Von der Leyen pledges to help return Ukrainian children

The European Commission and Poland will organize an international conference to help find some 16,000 Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia.

“Our aim is to put pressure on the international community to make every effort to find out where the children are,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the EU summit in Brussels. Thursday March 23.

  • Von der Leyen at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

“It’s a horrifying reminder of the darkest times in our history,” she said. “It’s something particularly important to me,” she added.

It was “an act of extraordinary barbarism”, also declared Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

“The European Commission realizes that Poland can be the best partner to bring this issue to the international level. The Ukrainian side has also asked us for this,” he added.

Russia has taken some 16,200 Ukrainian children in the past 12 months as part of its terror campaign, according to Ukraine, of whom only 300 have returned home so far.

The EU-Polish project will also rely on UN agencies to track them down and try to extract them from adoptive families and Russian foster homes.

The international conference, the details of which are not yet public, will be “just the beginning of very, very hard work,” von der Leyen said.

The EU is also preparing an 11th round of sanctions against Russia, she confirmed.

“The 11th package (of sanctions) will mainly deal with the issue of circumvention (of sanctions) and how we can address it,” she said.

An EU special envoy was already touring third countries supposedly helping Russia obtain banned technologies, she added.

But beyond the counter-circumvention, Estonia also said the EU should target more Russian banks and oligarchs.

Finland says more family members of Russia’s elite should be listed, while Lithuania wants to go after Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom.

Existing EU sanctions already cover Russian officials involved in the child abduction scheme.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague last week issued a personal arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the stolen children.

German authorities have said they will arrest Putin if he lands on their territory, prompting former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to launch new nuclear threats against Berlin on Thursday.

But von der Leyen, who is a former German defense minister, appeared unfazed by Moscow’s slashing after her meeting with the EU.

“It’s a war crime,” she said of Putin’s child abductions. “These criminal actions fully justify the arrest warrant issued by the ICC,” she said.


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