EU chief Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday her intention to organize a conference to ensure the return to their homeland of Ukrainian children taken to Russia during the military invasion.
“It is a terrible reminder of the darkest times in our history, of what happens there with the deportation of children. It is a war crime,” she said after a summit of European leaders .
Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, charging him with war crimes in connection with the deportation of Ukrainian children.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia since the invasion, which began on February 24, 2022, according to Kiev, many of whom have been placed in boarding schools and foster families.
Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she would work with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to mobilize international support for their return.
“To date, we are aware of 16,200 deported children, of whom only 300 have returned, and these criminal acts fully justify the arrest warrants issued by the ICC,” she said. – We are at the very beginning of a very hard work, we are trying to combine international pressure to take all possible measures to establish the fate of these children. And we strive to help United Nations bodies and relevant international organizations obtain better and more complete information on children deported to Russia.
Von der Leyen noted that this includes children “who were later adopted or transferred to Russian foster families.”
Von der Leyen also thanked UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who addressed 27 EU leaders at the summit, offering to support UN agencies in the effort.
On Thursday, European Union leaders held talks with António Guterres on global food security and sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, and endorsed a plan to send more shells. artillery in Kiev.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the bloc wanted to “ensure that Russia’s terrible war of aggression against Ukraine does not lead to global food insecurity”.
“We have to ensure that grain exports, for example from Ukraine, can continue,” he said.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has opposed the easing of sanctions against Moscow under the grain deal and called for a tightening of the price cap on Russian oil exports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy , who joined the summit via video link, called on Europe to speed up and increase the supply of weapons, including longer-range missiles and modern aircraft, and to impose additional sanctions on Russia. Zelenskyyy added that otherwise the war would drag on.
“If Europe hesitates, the forces of evil may have time to regroup and prepare for a multi-year war,” he said in a video message recorded on the train, which he said. , was heading towards the Kherson region, which the Ukrainian Armed Forces were able to recapture from the invaders.
The United States has opposed Russian demands to ease Western sanctions, saying there are no restrictions on the supply of Russian agricultural products or fertilizers.
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