Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry condemned Russia’s commissioner for human rights, saying that her actions facilitating the movement of Ukrainian children to Russia to be placed into Russian families constitute a criminal offense.
Russia has for months been promoting its efforts to transfer abandoned or orphaned children from Ukraine to Russia to have them placed in Russian families. In May, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a decree to simplify the process through which Ukrainian children who were orphaned or left without parental care can obtain Russian citizenship.
The transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied territories to Russia and their adoption by Russian families is a potential war crime, and Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that it was also a gross violation of the legislation of Ukraine.
Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, has organized the transfers. She said this week that about 350 children were placed in Russian families. Ms. Lvova-Belova has previously said she herself had taken in a teenager from Mariupol, a city besieged by Russia early in the war, and recently announced that the boy had obtained Russian citizenship.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that it had called for a criminal case to be opened against Ms. Lvova-Belova, who is already under Western sanctions.
The total number of children who have been taken to Russia since the invasion in late February is not clear. In April, the Russian authorities announced that more than 2,000 had arrived in Russia, of which 100 had come from recently occupied areas. The Ukrainian authorities have said that they did not have an accurate figure but that their estimate was roughly 2,000.
The Ukrainian government has said it has managed to repatriate dozens of children. On Thursday, Ukrainian officials said that they would “continue to make every effort to ensure that Ukrainian children who were illegally taken and adopted in Russia are returned to their parents or legal guardians.”
After Russia illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions last month, Ms. Lvova-Belova announced plans to establish a mechanism to streamline the transfer of orphans from those regions to Russia. In recent days, reports of transfers from one of those regions — Kherson — have emerged.
Anastasia Kuznietsova contributed reporting.