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Putin treats international law like ‘toilet paper’, says Kyiv’s top official ahead of peace summit

Putin treats international law like ‘toilet paper’, says Kyiv’s top official ahead of peace summit

Vladimir Putin has been criticised for treating international humanitarian law like “toilet paper” as a key peace summit focused on the abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children by Russia begins.

Almost 20,000 children are known to have been forcibly abducted from the occupied territories of Ukraine, though the true figure is believed to be much higher.

The move prompted the international criminal court to issue arrest warrants for both Putin and his children’s right’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova.

The horrific practice will be raised at the summit, which will also discuss food and nuclear security, which is taking place in Switzerland.

Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are among those attending. US president Joe Biden will not be attending, opting instead to go to a campaign fundraiser in California ahead of the presidential election this November, but vice president Kamala Harris and national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s top foreign policy aide, will be there.

Russia has not been invited. China, meanwhile, a key ally of Moscow, has refused to go.

To co-incide with the summit,The Independent is publishing a special report revealing that some of the kidnapped children, including then 12-year-old Bogdan Shvetzov and teenager Anastasiia Motychak, have been subjected to physical abuse, humiliation and threats of imprisonment after being taken to camps away from their homes.

Bogdan Shvetzov, who was just 12 when he was forcibly deported to Crimea, is seen here reunited with his mother in Kyiv seven months after they were separated
Bogdan Shvetzov, who was just 12 when he was forcibly deported to Crimea, is seen here reunited with his mother in Kyiv seven months after they were separated (Save Ukraine )

The Independent has previously reported on the vulnerable and disabled being taken to Russia.

Dmyrto Lubinets, Ukraine’s human rights commissioner and ombudsman for children, said Putin had shown complete disregard for international law.

Mr Lubinets, who is in charge of securing the youngsters’ release, told The Independent Russia has consistently blocked their return: “For Russians, the system of international humanitarian law is like, I’m sorry, it’s like toilet paper.

“They don’t see anything concrete, some powerful agreement or document. They see toilet paper.”

Russia claims it is doing the right thing, with children’s commissioner Lvova-Belova insisting it has “rescued” more than 744,000 Ukrainian children.

But The Independent’s special report has revealed that some of the kidnapped children have been offered money by Russian officials to then move to Russia, renounce their Ukrainian identity and take a Russian passport.

At least one orphan, a 10-month-year-old girl, is known to have been abducted from southern Ukraine and adopted by a senior Russian politician, Sergey Mironov. That child, whose real name is Margarita Prokopenko, had her identity and birthplace changed by Mironov and his wife.

Daria Herasymchuk, the advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on children’s rights, said many of the children have been moved to “every corner of Russia”, sometimes thousands of miles from their homes in Ukraine. “Russia is trying to destroy the future of Ukraine,” she said.

Mr Lubinets said they “don’t know how to stop this deportation” without additional support from their international partners, nor “how to bring the Russians to justice”.

“We have no real system of protection and human rights in the modern world,” he said. “The main challenge for us is how to receive information from the Russian side.”

In the case of Margarita, Mr Lubinets said he sent, via two mediators, an official letter from the girl’s sister proving who she was to the Russian officials, but Moscow simply ignored the message.

“We did not hear anything back from the Russian side. No arguments. Nothing. They have done everything they can to block the return of Margarita,” he said.

Margarita’s case was just one of thousands in which Russia has blocked their return, he added.

An international coalition has been convened to help broker the return of Ukraine’s kidnapped children – a 38th country, from South America, will become the latest addition to the group this weekend, Ms Herasymchuk confirmed – but while Russia remains a permanent member of the United Nations’ security council, the top body of the international organisation, both Mr Lubinets and Mr Zelensky’s advisor believe Russia will never truly be punished.

“How can we stop the deportation of Ukrainian children?” Mr Lubinets said. “I think we have only one real way of stopping it. That is the liberation of all temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”

Mr Lubinets was also sceptical about the sanctions imposed against Moscow as he claimed Russia had consistently violated the human rights of Ukrainian civilians without fear of serious repercussions.

“How can we believe in sanctions when we see the position of Iran, for example,” he said.

“Iran has been under sanctions for more than 30 years. And what? They produced a lot of weapons, then they sold them to Russia. Now Russia uses these weapons to kill Ukraine.

“Sanctions? Really? We must be realistic. We live in a situation where powerful countries can occupy territories in other countries without any punishment. This is the real situation of the modern world. “


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