The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution calling on European leaders to make all efforts to return Ukrainian children abducted by Russia home, the Council of Europe's press service said on Jan. 25.
Since February 2022, over 19,500 Ukrainian children have been identified as abducted from Russian-occupied territories and sent to Russia, Belarus, or other Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian national database on child abductees. Only 388 of them have been able to return home.
PACE adopted the resolution unanimously based on the report by the Ukrainian representative in the assembly, Olena Khomenko. The document calls on national parliaments of European countries to recognize the abduction as genocide and on the international community to help Ukraine retrieve the children.
The resolution text reads that "all Ukrainian children have the right to enjoy the rights and freedoms enshrined in relevant international human rights instruments."
The document further emphasized that "the best interests of the child must prevail in all decision-making processes concerning them," reinforcing the principle that children should never be used as "a means of exerting pressure or as war trophies."
PACE also expressed gratitude to European countries that provided shelter and assistance to Ukrainian children fleeing Russian aggression.
Addressing the assembly online, Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska asked national parliaments "to join in order to force Russia to comply with at least the Geneva Conventions and immediately provide comprehensive lists with the names and whereabouts of all Ukrainian children who have been illegally deported."
The assembly said in April 2023 that Russia's forced abduction of Ukrainian children shows evidence of genocide.
In November 2023, PACE established a commission on the protection of Ukrainian children affected by Russian aggression.