(Kyiv) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that he had asked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for help the day before in the case of the return of Ukrainian children “deported” by Russia, whose number is officially estimated at at least 20,000 by Kiev.
“I approached the Chinese president with this request” during the telephone conversation with him on Wednesday, Zelensky said during a press conference in Kyiv.
“We need to engage […] different countries to put pressure on the Russian aggressor and terrorist, who has kidnapped so many of our children,” he added.
“It’s really hard to do,” however, said Mr. Zelensky to reporters. According to him, the UN and other international actors are trying to “do something” to address this problem but “so far the results are weak”.
Kyiv estimates that at least 19,400 children have been “kidnapped” and taken to Russia or Ukrainian territories it has occupied since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, and many have been placed in foster homes , sometimes several thousand kilometers from their original home.
More than 360 children have been recovered by Ukrainian authorities, according to official figures.
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the deportations. The Hague-based court has also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Children’s Commissioner.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, who has been investigating possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during the Russian offensive for more than a year, told AFP that the number of alleged deportations of Ukrainian children to Russia or territories it controls “reached into the thousands”.
Mr. Zelensky also said on Friday that he warned Beijing during his meeting with Mr. Xi against any possible sale of Chinese arms to Russia.
“Ukraine would like all countries to understand the risks of supplying any type of weapons to Russia,” he said, saying he had “heard a positive response” from the Chinese president on the matter.