The US State Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on 13 people and entities it said are reportedly connected to the forced deportation and transfer of Ukraine’s children, as Washington ramps up pressure on Moscow over its invasion.
The United States is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on three Russia-installed purported authorities over their involvement in human rights abuses of Ukrainian minors, the State Department said in a statement.
“Together with our partners in Europe, we are supporting Ukraine in their fight for freedom now and we will help them over the long term,” US President Joe Biden pledged in a statement on Thursday marking Ukraine’s Independence Day.
Ukraine’s government estimates that Russian authorities have deported and/or forcibly displaced over 19,500 children from their homes since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Among those hit with sanctions on Thursday was Artek, which the State Department said is a Russian government-owned “‘summer camp’ located in Russia-occupied Crimea.”
The State Department said Artek has received Ukrainian children who are then placed in “‘patriotic’ re-education programs” and are prevented from returning to their families. Artek’s director was also among those sanctioned on Thursday.
Also targeted was the advisor to the governor of Belgorod, the commissioners for children’s rights in the Kaluga and Rostov regions, and the chairman of the government of the Chechen Republic, among others.
“The United States will not stand by as Russia carries out these war crimes and crimes against humanity,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Thursday.
Thursday’s action marks the latest round of sanctions Washington has imposed on Moscow since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which has killed tens of thousands of people and reduced cities to rubble.
The ICC issued arrest warrants in March for Putin and his children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing them of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine - a war crime.
Russia acknowledges having transferred thousands of children out of Ukraine, but says this has been done exclusively to protect orphans and children abandoned in the war zone.
“We’re going to keep calling attention to it, keep identifying the individuals and institutions involved, and keep a highlight on it until these kids are reunited with their families or in a community that reflects their proper upbringing. So we’re just going to keep at it,” James O’Brien, head of the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told Reuters.
The State Department on Thursday said that Russia uses a variety of methods to transfer children from Ukraine, including taking them from state institutions, deporting children during “filtration” operations where Ukrainian civilians are evaluated for their perceived threat to Russia’s occupation, and by bringing them to supposed recreation camps in Crimea and Russia.