Alona Lebedieva: we need to unite as soon as possible to return the Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russia

Last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted several resolutions crucial for Ukraine. Among them, it called on member countries of the Council of Europe to recognize the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as genocide. PACE acknowledged Belarus’s involvement in these crimes, and, importantly, delegates emphasized that the protection of children lies in their return to Ukraine, not the other way around.

I am particularly disheartened because if we fail to safeguard our children today, lasting peace will remain unattainable anywhere on this planet“, stated Theodoros Rousopoulos, President of PACE, during the commemoration of Holocaust victims.

The adoption of these resolutions underscores that European policymakers have finally recognized the depth and importance of the issue affecting thousands of Ukrainian children who have been abducted and taken to Russia. Although Russian propaganda presents this as a rescue operation, in reality, through the imposition of citizenship, changing names and surnames, and the illegal adoption of Ukrainian children, they erase the past and re-educate, destroying their identity. This is indeed genocide“, asserts Alona Lebedieva, the founder of the Ukrainian investment-industrial holding Aurum Group and the charitable foundation “AURUM”.

According to Lebedieva’s perspective, “The Assembly’s decision has a deeper meaning. By associating these events with the Memorial Day of the Holocaust victims, they are given more symbolic significance and attention. Therefore, the activation of the Ukrainian government, the establishment of an international coalition for the return of Ukrainian children, participation in the First Lady’s project, and collaboration with influential intermediaries from the Arab world, particularly Qatar, could turn this year into the Year of Bringing Ukrainian Children Home“.

Official data alone indicates that Russia deported approximately 20,000 children – those whose names the Ukrainian authorities managed to identify. In reality, the numbers could be much higher, as it is precisely unknown what is happening in the occupied territories.

A reminder: in April 2023, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution recognizing the deportation and forced displacement of Ukrainian children to the territory of the Russian Federation as genocide. It called on the International Criminal Court to consider the possibility of criminal prosecution for this crime. In October, PACE recognized the Holodomor of 1932-1933 as genocide against the Ukrainian people and urged all parliaments of Council of Europe member states and other parliaments to follow this example”.