Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The EU has swiftly and resolutely reacted in an unprecedented display of unity and unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. The EU Temporary Protection Directive offered immediate support to Ukrainian refugees – of whom children comprised the overwhelming majority, among other tools.
After a year the conflict sparked, and the war in Ukraine is putting a huge strain on children and youth, shrinking children and youth’s perspective on their future, looming over their hopes of reaching their full potential. Since the beginning of the war, at least 437 children have been killed, and over 740 injured.
We have also seen children being often the target of an invasive – and even deviant – strategy by the Russian soldier.
In a resemblance of what seems to amount to a full-scale ethnic cleansing, the crimes against children – with over 6,000 Ukrainian children abducted from Russian soldiers and forcibly deported to Russia, suggest a long-term plan by Putin to wipe out the Ukrainian identity, conquer the entirety of the country and make space for a new indoctrination. The Russian government authorities are operating at least 43 facilities where these children are supposedly being “re-educated” to become Russian citizens. Other Ukrainian children have forcibly been sent for adoption into Russian families, traumatized by the war and the separation from their families
The number of children abducted is appalling and it contravenes all International Treaties. As the European Parliament emphasized in its resolution on “One year of Russia’s invasion and war of aggression against Ukraine” of 16 February 2023, forcibly transferring children of one group to another group constitutes a crime of genocide according to Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Children should never suffer the consequences of the decisions made by adults and should never be a target.
There is an entire generation of children on the line and we cannot silently be complicit and accept the status quo.
The images of the brutal attack on a civilian residential apartment complex in Dnipro – where also a child perished – with half of the floor hanging are a testament to the turn this conflict had made and the atrocities of this war are sparing no one, impacting the daily lives of millions of Ukrainians, going inside their homes!
There is a real humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our eyes, right at our doorsteps. We cannot see this as mere collateral damage – we cannot tacitly accept this brutal violence against children at the hands of adults. We have a duty to protect them, if we fail children, we fail our societies.
While most of the efforts are nowadays concentrated on the military support Ukraine needs from the EU and the rest of the Western Allies, it is of paramount importance we do not turn a blind eye to the human tragedy of this whole conflict. The international community as a whole should intervene and hold those responsible for the children’s abductions accountable. It is essential that the entire international community joins forces – from policy-makers, legislators (at all levels), and civil society organizations – to ensure that children are not forgotten and we lay out a concrete plan that ensures all children in Ukraine are given a real chance to excel in life and reach their full potential.
It is crucial that as the EU, and all the EU Member States, we unite in vehemently condemning the repeated war crimes and indiscriminate violence perpetrated at the hand of the Russian troops against civilians. We, therefore, call for the immediate release of these children and for reunification with their families in Ukraine. Russian officials who are responsible for the forced displacement, deportation, or forced adoption of Ukrainian children, must be placed on the EU sanctions list.
As one full year of conflict has already passed, with almost no signs of distension in near future, the EU is now called to show leadership to address the specific plight of Ukrainian children, making sure we are leaving no one behind. It is our duty to provide these children with concrete answers, and to build a system in which children are properly protected and accurately heard.