EVIDENCE OF RUSSIA’S WAR CRIMES AND OTHER ATROCITIES IN UKRAINE: RECENT REPORTING ON CHILD RELOCATIONS
NATHANIEL A. RAYMOND, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF YALE’S HUMANITARIAN RESEARCH LAB AND LECTURER IN DEPARTMENT OF THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF MICROBIAL DISEASES (EMD) AT YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH.
CAITLIN HOWARTH, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS FOR THE CONFLICT OBSERVATORY TEAM BASED AT YALE HUMANITARIAN RESEARCH LAB.
Feb 14, 2023
In this on-the-record, virtual briefing, research experts from the Yale Humanitarian Lab (Yale HRL) discuss findings in a report through the U.S. State Department-supported Conflict Observatory program that details Russia’s system to forcibly relocate and “re-educate” Ukraine’s children, including in locations deep in Russia thousands of miles from their homes.
MODERATOR: Okay. Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Foreign Press Center briefing “Evidence of Russia’s War Crimes and Other Atrocities in Ukraine: Recent Reporting on Child Relocations.” My name is Doris Robinson and I’m the briefing moderator. Joining us today is Nathaniel Raymond, from Yale University, and Caitlin Howarth, director of operations for the Conflict Observatory team based at Yale Humanitarian Research Lab.
Now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. We will post the transcript and video of this briefing later today on our website at fpc.state.gov. Please make sure that your Zoom profile has your name and media outlet that you represent. Each of our briefers will make opening comments, and then we will open it up for questions. And we will start with Professor Raymond. Over to you.
MR RAYMOND: Thank you, Doris. It’s always a pleasure to be at the Foreign Press Center. Today we are presenting probably the most important report yet from the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab’s Conflict Observatory team. This report documents a – excuse me – documents a clear and intentional pattern of child transfer, re-education, and in some cases adoption, what can be termed forced adoption, of Ukrainian children in Russia’s custody.
Before I walk through the key findings of the report, I want to present a headline legal analysis before we get into the details. In short, what this report shows is clear, prima facie evidence of Geneva Convention violations by Russia and a violation of other elements of international law specific to child rights and to the treatment of children during armed conflict. We’ll get into some of the details of what the Geneva Convention specifically and explicitly says Russia should have done with Ukrainian children in its custody in a moment, but what I want to say is that this evidence that we are about to present is in no uncertain terms clear evidence of alleged war crimes involving Russia’s treatment of Ukraine’s children.
The first finding I want to present is our research which is based primarily on the analysis of open-source information – in most cases, the statements of Russia’s government officials and other elements of state, local, regional administrations within Russia shows that at least 6,000 children – likely significantly more – have gone through a system of 43 camps and other facilities. Of that 43 number
that we have geo-located and verified and identified in this report, 41 of those facilities, roughly over 78 percent of the facilities in this set are engaged in some form of re-education of Ukrainian children, primarily from the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. We will say more about what’s involved in re-education activities in a moment.
In the case of two of the 43 facilities we identified – a psychiatric hospital and what’s called a family center – there are children who we’ve been able to confirm have been put into adoption and foster care by Russia. And in the case of one camp, we know that children sent to one of these summer camp facilities were then sent on for adoption and/or fostering.
The critical point here in terms of our research is it shows the massive geographic scope and scale of this ecosystem of facilities. They stretch from Russia-occupied Crimea on the Black Sea to Moscow, two facilities in Siberia, and then one as far east as Magadan on the Pacific coast, approximately 1,300 miles from Alaska – closer to the continental United States than they are, the children at that camp, than they are to Moscow, the Ural Mountains, or Ukraine itself.
As I mentioned, in one – actually two camps, children have been placed with Russian foster families. While the vast minority of the camps we identified, it is clear from evidence we’ve reviewed that in those two cases, children who went to those summer camps have been moved on to fostering and adoption. We’ll talk more about that in a second. The overall analysis that we’ve done shows there is a consent crisis as it relates to these facilities.
Now, let me pause here and talk about the two sort of big baskets of children and children’s experiences that we can simply use to understand this system.
In the first group, there are children from Donetsk and Luhansk who make up that 6,000 number, and that 6,000 number is based on the reports that we can find of transfers to camps and transfers between camps of specific groups of kids that we know we are not double counting, and it is the most conservative number we can come up with. That’s primarily from this camp system. And what we have found in that group is that they are from Russia-occupied areas in Ukraine – Donetsk and Luhansk. We’ll say more about the status of those kids and their ability to return to their families in a moment.
In the second group, we have what Russia would call “evacuees,” quote/unquote, from Kherson, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhya. Those children were largely in state institutions controlled by Ukraine at the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They were then moved by Russia officials into Russia or Russia-occupied territory, in one case including disabled children from a state hospital. In this group – the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson group – we see evidence of adoption and fostering occurring, which can constitute a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Convention.
This age group can range from – across these two baskets – from four months of age to 17. We also see within the camp group at least two incidents, including one in Chechnya, of children, sometimes as young as at least 14 to 17, engaged in military training, which Caitlin Howarth will speak about in a moment, including use of firearms and operation of military vehicles.
I want to go a little deeper here on the status of return on the children who are in the – what we’re calling these summer camp facilities, and talk a little bit more about what we mean when we say “re-education.” And so let’s start with the question of what do we mean when we say re-education. Reading from the report, we’ve found that about 32 of the camps identified by Yale HRL appear engaged in systematic re-education efforts that, quote, “expose children from Ukraine to Russia-centric academic, cultural, patriotic, and/or military education. Multiple camps endorsed by the Russian
Federation are advertised as” – quote – “‘integration programs’, with the apparent goal of integrating children from Ukraine into the Russian Government’s vision of national culture, history, and society.”
While this may seem benign, it represents a statutory violation, potentially, of the 1998 Rome Statute and the Genocide Convention’s prohibition on transfer of children from one group to another for purposes of changing, altering, or eliminating national identification, identity, ethnicity, et cetera. And it’s important to remember historically that this is one of the first trials as part of the Nuremberg tribunals after World War II against the Nazis.
It is easy to say this is just kids going to camps. Let’s talk more about that.
What we’ve found is that many of these parents who sent their kids to these camps had to sign power of attorney documents where the other party on this document that they were transferring custody of their children to was left blank. That represents invalid consent and a violation of international standards on consent. Additionally, the scheduled time of return for these children – and we have details about this in the report – that 10 percent of the camps we’ve identified, the children’s return to Ukraine was allegedly suspended.
In the case of two camps, Artek and – excuse my pronunciation – Medvezhonok, children’s returns were suspended indefinitely according to the parents themselves. In the case of Medvezhonok, one of the largest camps we’ve identified, at one point it was hosting at least 300 children from Ukraine. And officials originally told the parents they’d return at the end of summer, but later rescinded the date of return. And Caitlin will speak more in a moment about the impact of these delayed returns, suspended returns on the children themselves and the incredible struggle of parents to not only reunite with their children, but to find out anything about their children’s location.
Moving forward here, going to hit one last point and then talk a little bit more about the legal element before I turn it over to Caitlin, and then we’ll go to your questions.
What this report shows is that all levels of Russia’s government are involved. We have identified 12 individuals in this report who are not currently on U.S. and/or international sanctions list. These 12 individuals and others we identify in the report are part of a whole – and I stress this – a whole-of-government activation to sustain and operate and promote this system primarily to a internal Russian domestic audience. And this includes up to four regional governors, and it reports – it appears – to a woman, Maria Lvova-Belova who is the child’s right commissioner, the children’s rights commissioner for Russia. And we identify personnel who report to Maria Lvova-Belova who is on the U.S. sanctions list.
We also identify other individuals and organizations that are part of this ecosystem, supporting what we call in the report a patronage system that in the United States we would refer to as sort of a sister cities program where communities inside Russia using municipal funds are supporting the transfer of children from Ukraine to these camps that, again, to stress, are across Russia stretching over 3,400 miles or more across the country.
I want to pause here and just say one thing again about the Geneva Convention, a couple quick points on the Geneva Convention, and then turn it over to Caitlin.
Let’s think about it by flipping it around a second. What would it have looked like if Russia had followed international law? Well, they would have done four things that they not only have not done, which they are obliged to do as a state’s party to the Geneva Convention and a state’s party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child but they have actively violated.
One, they would have created a common registration system working with international governmental – inter-governmental organization, international agencies, such as those from the United Nations and
other groups, who are mandated by international law to support family reunification and identification of missing persons, including children. That has not happened here, and we do not have a common registration database meeting any international standard from past conflicts.
Second, they would not have brought the children to Russia. They would have brought them, as the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Amended Protocol state, to a neutral third-party country. That did not occur here. They were brought to Russia.
Third, they would have ensured clear communication for purposes of family reunification with family members inside Ukraine and ensured the integrity of the national identity and ethnic identity of these children while they were in Russia’s custody and facilitating communication.
Fourth and finally, Russia would not be holding these children indefinitely without information and would not be engaged in what’s called – under terms of law – emergency or forced adoptions during a time of armed conflict and crisis. They would have suspended those operations and waited for family reunification and appropriate judicial review of the status and the guardianship of these children. That has not happened here.
So to conclude, whether we are talking about the kids who the re-education camps, or we’re talking about the quote, unquote evacuee children from Kharkiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, there is clear evidence presented in this report of alleged war crimes and potentially alleged crimes against humanity involving Russia’s activities with this – these thousands of children, likely significantly more than the 6,000 we identified, which represent not only a human rights crisis but also a child welfare emergency.
And with that, I want to turn it over to Caitlin, who is going to bring you into some of the critical stories and details from the report that really show the scope and severity of this child welfare and child’s rights crisis.
MS HOWARTH: Thank you much, Nathaniel. A perfectly logical question to ask is: In a time of war, given all of the challenges and the perfectly natural suspicions that one might have, why would a parent even send their child to a camp like this in the first place? That’s a normal question for anyone to have when approaching this report.
So I decided I wanted to pull out some of the answers to that question that emerged through data. Here are a few things that parents voiced.
They said that they wanted to help protect their children from fighting. A lot of these families live in frontline areas where shelling was a routine occurrence, blackouts were routine, and there was a lot of sort of day-to-day impact of the war on their everyday lives.
They wanted their children to have access to intact sanitation. Imagine what it would be like if your child didn’t have access to a shower for weeks on end or they couldn’t easily wash their clothes or simply wash their dishes. That’s a lot of change and disruptions to just regular routines and regular hygiene.
They wanted their children have access to nutritious food that was unavailable at home. They wanted to be able to make sure that their children can have fruits and vegetables that maybe weren’t going to be available, to things that weren’t always shelf-stable, things that weren’t going to come out of a can.
And they wanted to be able to give their children a break that their families could not afford. A number of children that are documented in this report come from families that are not necessarily high-income, and these trips are completely paid for by the Russian state. These are not opportunities that would have been available through any other means, and everything was presented as all expenses paid and round trip. There was nothing that was supposed to be unaccounted for as part of this.
It’s also important to keep in mind that for many parents in many towns and oblasts, they have seen children not only go to these camps but successfully come home from these camps. And they had teachers – teachers who spend not just one year or one class but multiple years with their students building relationships with parents, building relationships with their families over generations – telling them that it was safe and advisable, that they should send their children to these camps, that this was the best possible thing for them to do. And they followed that advice.
One mother sent her child to the Medvezhonok. She sent her daughter. Her daughter has a chronic illness and she has seizures. She wanted to give her daughter a rest. For any of you who have ever struggled yourself or have a child who has a chronic illness, you know just how much stress can have an impact on that part of an illness. And her daughter’s return of course was then stopped. Those in Medvezhonok decided to suspend all returns once Ukrainian forces had successfully retaken the Kharkiv Oblast.
When her daughter’s return was suspended, her mother was able to find a phone number for the camp director. And she got in touch and she wanted to know, “When is my daughter going to come home?” The director told her mother that her daughter would not be returned to Ukraine.
You send your child out to try and simply get a rest, you try to do the best possible thing for them, and this is the reality. The situation changes. The children who had come home safely before, the situation that you’ve been told will happen shifts under your feet. That is the situation for parents in Ukraine who are trying to get any information about their children, and that is information that is incredibly hard to come by.
Over and over and over again in the data that we collected, we see that when children are going to these camps information does not necessarily follow. Parents are not consistently given contact information for camp officials. Sometimes they are told – in some cases we see that they are told to connect to a village council instead of actually connecting to camp officials.
Sometimes some parents report back that they are only able to get information sometimes through the news media or secondhand just through word of mouth through other parents just trying to exchange information with each other. It’s only in this fashion that they may find out that their child – in one case we found that a child had been moved from a camp in Russia-occupied Crimea to the Republic of Adygea. That is a completely different region away. For those of you – for those who are familiar with the United States, this would be as if someone had sent their child to a coastal retreat and then found out that their child had been moved well into the central mountains, like several hours journey away. That parent then had to complete a completely different journey in order to retrieve their child.
And some parents report that they are told not to send cell phones with their children to camp so that they then do not have an independent form of communication to reach out to their children.
One girl who was in Medvezhonok allegedly had a nervous breakdown when her mother did not arrive to retrieve her after the camp suspended all returns. And another parent who allegedly witnessed this event said that the girl had that nervous breakdown, was subsequently hospitalized, and that parent reported this to the girl’s mother. That mother has not been able to obtain any information about their daughter’s whereabouts or health, and at the time of this report we have not been able to confirm any information about that child or her status.
So it’s important for us to understand that harm does come from this lack of information and from parents and children having these severed contacts with one another or inconsistent contact with one another. This is why some of the recommendations in this report exist about re-establishing those ties.
We want to make sure – and Medvezhonok, we think, is a particularly egregious example, but there are several others where it’s clear that the changing status on the front line is a factor in whether or not children are allowed to go home. Medvezhonok is one where 300 children were stopped from going home after the status of a critical area – in this case, Kharkiv – had changed hands in the war. One camp official at Medvezhonok told a boy that his return home was going to be conditional. He and the other children could go back if Russia recaptured Izyum. Another boy was told that he could not go home because his views specifically were too pro-Ukrainian. He would not be allowed to go back.
This is exactly why it’s so important to understand the role of the re-education programs and how important they are to this. And I want to go back to something that Nathaniel was saying about the goal of the topic of this academic instruction. These are tried and true methods for re-education and for indoctrination. They have a long history; these are not the first times that these methods are being rolled out.
One of the things that I want to point you to – it’s easy to overlook – we have so many citations, so many endnotes, so I want to draw your attention to one in particular. You’ll see on page 18 – this actually in one of our sections looking at some of the leaders involved. There’s a quote from Sergei Kravtsov. He’s the minister of education for Russian Federation, and he has helped to facilitate these camps through some of the curricula oversight. He also visited children at at least one camp and a university exchange program, and he delivered a lecture. And I wanted to draw your attention to one of the quotes we drew.
He speaks in some detail during this lecture about a vision that Russia likes to purport about this idea of one country and only one common culture, one language. This is – this does not have any basis in any credible history of Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian language, or Ukrainian history. This is disinformation that is being spread. And fortunately, this is why I wanted to point you specifically to this – you’ll see it’s at endnote number 130. The page reference here is on page 18.
But at endnote 130, you’ll see there’s an extensive book that was actually compiled by Internews Ukraine that goes into the history of disinformation that has been practiced by the Russian Government over decades. And so I strongly urge you to go and look in those – look into those resources. This is through Ukraine’s own scholarship and it has a much longer history than simply this most recent conflict.
I would also urge you to take a look through and also at some of the additional military training that is occurring in these camps. It isn’t at just one site and it isn’t just sort of a passing thing to be concerned about. In some cases, I think Russia may try to characterize this as something that, oh, this is done for only a handful of troubled couple kids. This has been documented in at least two camps, one in Russia-occupied Crimea and one in Chechnya. The camp in Chechnya is – currently has 14- to 17-year-old boys, and what you’ll see – there’s a photo I want to draw your attention to.
Right in the center of the photo you’ll see a group of three men. They are, from left to right, Vladimir Khromov, Zamid Chalayev, and Akhmed Dudayev. Khromov is a representative of Maria Lvova-Belova, the presidential commissioner for children’s rights. Chalayev is a hero of Russia and someone with a notable track record of human rights abuses, including direct connection to extrajudicial killing for (inaudible) unit. And Dudayev has very senior-level responsibility within the Chechen Republic. We can’t stress how important it is that all of these men are responsible and part of bringing – they’re a central part of bringing this system to fruition. And the accountability that needs to be leveled needs to go all the way to the top, because that is who is actively involved in a very intimate way with the establishment, the maintenance, and the perpetuation of this system.
With that, I’m going to hand it back over to Nathaniel with my thanks.
MR RAYMOND: Thank you. That was excellent. Doris, back to you, and we want to take peoples’ questions knowing that we have time pressure.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much for those remarks.
We will open for questions. For those with questions, you can hit the raise hand icon at the bottom or your screen. And we will go straight to Dmitry Anopchenko with Inter TV News.
QUESTION: Hello, thank you very much for doing this. I got a general question. I just want to understand how huge the problem is. Can we speak a little more about the figures, please? For example, just during the recent session of the UN Security Council, the Russian representative told that 400,000 Ukrainian children, quote/unquote, find the protection on the Russian territory. So could you confirm those figures? And what’s your estimate, how many of them was removed unvoluntary, without consent of the parents or relatives? So how huge the problem is. Thank you.
MR RAYMOND: That’s a great question and a critical question, Dmitry. In short, we can’t verify the 400,000 number without there being a internationally recognized and internationally observed registration system. So – but I will say this: The 6,000 number we know is solid. We also know the 6,000 number is a woefully low undercounting of likely the large amount of children we’re talking about that are significantly higher. We as researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have only published a number we can confirm.
That said, I want to point you to the fact that the logistical scope and geographic scope of this operation is vast, and this is an important point. The 43 number is where we stopped counting because we had to publish this report. We have multiple – I won’t give you an exact number, but significantly more sites under investigation right now. We expect a follow-up report to elevate that number of facilities higher. And so what we are presenting here is what we can take to the bank, so to speak, on the numbers we can confirm to a scientific level of validation.
That 400,000 number offered by Russia at the Security Council may or may not be true. Until we have a registration system, which Russia has currently failed to do, we cannot validate that number. Next question.
MODERATOR: Great. Let’s go to Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency.
QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon. Thank you so much for doing this, and I thank you both a very compelling report. I have very few but very technical questions. First thing first, what was the youngest age group you guys have identified? At some point, Caitlin, you mentioned 14. I just wanted to clarify that. And funding —
MR RAYMOND: So let’s just take it one at a time, Alex. Four months is the youngest range, from four months to 17, including young children in the adoption system that are toddlers and in some cases infants.
QUESTION: Very helpful. Thank you so much, Nathan. And in terms of funding, you mentioned the municipality funding, and Caitlin also mentioned the state funding. I just want to clarify if you guys have broader picture of whether or not this is being allocated by the Kremlin.
And the report – I think it’s 34 or 35 times mentions Putin’s name. You guys also quoted his January speech. Very helpful. I’m still going to process this. I just wanted to ask you how much Putin himself is responsible for this program, you think, based on your judgment and the facts that you have put together.
And 12 officials – who is the highest level official that you have identified? Of course, I have to follow up with the State Department whether or not – you mentioned all of them are sanctioned. Is there any one —
MR RAYMOND: Are not under sanction. The 12 we’ve identified are not under sanction by the United States and/or international sanctions regimes at present. Any questions about the process on that – any potential future sanctions – should be directed to the department.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
MR RAYMOND: And so in terms – let’s take the point about Putin, and it’s very important, Alex, that you’re identifying the January speech, the New Year’s Day speech by President Putin. In that speech, he is praising the efforts of those on a local and regional level that had been engaged in this program and encourages them to do more. As we had mentioned before, Maria Lvova-Belova, who is under U.S. sanction, who is the commissioner for child rights for Russia, appears to be the titular head of this program. And we identify officials that report to her at a deputy level and we also identify four regional governors. Those would be the highest officials that we’ve identified, and it’s clear that the human rights office of the Kremlin and the human rights ombudsman officials are intimately involved in this program, both on the adoption side and also on the larger – in terms of what we document in this report – re-education camp side.
Vladimir Putin, as the president of Russia, underneath international war crimes law – the law of armed conflict – has responsibility for what officials who directly report to him and officials at lower levels and independent civil society actors are doing. So he bears clear command and control responsibility whether or not this is being done by proxies acting in the name of Russia.
And it is clear that there have been two changes in Russia’s internal law and administration that have happened simultaneously to this program. One is changes to Russia’s adoption laws, which allow easier adoption – than prior to the invasion – of Ukrainian children. Point one.
Point two is an increase in monthly social security-type allowance to those who adopt or foster these children – up to $200 equivalent a month.
So those actions are state actions to support this program.
Back to you, Doris.
Let’s go to Oskar Gorzynski from the Polish Press Agency.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. So you mentioned that some of the children are taking part in some military, paramilitary training. Can you elaborate on that? And also about the adoption issues, are the kids that are being adopted, are those the ones taken from the orphanages and other state institutions from the occupied areas? Thank you.
MR RAYMOND: I’ll let Caitlin go into detail about military training camps because she knows that material better than anyone on this call. I’ll just say in terms of the adoption, what we have documented in this report is that the group of children, the quote/unquote – to use Russia’s term – “evacuees” from Kharkiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya appear to be the primary group going into the adoption and fostering system. That said, we’ve identified at least, I believe, two camps – and Caitlin, correct me if I’m wrong here – where children who went to these summer camps, some of which were formerly pioneer camps from the days of the Soviet Union going back to Stalin, entered the adoption and fostering system.
And so in one case, we identify disabled children from facilities that were Ukrainian – one Ukrainian facility that then fell under Russian control at the time of the invasion. And so in the Kharkiv, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya group – unlike Donetsk and Luhansk, we’re talking about areas that were under Ukrainian control when Russia invaded. Those facilities were emptied and those children were brought into Russia or Russia-occupied Crimea, and then became part of the fostering and adoption system. Caitlin, over to you on the military training element of Oskar’s question?
MS HOWARTH: Yeah. I would also stress that there were attempts prior – there was work that was done prior to the full-scale invasion as well to identify children that were in state-run institutions in occupied so-called LPR and DPR that were basically pre-identified for deportation to mainland Russia. And those operations were then carried out rapidly in the very early stages of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in those territories. So it’s important to keep in mind that this entire – like, the full scale of this operation has been a part of the invasion from its very earliest moment. There’s been no part of this war where the children have not been a factor, including the most vulnerable children of Ukraine.
For military training, a couple of details are interesting here. So for – at the – one of the camps that’s near Grozny in Chechnya, the course that was taken specifically sort of described as a course for a young fighter, and that took place at the Russian University of Special Forces. So this is not at a – this is not at a facility that would otherwise be used for typical teenage recreation. This is at a military facility with military equipment. The – one of the camps – and this would be the one and Russia-occupied Crimea – is organized by what’s called the Yunarmia movement. And this is – this is important. This is a – sort of a patriotic public movement, so-called, that’s important to be kind of understood as one that has – is all about sort of, like, the indoctrination towards sort of a – of Russian unity movement.
And in that particular context, one person – Vladimir Kovalenko, who’s the chief of staff of the regional branch of Yunarmia in Sevastopol – was present at that camp. And so we see in these instances that some of the training involved – and we do call it training specifically because in these cases it’s not just – it’s not just sort of kids sitting in a classroom and sort of hearing a lecture or a talk by different instructors. It’s actually handling firearms; it’s going over military courses. We have photographic and video footage of them going through obstacle courses, engaging in physical training, sort of, like, handling vehicles, handling weapons, and as we said, being in the presence of some people who we would consider – these are some serious men in the —in armed forces. So for those reasons we certainly take this very seriously.
That being said, we do not have documentation of any deployment of these young boys. So I do want to stress that. That’s one stage that we have not seen.
MR RAYMOND: Thank you. Doris, do we have other questions?
PARTICIPANT: You’re muted, Doris.
MODERATOR: Oops, sorry about that. We will do a final call for questions. If you have a question, please hit the raised hand icon at the bottom of the screen and we’ll be happy to take your question.
And it doesn’t look like we have any other raised hands. So Nathaniel, I’ll throw it back to you for any final closing remarks.
MR RAYMOND: I will keep it very short but clear. These acts that Russia is engaged in, as a whole-of-government approach to the re-education, relocation, and in some cases forced adoption of Ukrainian children, are exactly consistent with those that made up some of the first trials of the Nazis at the Nuremberg tribunal. There is no doubt and there is no confusion in international law about Russia’s actions. They are illegal. They may constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Russia has an obligation to immediately do four things. One, establish an internationally monitored and coordinated and observed – same word as monitored – program of registration for these children so they can be reunited with their families and returned.
Second, the children in their custody from Ukraine should be moved to a neutral third-party country immediately. They should not be bargaining chips in any future peace agreement negotiation, and they should not be in Russia’s custody. They must be in a third-party country. That’s what the law says.
Third, there should be immediate communication established between these children and their families. Families should be able to know where their children are. For those of you on the call who are parents, think about what it would mean for your kid to go to camp and never come back. You would want to know where they are and you would want to hear their voice. Ukraine’s parents deserve the same.
And lastly, international monitors from recognized, mandated international agencies should be able to access these facilities, access these children, and ascertain their status, their health, and ensure that their welfare is being accounted for as they wait to be reunited with their families.
The law is clear; there is no doubt. Russia must act now to fulfill its obligations under treaties, including the Geneva Convention, to which it is party.
Thank you, Doris. Thank you, Foreign Press Center. And have a great day.
MODERATOR: Great. I would like to thank our briefers for taking the time to brief with us today, and to our journalists for participating. This concludes today’s briefing. Thank you.