The US State Department sanctioned two entities and 11 people on Thursday over their alleged involvement in the forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children.
Speaking at a Security Council meeting on Ukraine, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington “will not stand by as Russia carries out these war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
Over the course of the year-and-a-half-long war in Ukraine, Moscow has reportedly forcibly removed thousands of Ukrainian children from their homes and transferred them to Russian territory.
Some have been adopted by Russian families while others have been sent to indoctrination camps.
According to Reuters, the Ukrainian government estimates that Russia has forcibly transferred 19,500 children since February 2022.
The State Department’s sanctions and visa restrictions, which were announced on Ukraine’s Independence Day, take aim at Russian entities and people who have played a role in the transfer process.
Among those named are local children’s rights commissioners in several Russian oblasts, a special police battalion commander in the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and a family foundation which the State Department said is used “to oversee the ‘re-education’ of Ukrainian children in camps outside of Grozny in the Chechen Republic”.
In her address to the UN, Ms Thomas-Greenfield called for international action.
“We must support the return of all forcibly transferred and detained children with the same doggedness and the same determination,” she said.
“Because these children are the world’s children. And we must fight on their behalf as long as it takes, until all are free and until justice is delivered.”
In her closing remarks, Ms Thomas-Greenfield invoked the late Martin Luther King Jr in her appeal for support.
“Dr Martin Luther King Jr once wrote: ‘He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.’ We must not remain silent. We cannot remain neutral,” she said.
“This is a moment of moral reckoning. And history will judge us by how we respond.”