Thousands of Ukrainian children are missing, having been taken by Russian troops since the invasion began last year, and there are conflicting reports about what has happened to them.
A Monday report from the UN Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine found a significant lack of clarification regarding the removal of children from their country, including the exact number of children who have been taken so far and where they are now. The lack of clarification regarding the number and circumstances of children transferred may hinder an expeditious return process, according to the UN report.
While Kremlin officials claim that they are'saving' the children by removing them from their homes, international watchdogs have called for the forcible removal of Ukrainian children, including infants as young as four months old, a war crime.
As a result of the war, Yale School of Public Health estimates the number of children displaced or deported since the war began in the hundreds of thousands, including at least 6,000 children who have been held in a series of Russian camps and forced to undergo're-education' programs to make their personal and political views more pro-Russian. The number of children taken is likely significantly higher because Russian forces have targeted Ukrainian orphanages and other vulnerable populations, according to the Yale report.
Russia operates at least 43 known sites dedicated to providing're-education,' military training, and pro-Russia academic instruction to Ukrainian children forcibly removed from their homes, the Yale report said.
Children rescued from the camps describe being forced to listen to the Russian national anthem repeatedly, being forced to listen to the Russian national anthem repeatedly, and being lied to and told their parents abandoned them, according to Firsthand accounts collected by the project compiled by Ukraine's Ministry of Reintegration of Temporary Occupied Territories, established in 2016 following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
A previous report reported that some children taken against their will by Russian troops ended up being placed for adoption in Russia, where the process has been expedited to rush the stolen children through the system.
In recent months, UN representatives of various countries have echoed Biden's outrage, including Japan, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Albania.
Albania's representative at the UN, Ferit Hoxa, called the deportations an audacious bid to dismantle its future of Ukraine, saying Moscow has failed to convince the world that their re-education camps and forced adoptions are, as portrayed, humanitarian actions.
Representatives for Ukraine's Minister of Defense, the Government of the Russian Federation, and the UN Committee of Inquiry on Ukraine did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia, which does not recognize the court's authority, called the move meaningless and opened its own criminal cases against ICC prosecutors and judges on Monday.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court identifies the forcible transfer of a nation or ethnic group's children to another as genocide. Even though international law prohibits the transfer of children, enforcement is scarce.
The ICC has issued 40 arrest warrants since its inception in 2002 - the two most recent against Russia's Presidential Commission for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova and Putin himself - but only 10 convictions have been issued.