Foreign minister Hanke Bruins Slot spoke with Ukrainian children abducted by Russia

Russia has abducted thousands of children from occupied areas in Ukraine. On 14 September Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke with Ukrainian children who had been unlawfully deported to Russia.

Russia’s deportation of children

Since the start of the war, Russia has abducted thousands of Ukrainian children from Ukraine. Russia’s intention is to break the children’s connection with their Ukrainian families, identity, language and culture. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children.

Ukrainian delegation in the Netherlands

As part of the Stolen Voices Advocacy Tour, Ukrainian representatives were in the Netherlands for a three-day visit. Their aim is to increase attention about the abductions among international organisations and decision-makers so that they put greater pressure on Russia to let the children go home to their loved ones.

On 14 September Ms Bruins Slot met with a Ukrainian delegation consisting of Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian ombudsman, Daria Herasymchuk, presidential adviser for children’s rights, and six Ukrainian children between the ages of 11 and 17 who had been kidnapped by Russia in the past year and a half. These six children have since been reunited with their families, but they are among the few fortunate ones.

Minister speaks with Ukrainian children who were abducted

At the Children’s Book Museum in The Hague, Ms Bruins Slot spoke with the children and listened to their harrowing accounts. The children were accompanied by an interpreter/psychologist.

The Netherlands to make DNA kits available

During the meeting with the Ukrainian delegation Ms Bruins Slot announced the Netherlands’ intention to support Ukraine with the new DNA reunification project. The Netherlands wants to help Ukraine set up a DNA database by providing rapid DNA test kits. The database will make it possible to more quickly identify the families of abducted children who are brought back from Russia, so that they can be reunited with their families as fast as possible. The project will also contribute to the collection of evidence of the deportations, enabling prosecution for war crimes before the courts, including the International Criminal Court.

Ms Bruins Slot: ‘Russia has kidnapped thousands of Ukrainian children since its invasion of Ukraine. It is a deliberate tactic of unprecedented cruelty that destroys families. These children must not be forgotten. It is vital that they are reunited with their families. The Netherlands can help Ukraine do this by providing DNA test kits.’

Other ways the Netherlands is helping Ukraine

The Netherlands is deeply concerned about the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia. It is helping Ukraine to combat this by contributing to investigations, imposing sanctions on people involved in the abductions, providing support for bringing the children home, and continuing to call international attention to this matter. The Netherlands also continues to support Ukraine in various other ways.

On 30 March 2023, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) launched a mission of experts to investigate the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia. The Netherlands supported this mission, together with Germany. The mission’s task was to collect new, independent data about the deportation of children. The Netherlands was part of the working group for the mission and contributed financially. The mission confirmed in its report of 4 May 2023 that Russian has deported a large number of Ukrainian children and that some cases may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.