President of Ukraine

Olena Zelenska spoke at the PACE debate on the resolution on Ukrainian children forcibly displaced by Russia

27 April 2023 - 19:57

Olena Zelenska spoke at the PACE debate on the resolution on Ukrainian children forcibly displaced by Russia

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in the debate held under the urgent procedure at the plenary meeting of the second part of the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. During the meeting, a report was heard and a draft resolution was adopted on the situation of Ukrainian civilians, including children, forcibly displaced or resettled to the Russian Federation or to the Ukrainian territories under the effective control of the Russian Federation.

The draft resolution is being prepared within the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. The speaker is Paulo Pisco (Portugal, SOC).

The President's wife thanked the participants of the PACE plenary session for their attention to the issue of forced deportation of Ukrainian children.

"This topic is very painful for Ukraine. Thank you for joining the fight for our children and their childhood. We have a saying: "There are no other people's children". You prove it by being here now," the President's wife said.

Olena Zelenska told the stories of children abducted by the Russian occupiers. 12-year-old Sashko was with his mother Snizhana in Mariupol when the city was surrounded by the Russian military. Together they survived terrible shelling, lack of water, heat, hunger, and Sasha's injury. Until they were separated by the Russians. They were not even allowed to say goodbye. The boy was told that his mother had abandoned him. Sashko was rescued, but his mother is still in captivity of the Russian occupiers.

12-year-old Kira was also with her father in Mariupol when the Russians began to destroy the city. Her father, the former captain of the Ukrainian water polo team, Yevhen Obedinsky, was killed in the bombing. The girl was taken by the occupiers to Donetsk. Thanks to the enormous efforts of the state, public figures, and dozens of people who cared, Kira was returned to her grandparents.

Another family - father Yevhen, son Matvii, little Sviatoslav and Oleksandra - is also from Mariupol. After the destruction of the city, the occupiers began the process of so-called filtration of the surviving residents. Dad was thrown into prison, and the children were taken to an orphanage. For several months they knew nothing about each other. The children were found in a boarding house near Moscow on the eve of their adoption by Russians.

"These stories show all this terrible technology, how the occupiers abduct Ukrainian children. Most often, by killing their parents or forcibly separating them from their families. They also take away entire orphanages and boarding schools," the First Lady said.

She emphasized that these are stories with a good ending, when the children were returned. There are currently 361 of them.

"But there is a figure that is even more appalling - 19,390. This is the number of children who are still in Russian captivity. And this is only the data that has been confirmed. But even this number is not final, because what happens to children in the occupied territories is unknown. Behind each figure is a broken life not only of a child, but also of his or her entire family, of all those who have not had peace for months," Olena Zelenska noted.

"This is violence that is going on right now. Because right now, some child, like Sashko, is being lied to, that he is not needed, that he has been abandoned. Some child, like Kira, is crying for her parents who were killed in front of her eyes. Some children, like Matvii and his sisters, are being prepared for forced adoption. Right now they have no contact with their loved ones," she added.

The President's wife emphasized that every day, every hour in captivity breaks the psyche of children and families, costs health and lives. Therefore, Ukraine needs not only the world's concern, but also all possible effective assistance for their liberation.

"I ask you to treat this as a challenge to all our common values. Our idea of good and evil. This is the case when salvation is possible only through the efforts of the whole world. Let us become such a world for our children. Let's make them believe in the world and its people again, so that after everything they have been through, they can regain their trust," Olena Zelenska said.