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British Queen celebrates

Acting Ambassador Deirdre Brown welcomes the OSCE Moscow Mechanism Report and calls for an immediate end to deportation of Ukrainian children.

Thank you, Mr Chair. I wish to make a statement in my national capacity, to supplement the statement delivered by the Ambassador of Finland.

Dr Hellestveit and Dr Šteinerte - welcome to the Permanent Council. Professor Bilkova - welcome back. Thank you for your expertise, independence and diligence in providing such a comprehensive report on this distressing issue.

Mr Chair, the United Kingdom strongly supported the invocation of the first and second Moscow Mechanisms in Ukraine, which highlighted the truly terrible humanitarian impacts of Russia’s invasion. This third report has further exposed the abhorrent actions carried out at the behest of the Russian Leadership.

While the independent authors of the report were not able to ascertain the exact number of children deported so far, the report indicates figures in the several thousands, with the true figure likely to be far higher. Several thousands of children – taken away from their homes, families and friends – and forcibly placed in strange and unfamiliar environments, exposed to yet more trauma caused by Russia’s inhumane practices.

Mr Chair, the report makes clear that these children were mostly deported without the consent of their parents or guardians. Many were separated from their families at filtration centres, removed from institutions, or simply never returned from so-called ‘recreation camps’. Moreover, the report makes explicit that, in violation of international humanitarian law, there is no functioning mechanism for the reunification of children with their relatives, or repatriation to Ukraine. Rather Russia has created obstacles to the return of these children.

We simply cannot imagine the pain this inflicts on the children, parents and families involved. At one filtration point, Russian forces separated a father from his three children – aged just 12, 7 and 5 years old. The 12 year old was able to contact his father to inform him he had just five days to collect them, or they and their siblings would be placed in an institution or adopted. A single mother sent her son to a so-called ‘recreation camp’, only for the Russian authorities to subsequently refuse to return him. The mother was forced instead to travel to Russia twice before the Russian authorities would release her son. These are just two stories of thousands. Many families still do not know the whereabouts of their children at all.

Mr Chair. Russia’s intention is clear. It is attempting to forcibly and permanently alter the demographic makeup of Ukraine. It is attempting to erase Ukrainian identity and culture, and it is attempting to erase Ukraine’s future. The independent authors of the report received numerous reports suggesting children in the temporarily Russian-controlled territories and, especially in the Russian Federation, are exposed to pro-Russian information campaigns often amounting to targeted re-education.

Moreover, the report outlines the clear steps Russia has taken to simplify the process for changing the citizenship of orphaned or unaccompanied Ukrainian children. We are deeply concerned that the easing of requirements for obtaining Russian citizenship may be used to facilitate adoptions.

Mr Chair, the report concluded that the Russian Federation has committed numerous and overlapping violations of the rights of the children deported, including their right to identity, family, education and liberty. Russia must immediately cease the practice of forcible transfer or deportation of Ukrainian children to temporarily Russian-controlled territories and to the Russian Federation. We demand immediate, safe and unfettered access of humanitarian organisations to all places were children who have been forcibly transferred or deported are residing. We demand the immediate return of all affected Ukrainian children. And, we vow to Ukraine’s children and their families, that the UK will do all in our power to ensure those responsible face justice.