Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak emphasizes the importance of the global community's support in developing effective tools to ensure the return of Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia. He made this statement participating the inaugural meeting of the International Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children held in Kyiv.
"It is extremely important to work together on the development of international legal mechanisms that will enable efforts to bring back the children. This issue is urgent, and it cannot be ignored. This work must happen fast because children are growing up, and Russians continue to commit these crimes," the head of the President's Office said.
Andriy Yermak thanked Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, the co-chair of the international high-level group of experts Bring Kids Back UA, and all attendees for their participation in today's crucial meeting. He stressed that the issue of returning abducted young Ukrainians is a priority for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's team.
Therefore, during the Malta meeting of the leaders' advisors within the framework of the implementation of the Peace Formula, the creation of the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children was initiated. Over 60 countries and international organizations have already joined this coalition.
Andriy Yermak emphasized that Russia conceals data about children abducted in Ukraine and ignores any requests from the international community to provide relevant information. Consequently, Ukraine has almost no reliable information about them and their fate. He called on the coalition members to collaborate on developing mechanisms for identification, document restoration, and the physical return of children to Ukraine.
"We already have a lot of information about how Russians abduct children, how they become victims of cruel treatment, and their names are changed. It is not about isolated cases," the head of the President's Office said.
Andriy Yermak said Russians themselves admit to changing the names of Ukrainian children, placing them under Russian guardianship, and prohibiting the use of the Ukrainian language.
"This is all evidence of the genocide against the Ukrainian people," he said.
"Russians are creating systems aimed at erasing any memories of Ukraine in children. They set these children against Ukraine, against our culture, our language. Every day, they saturate them with fakes, misinform them, saying that their parents were killed or that parents abandoned them and are not looking for them. The living conditions are extremely poor. It is genocide. And the most dangerous thing is that in the 21st century, there are no real levers of influence, international organizations, mechanisms to bring these children home," he added.
Andriy Yermak is convinced that each such crime against Ukrainian children must be thoroughly documented as evidence for future investigations not only in Ukraine but also at the International Criminal Court.
The head of the President's Office expressed hope that through intensive discussions on the return of children, which is one of the points of the Ukrainian Peace Formula, the creation of the international coalition, and the working group, it will be possible to bring all deported children back home to Ukraine.
Andriy Yermak expressed gratitude to Qatar, the Vatican, and other countries and international organizations contributing to these processes. In particular, he recalled that on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, eight young Ukrainians were returned to their homeland.
Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, on her part, mentioned her satisfaction in collaborating with the Office of the President, serving as co-chair of the expert group Bring Kids Back UA, and supporting the return of Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia.
She emphasized that disrupting the connection between children and their families harms the child and undermines the moral spirit of the entire nation.
Childhood is an invaluable period of human life in which identity is formed, personality develops, and individuals learn to build relationships with their surroundings, she said. Interrupting this process has serious consequences, and it must be prevented, Helena Kennedy said, highlighting the crucial importance of international support in this matter.
In his speech, American businessman and philanthropist, Chair of the Open Society Foundations Alexander Soros said that the number of abducted Ukrainian children has already reached the population of some European countries. He expressed pride in the support provided by the Open Society Foundations and the International Renaissance Foundation to the initiative of the International Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children. He also advocated for the urgent adoption of a UN resolution to facilitate the immediate return of Ukrainian children.
This is an attempt to destroy the next generation of Ukrainians, their identity, Alexander Soros said. In his speeches, Putin is very clear about what he intends to do with Ukrainians, and given this, there is a sharp need to hold these criminals accountable, he said.
Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets remarked during his speech, "If we were to return at least one deported child home every day, it would take Ukraine more than 55 years. However, we cannot wait that long. Russia has been deporting Ukrainian children since 2014 and continues to do so now. It has been almost 10 years since occupiers abducted an eight-year-old child. Now, they are a young man or woman. Children grow up very quickly, and Russia takes away not only their childhood but also their family, country, and nationality."
He added that this is why the first meeting of the International Coalition of Countries for the Return of Ukrainian Children took place today, with the participation of 72 representatives from other countries and international organizations. "Everything is for our children to be home. We continue to work for a bright future for Ukraine and our children at home," the Ukrainian ombudsman said.