countries, were a violation of the Geneva Conventions and considered war crimes.
The court in The Hague acted unusually quickly in the case. It has come under close scrutiny since Russia invaded Ukraine, when 43 countries – a third of the court’s members – almost immediately asked it to intervene. Key donors, including the European Union, have sent money and dozens of prosecutors to speed up the bureaucracy. And court investigators, who are often thwarted by hostile governments, have received full cooperation from Ukrainian authorities.
Forcibly transferring children from one national group to another with the intention of destroying the group can also lead to genocide, a crime that Kateryna Rashevska, a lawyer at the Regional Center for Human Rights, a Ukrainian organization that investigates child abductions, says she hopes to be the next step.
Russia has carried out deportations under the guise of rescues, medical rehabilitation initiatives, and adoption programs. But the truth was brought to light by eyewitness accounts, reports by The New York Times and other western stores, Ukrainian news media, independent investigator, United Nationsand a bunch of government And rights organization.
“They committed the crime right before their eyes and express pride in doing so,” said Stephen Rapp, former ambassador-at-large who heads the Global Criminal Justice Office at the State Department.
The Kremlin has repeatedly used Ukrainian children as part of a campaign to increase support for the war. For example, when children from a group home fled from the Russian bombing of Mariupol at the beginning of the war, they were intercepted at a Russian checkpoint. Pro-Russian media groups rushed to the scene, witnesses said, and cameras tracked the children as they pushed deeper into Russian-controlled territory.
It is described as a rescue operation.
Oleksandr Yaroshenko, a volunteer who witnessed the incident at the checkpoint, said: “All Russian channels show that Ukrainians are very bad.
In Kherson, local officials and witnesses described the Russian abductions as staged. According to Ukrainian prosecutors and witnesses, shortly after Russian forces captured the city, they worked with local collaborators to compile lists of children in hospitals, orphanages and schools. learn.
Security camera footage shows armed Russian soldiers entering an orphanage in October, and local officials say 50 children have been removed from the facility. Some of them, according to residents of Kherson, were then paraded in front of the cameras of Russian state media.
The expulsions have echoes of one of the more sinister chapters of Russian history, when Stalin used the expulsions to cement control of the Kremlin. Between 1936 and 1952, at least three million people were taken from their homes along the western borders of the Soviet Union and other regions, and dumped thousands of miles away in Siberia and Central Asia, according to the report. estimates by the United Nations refugee agency.
The Kremlin rhetorically calls these people “special settlers.”
Ms. Pilyarska said that at the neonatal hospital in Kherson, staff rescued most of the babies, but two were arrested.
“Some children from Kherson are still in Crimea. Sometimes we can see them in the Russian media,” she said by phone from the hospital, which she said had come under shelling in recent days. “The others have disappeared, and we know nothing about them.”
Anna Lukinova, Marlise Simons And Alina Lobzina contribution report.