Don’t Deprive Ukrainian Children of Their Lives and Futures

It must not be overlooked that the lives and futures of many children are being taken away as Russia continues its aggression against Ukraine. Russia should immediately cease its atrocities against children.

A U.N. report has confirmed the killing and torture of Ukrainian children by Russia. Based on this, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has designated Russia as a country that violates children’s human rights.

This is the first time that a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which is responsible for world peace, has been designated as such a country. This is utterly shameful.

According to the report, the Russian military killed 136 children and injured 518 others in Ukraine last year. There were also sexual assaults on girls.

In some cases, Russia used Ukrainian children as human shields to prevent attacks from Ukraine, the report said. The actual damage must be an order of magnitude greater than the cases identified by the United Nations.

The protection of civilians in war zones is stipulated in international law. Among other things, the protection of children, who have difficulty defending themselves or escaping, should be given the highest priority. Russia’s tactic of indiscriminately attacking residential areas, schools and other facilities is in direct contradiction to this stipulation in international law.

The forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia in areas occupied by the Russian military has also been rampant. According to the Ukrainian government, nearly 20,000 children have been taken away. Many of them are still in Russia.

According to testimonies from children who were rescued by a nongovernmental organization and could return to Ukraine, they were forbidden to use the Ukrainian language in Russia and were taught the Russian national anthem, Russian history and culture.

Not a few children were adopted by Russian families after being taken away. The “Russification” of these children is a violation of their human rights that will profoundly affect their futures.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has encouraged the granting of Russian citizenship to Ukrainian children and their adoption as a matter of national policy. This is a clear attempt to increase the Russian population and make Ukraine a vassal state of Russia.

The International Criminal Court, which judges war crimes, considers a series of actions taken by the Putin administration to be war crimes and has issued an arrest warrant for Putin. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Russia is a signatory, also stipulates respect for nationality and the prevention of the transfer of children out of a country.

Russia claims that it rescued Ukrainian children to protect their safety, but if that is the case, all Moscow has to do is stop the aggression. Russia must immediately cease its aggression and allow the children to return home.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2023)