Mar 16, 2023, 10:04am EDT

Russia’s transfer of Ukrainian children constitutes a war crime, UN report says

A war crime prosecutor inspects a basement where prosecutor's office says 30 people were held for two months during the Russian occupation, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kherson, Ukraine December 20, 2022.
REUTERS/Anna Voitenko/File Photo

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Russia’s large-scale transfer and deportation of children from Ukraine amounts to a war crime, according to a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses during the war.

In a new report released Thursday, the U.N.‘s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine found that Russian authorities “have committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law.”

In addition to the transfers of children, evidence showed other Russian war crimes include attacks on civilians and energy infrastructure, unlawful confinement, torture, and sexual violence, according to the report.

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Researchers at Yale University found that over 6,000 children, ranging from 4 months to 17 years old, could be in Russia’s custody, across at least 43 children’s camps.

“They are basically moving children from one group to another for the intentional erasure of their national or ethnic identity,” Nathaniel Raymond, a war crimes investigator and Yale professor, told Semafor last month.

Russia promotes the camps on social media as a humanitarian program.

But the UN report found that “many of the younger children transferred were not able to establish contact with their families and might lose contact with them indefinitely.”

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The UN investigators visited 56 places and interviewed nearly 600 people.

One man, who said his father was killed by Russian forces in Ukraine's Izium region, told the commission: "They punished innocent people; now those who are guilty, if they are still alive, need to be punished to the fullest extent."

The report also found that Ukrainian forces committed "a small number of violations," including possible indiscriminate attacks and two cases where Russian prisoners of war were shot and tortured. Those incidents qualify as war crimes, the report said.