First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska has appealed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and the United Nations as a whole, to help bring children abducted from the occupied territories back from Russia and home to Ukraine.
Details: Zelenska said over 19,500 Ukrainian children have been deported or forcibly removed by Russia: "And these are only the cases we know about for certain, because it seems that there may be hundreds of thousands of such children."
She recalled that the Office of the Prosecutor General has recorded 231 cases of sexual violence committed by the Russian military against civilians, including 13 children, 12 girls and one boy. The youngest victim at the time of the crime was just four years old.
The First Lady noted that Ukraine has lost 504 children, and hundreds more have suffered injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
More than 3,700 schools in Ukraine have been destroyed. Half of Ukraine’s children are forced to study remotely, and a third have lost their homes or left them to become internally displaced persons within Ukraine or abroad.
Zelenska called for help to obtain data on children abducted by Russia, to stop them from being assimilated and forced into Russian citizenship, and to get children out of the occupied territories through special safe corridors.
So far, Ukraine has managed to bring back only 386 abducted children, and they all say the same thing, Zelenska said.
Quote: "They were told that their parents didn’t need them. That nobody needs them. That their country doesn't need them. That no one is looking for them... The abducted children were told that they were no longer children of Ukraine, but children of Russia, that Ukraine never existed and never will exist, that it is part of Russia. That they should love Russia, not their homeland.
Taking this opportunity, I appeal to the UN Secretary-General and the entire Organisation: help us save Ukrainian children. On behalf of all the children of Ukraine, I ask you to make personal efforts so that they won’t suffer anymore, so that this terrifying counter [counting the growing number of abducted children] stops.
Our children need justice, because everything that is happening is not the random crime of an individual criminal. This is a deliberate policy of the aggressors, and we are calling on the entire democratic world to ensure that the war criminals are punished."