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Head of the Estonian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Liisa Pakosta called on the parliaments of the member states of the PACE to condemn Russia’s activities in deporting Ukrainian children and demand the immediate release and safe return of these children to Ukraine.

Pakosta said in her speech at the Winter Session of the PACE that the situation was very grave and demanded the immediate and unified action of states. “In recent times, we have witnessed the harrowing plight of the Ukrainian children falsely deported from their homeland to Russia and Belarus. We should not forget that these innocent children have been deeply traumatised and have had to experience violence, trauma, destruction, and displacement for a very long time. The tragedy is so vast that we do not even know the exact number of deported children,” she said at the debate on the situation of the children of Ukraine.

Pakosta pointed out that the aim of Russia’s criminal policy was to forcibly change the children’s identity and assimilate them in order to make them to forget about their homeland Ukraine, and not to be able to return to their families. “This act, which is a flagrant violation of international law and an offence against the dignity of these young lives, is nothing less than a war crime and a violation of the very essence of humanity” she stated.

The Head of the Estonian delegation said at the PACE plenary session that the Parliament of Estonia the Riigikogu took a firm stand against these atrocities. “We condemn the systematic deliberate actions of Russia and Belarus in this unlawful deportation, as well as Russia’s decision to grant citizenship to Ukrainian children under a simplified procedure,” she said, and called on the parliaments of other European countries to stand together in a unified response. “We must stand together to condemn these acts, to demand the immediate release and safe return of these innocent children to Ukraine.”

Pakosta acknowledged the efforts of the International Criminal Court to bring those responsible to justice, in particular the arrest warrants issued in March last year for the President of the Russian Federation and Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights. “Let us not forget that impunity only breeds more injustice. It is our duty, in the spirit of the values that bind us as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to ensure that such atrocities do not go unpunished,” she said, and also called on supporting the 10-point peace plan proposed by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which includes the return of children deported to Russia and Belarus.

Spouse of the President of Ukraine Ms Olena Zelenska also spoke at the debate on the situation of children deported from Ukraine, and Pakosta repeated her call for acting together in her speech.

This week, the Winter Session of the PACE also discussed the conclusions from observing the parliamentary elections in Serbia, Hamas terror attack against Israel and Israel’s response, as well as OECD’s role since Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine. In addition, there was debate on the democratic future of Belarus, with a speech by the leader of the democratic opposition of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The Assembly elected Theodoros Rousopoulos as its new President, and Michael O’Flaherty was elected as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

At the meetings held during this week, the members of the Estonian delegation expressed their full support to the candidacy of the long-term member of the Estonian delegation to PACE Indrek Saar to the position of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe at the elections to be held this June. Other candidates to the position are Didier Reynders and Alain Berset.

The Estonian delegation to the Winter Session the PACE was made up of its head Liisa Pakosta, member Eerik-Niiles Kross, and substitute member Reili Rand.

Riigikogu Press Service
Karin Kangro
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