Last update: May 23, 2024 16:41

Newsroom logo

Moscow Pledges to Bring Back Ukrainian Children Once “Conditions Are Safe”

By Vusala Abbasova March 22, 2023


According to the Ukrainian government, more than 16,000 children have been moved to Russia or Russian-controlled areas from Ukraine since the fighting began. / Vadim Ghirda / AP

Vasily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, has stated that Russia’s goal is to repatriate every child who was evacuated from the conflict zone once safe conditions have been established in Ukraine.

The announcement came at a press conference on Monday, three days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights over their alleged involvement in the abduction of these children and teenagers.

“We wanted to spare them of the danger that military activities may pose. That is it,” TASS quoted Nebenzia as saying on Monday. “The issue of children “brought to Russia forcefully” is totally overblown. We want to show it at the [UN Security Council] Arria formula meeting. When conditions are safe, of course, [we will return them,] why not.”

The Ukrainian government has reported that over 16,000 children have been relocated to Russia or Russian-controlled areas from Ukraine since the onset of the conflict.

Last Friday, the Hague court issued an arrest warrant for both President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights. According to the Hague-based court’s statement, Putin and Lvova-Belova are “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

This move marks some of the first international charges brought forth since Russia began its “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Ukraine welcomed the issuance of the arrest warrants, viewing it as the first step toward holding those responsible for crimes committed in the wake of the February 2022 invasion accountable.

Meanwhile, Moscow, which is not among 123 countries that are parties to the court, dismissed the arrest warrant.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the situation, stating that Russia regards the ICC's warrants as "null and void" because it does not acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction.

“We consider the very formulation of the issue outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, as well as several other states, do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for Russia in terms of the law,” TASS quoted Peskov as saying last Friday. 

“That is, in fact, the only thing I would like and could tell you about this decision”, he added. 

However, Peskov did not comment on whether the court’s decision would have an effect on Putin’s visits to nations that acknowledge the ICC’s jurisdiction. He concluded his statement by saying, “I have nothing further to say on this subject.”

In response, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal inquiry on Monday against the ICC’s prosecutor and judges, asserting that there was no legal rationale for holding Putin criminally liable and that heads of state were completely immune under a 1973 United Nations convention.