Russian leader Vladimir Putin signed a decree that will facilitate granting Russian citizenship to deported Ukrainian children, which, in turn, will allow for adopting them as Russians and changing their identity, Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on Jan. 5.
The Ukrainian authorities have identified over 19,000 Ukrainian children who have been illegally deported to Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. Only 387 children have been brought back so far, according to the national database Children of War.
The decree signed on Jan. 4 states that Ukrainian orphans and children left without parental care can receive Russian citizenship by Putin's personal decision without taking into account all or some requirements of federal legislation.
A citizenship application for such a child can be submitted by their legal guardian or the head of a Russian organization responsible for the child.
According to Lubinets, Russia aims to grant Russian citizenship to more of the deported Ukrainian children so that they don't de-jure count as Ukrainians remaining on their territory anymore.
"It (the decree) means that for deported Ukrainian children who are currently in Russian institutions or under the care of Russian families, Russian citizens can submit applications for accession to citizenship, which Putin will satisfy without any demands," Lubinets said on Telegram.
"We understand the terrible consequences of such actions because the next step after they receive the 'citizenship' of the Russian Federation will be the adoption of children as Russians, and after that - the change of their personal data."
In late November, Lubinets confirmed the first recorded case of a changed identity of a Ukrainian child illegally adopted by a Russian citizen.
Originally named Marharyta Prokopenko, the child was abducted from a children's home in then-occupied Kherson, adopted by a Russian lawmaker's family, granted Russian citizenship, and renamed Marina Mironova. Her birthplace was purportedly changed in the records as Russian Podolsk.
"In one moment, it may happen that not a single Ukrainian child will remain in the Russian Federation because all of them may become Russians within the next 3 months," added Lubinets in his Jan. 5 post.
He emphasized that the forced transfer of children from one national group to another is a sign of genocide.