Russia must end the forcible transfer of children from Ukraine and provide information about those already taken and ensure they are returned home, a UN committee said Thursday.

Ukraine says that 20,000 children have been forced to Russia since the war erupted in February 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky has called the action “a genocide”. Russia denies the accusations.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child -- a panel of 18 independent experts -- pressed Russia on the deportation allegations during a regular review of its record last month.

In their conclusions published Thursday, the experts urged Russia to “put an end to the forcible transfer or deportation of children from occupied Ukrainian territory”.

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They also demanded that Moscow “provide information about the precise number of children taken from Ukraine and about whereabouts of each child”.

This, they said, was needed so “parents or legal representatives can track them, including through identification of such children and registration of their parentage, and ensure that children are returned to their families and communities as soon as possible”.

Russia has denied the deportation claims, insisting that “placements for evacuated children are arranged, first and foremost, at their request and with their consent”.

The committee, which monitors the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also voiced alarm at reports that Ukrainian children residing even just temporarily in Russia “are deprived of their Ukrainian nationality in violation of their rights under the convention”.

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The experts highlighted a decree issued by President Vladimir Putin last month providing Russian citizenship to forcibly transferred or deported children under a simplified procedure.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March 2023 on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.

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The ICC has levelled similar charges against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights.

Russia is not a member of the ICC and insists the warrant against Putin is “void”.

The committee on Thursday voiced deep concern about “the alleged responsibility of ... Lvova-Belova, whose mandate is to protect children, in the war crime of unlawful deportation of children and that of unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine” to Russia.

It demanded that Moscow “investigate allegations of war crimes” against Lvova-Belova.

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