Onysiia Syniuk: Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia must be returned as soon as possible to avoid influence of propaganda

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On May 31, Kyiv hosted the conference “UA: War. Unsung Lullaby” timed to Children’s Day. Onysiia Syniuk, legal analyst at Human Rights Centre ZMINA, became one of the speakers during the session dedicated to the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia. 

Syniuk said that not only Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, for whom the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants, were involved in the deportation of children, but also others: 

These are also representatives of the State Duma who are involved in this process. These are representatives of the government, both federal and of individual regions which contribute to the transfer of children most, in particular, Moscow region. These are also the heads of occupation administrations in the occupied territories of Ukraine who facilitate the displacement and transfer of children to Russian families.” 

The lawyer also said that all these measures were planned and started immediately after the occupation of Crimea and other territories of Ukraine, i.e., since 2014. 

These measures, in particular, include education: a complete replacement of a Ukrainian curriculum with a Russian one; replacement of educational materials with Russian instead of Ukrainian; prohibition of teaching Ukrainian and limited study of it in the occupied territories; replacement of teaching staff with those loyal to the new government,” Syniuk gave examples. 

Another very important aspect she drew attention to is the urgency of returning children: 

The sooner we can get our children back, the lower influence of Russian propaganda there will be. After all, some of the children may be under the influence of that propaganda and believe in the myths about Bandera [leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in the 20th century] followers and Ukrainian Nazis.” 

Then, the human rights activist notes, it will be necessary to rehabilitate these children and integrate them back into the Ukrainian environment. It will be necessary to explain to children what actually happened. And parents or guardians or custodians should join this process. 

All these people should be aware of how to talk to these children, how to explain to them what exactly happened. That a crime was committed against them, that their rights were violated. That is, to explain, clarify,” Syniuk said. 

Watch the video from the event here.