February 1, 2024

An international conference "Russia's War on Children" in Latvia prompted global leaders to help Ukraine return children home

The "Russia's War on Children" international conference was held in Riga, Latvia within the framework of the Bring Kids Back UA project launched by the President of Ukraine.

Mass forced deportation of children during a conflict is classified as a war crime under international humanitarian law. The Riga conference served as one of the means to inform the global community about this issue, urging everyone to actively raise awareness about the fate of abducted Ukrainian children and Russia's war crimes.

Andriy Yermak, the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, underscored the importance of this work, citing Nelson Mandela: "There is no deeper reflection of a society's soul than how it treats its children." He firmly added, "Ukraine continues to fight for its children. We will not stop until we bring them all home."

"We will fight for each of our abducted children, no matter how many resources it takes. And I hope that you have gathered here for the same reason – to find a way to speed up this return. Because I am convinced that there is no more noble way for adults to use their influence, power, and resources than to save children," the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska noted.

During the conference, the repatriated children spoke before the international audience. As part of the "Stolen Voices" informational campaign, these children were able to testify about the real war crimes committed against them — separation from their families, abuse, injuries, murder of their parents, psychological pressure, and indoctrination.

"The abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia is not just Ukraine's problem; it is a global issue that requires a global response. We call on the international community to unite in combating these crimes, to end impunity, and to hold accountable all those involved," stressed Daria Herasymchuk, Advisor to the President of Ukraine on the Rights of the Child and Child Rehabilitation, during the panel.

The conference was attended by high-ranking officials from Latvia: President Egils Levits and former President and First Lady from 2019–2023, Andra Levite, former President from 1999–2007 Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Deputy Chairperson and member of parliament Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, as well as Vice President of the European Parliament Roberts Zile, Member of the European Parliament Sandra Kalniete; international human rights activists including American lawyer, writer, and human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, expert from the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE, researcher at the Norwegian Academy of International Law Cecily Hellestveit, Executive Director of the Yale Humanitarian Lab Nathaniel Raymond, Executive Director of the Raphael Lemkin Institute for the Prevention of Genocide Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, diplomats, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and journalists.

The event was co-organized by the Office of the President of Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Latvia, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Latvia and Ukraine.