Ukraine's First Lady calls for return of abducted children

The First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska speaks during an event organized by Brigitte magazine after the presentation of the book and audiobook project "Better Time Stories" at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, issued an appeal on 01 February for the international community to do more to ensure the return of Ukrainian children allegedly taken to Russia illegally during the current war. Sebastian Gollnow/Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH/dpa
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Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, issued an appeal on Thursday for the international community to do more to ensure the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia illegally during the current war.

Speaking at a two-day international conference in Riga entitled "Russia's War on Children," Zelenska said: "We have to do more."

All countries and all international organizations could help to recover children abducted to Russia, she said.

According to Daria Herasymchuk, Zelensky's representative for children's rights and rehabilitation, Ukraine has identified 20,000 children that were taken to Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.

They have data on the children, of whom only a few hundred have been returned to date.

Zelenska said Ukraine would fight for each of its stolen children, irrespective of the resources required.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs accused Russia of destroying the identities of Ukrainian children and causing severe emotional and psychological trauma. These acts represented a violation of human rights under international law and could be seen as war crimes, he said.

Nine Ukrainian children who have returned to Ukraine from Russia since the start of the war are at the conference, detailing their experiences to the participants.

"I am here today to help bring back all children as soon as possible with my story," one said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children's rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, in connection with the disappearances.