The meeting was initiated by Russia and was chaired by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya. The speakers for Russia were Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Donetsk People’s Republic Darya Morozova, Adviser on Children’s Rights to the Acting Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Eleonora Fedorenko, Head of the Children’s Division of the Donetsk Republican Trauma Centre Yevgeny Zhilitsyn, and Alexei Petrov, Adviser to the Office of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights and head of the Into the Hands of Children humanitarian drive.
Maria Lvova-Belva expressed hope that the high-level meeting on this international platform would promote a constructive discussion of the facts rather than speculation and unsubstantiated allegations, because Russia, unlike Ukraine, is not using children for propaganda purposes. In this connection, she described absolutely unacceptable situations when the children who remained in Russia were subjected to pressure and persecution by Ukraine, asked to make duplicitous videos and lured out of Russia through blackmail.
The Commissioner pointed out that since February 2022 over 5 million people, including over 730,000 children, had gone to Russian regions from Ukraine and the Donbass republics. About 2,000 of these children lived in orphanages and went to Russia with orphanage directors and staff at the request of the heads of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. A considerable number of these children have returned to their orphanages, about 400 children have been moved to orphanages across Russia because of continuing Ukrainian shelling attacks, and 358 have been assigned to Russian foster families. Also, 22 children from Mariupol have been tentatively assigned to foster families. They have not been formally adopted.
In addition, the Office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner is working energetically to reunite the families that have been divided due to the hostilities, which includes returning children to relatives in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and other Ukrainian regions from recreation centres in the Krasnodar Territory and the Republic of Crimea. For example, nine families have been reunited through the office’s efforts, which means that 16 children have been returned to their parents.
The Commissioner noted that she was in touch with international organisations on issues of assistance for children in conditions of the special military operation. During her previous meetings with the representatives of UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross, she provided full information about the displaced children and explained the situation with their family placement. Every possible assistance is being given to reunite families.
Maria Lvova-Belova pointed out that there was absolutely no official contact with Ukrainian representatives. Instead, untenable allegations have been made about the Russian Office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner in the media and social networks, which have become an integral part of the campaign to discredit Russia. She said this was nothing more than an attempt to camouflage the Ukrainian authorities’ irresponsible actions regarding children. Since 2014, Ukraine has not done anything to protect the rights of children in Donbass.
Vasily Nebenzya outlined the main goal of the informal meeting as unmasking the glaring double standards of the collective West, dispelling the myths promoted by the Western and Ukrainian media, and providing objective first-hand information on the evacuation of children from Donbass and measures being taken to ensure their safety, life and well-being. He pointed out that Kiev, which had disregarded its responsibility for protecting children since 2014, was cynically using that subject in its anti-Russia information warfare, whereas Russia had not practiced forced adoption, had not prevented children from maintaining contacts and interacting with their families and dear ones, and had tried to reunite them.
Information about the activities of the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in conditions of the special miliary operation is available in full on the website in a bulletin prepared by the Commissioner’s Office.