Moscow says Russia scheduled a Security Council meeting on the issue long before an international arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin was issued.
Russia plans to hold an informal UN Security Council meeting in early April on what it said is “the real situation” of Ukrainian children brought to Russia.
The announcement follows the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in connection with the alleged kidnapping of Ukrainian children.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told a news conference Monday that Moscow had scheduled the council meeting long before Friday’s announcement by the ICC. Russia holds the rotating presidency of the Council in April.
The court said it sought Putin’s arrest because he is “allegedly responsible for the war crime of the unlawful deportation of (children) and that of the unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.
The announcement of the arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, was welcomed by Ukraine as a first step towards accountability for crimes following the February 2022 invasion.
It was rejected by Moscow, which is not one of the 123 countries party to the court, calling the action “legally void” and “outrageous”.
On Monday, Russia’s top investigative body opened a criminal case against the ICC prosecutor and judges, saying there were no grounds for criminal liability on the part of Putin, and that the heads of state enjoyed absolute immunity under a 1973 UN convention .
A report from the UN Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine on Thursday said there was evidence of the illegal transfer of hundreds of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The committee said that both parents and children encountered many obstacles in establishing contact, with the burden placed primarily on the children. Young children are unlikely to make contact. It concluded that the forced deportations “contrary to international humanitarian law and amount to a war crime”.
The Ukrainian government has said that 16,221 children have been brought to Russia since the start of the war.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan was quoted by the Courthouse News Service as telling Russia at a conference of justice ministers from more than 30 countries in London on Monday: “Give back the children, repatriate the children.”
Russia’s Nebenzia called the issue “totally exaggerated” and said Moscow wants to explain to the Security Council meeting that they were brought to Russia around April 6 “simply because we wanted to protect them from the danger that military activity may entail.” .
Nebenzia was asked if Russia intended to return the children. “If the conditions are safe, of course. Why not?” replied the Russian envoy.