Baltic statement at UNSC Arria meeting on “Addressing the Abduction and Deportation of Children During Armed Conflict”

77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

At the UN Security Council Arria-formula Meeting on:

“Addressing the Abduction and Deportation of Children During Armed Conflict: Concrete Steps for Accountability and Prevention”

Statement by H.E. Andrejs PildegoviČs

on behalf of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

28 April 2023, New York

Mr. Chair,

I am speaking on behalf of the Baltic states –Estonia, Lithuania and my own country Latvia. I thank the Permanent Missions of Albania, France, and the United States for continuously raising this issue and all the briefers for their comprehensive presentations.

We align ourselves with the statement by the European Union.

Ongoing conflicts pose an immediate threat to the lives and well-being of countless children across the globe: in Sudan, Nigeria, DRC, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere. We strongly support ongoing efforts to protect children in armed conflicts and uphold their rights.

By forcibly removing children from their homes and families, Russian Federation not only violates their fundamental rights to security, family life, and a sense of belonging but is actively erasing their Ukrainian identity, inflicting inconceivable emotional and psychological trauma. On top of that, Russia proudly exhibits its actions on a global stage. We condemn in the strongest terms a decree signed yesterday by Russian president Vladimir Putin that allows the deportation of residents of illegally annexed Ukrainian territories who refuse Russian citizenship – another vile act that will impact innocent citizens lives, including those of children.

Couple of days ago we read news reports on children who have been sent from the Russian-occupied Ukrainian district of Vasylivka to a so-called “recreation camp” in Belarus. The evidence indicates that the scale of efforts to abduct and transfer children from Ukraine is staggering. The Ukrainian government estimates nearly 20,000 children have been illegally deported to Russia, Belarus or forcibly relocated within the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Precise number is hard to come by due to Russia’s incompliance with international norms. In its latest report, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine established that forced transfers of Ukrainian children were not justified by safety or medical reasons either, which thus violates international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime.

International community needs to make every effort to condemn Russia’s illegal acts against children and demand accountability, including from its accomplice Belarus. Issuance of the ICC arrest warrants against Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, is a welcome step closer to achieving accountability and sustainable justice. We fully support the investigation by the Prosecutor of the ICC. We should explore all legal means to ensure that Russian assets are used to compensate for all material and moral damage caused by the aggression.

More must be done to ensure that Russia returns these children to their parents and guardians, provide registration lists of the children it has removed and allow independent observers unimpeded access to the facilities within Russian-controlled or temporarily occupied areas of Ukraine and in Russia. We must ensure consistency across the UN system with coherent data on forcibly deported and adopted children as well as constant attention to this issue by all relevant agencies and international community. There must be concrete steps taken – the UN needs to demand the data, distribute and share it properly within the UN system, including within UNICEF, Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, OHCHR. Relevant agencies must try to establish the contacts with the institutions in charge of the transferred children. Let me conclude by asking, how can we ramp up efforts to locate missing children and ensure their return?

I thank you.