The United Nations' refugee agency chief on Friday accused Russia of violating the "fundamental principles of child protection in situations of war" by giving Ukrainian children Russian passports and putting them up for adoption.
“In a situation of war, you cannot determine if children have families or guardianship. And therefore, until that is clarified, you cannot give them another nationality or having them adopted by another family,” said Filippo Grandi, high commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "This is something that is happening in Russia and must not happen.”
Due to limited access in Russia, Grandi said he could not provide statistics because it was “difficult to pinpoint the concrete aspects” to determine the number of children who had been given passports or put up for adoption.
"We are seeking access all the time, and access has been rather rare, sporadic and not unfettered,” he added.
Russia had previously dismissed accusations that Ukrainian children have been abducted.
"We categorically reject unfounded allegations that the Russian authorities are kidnapping children," Russian diplomat at the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky said last year, Russian state media TASS reported.
Following a meeting with UNHCR's Grandi on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a mechanism to return children and adults "forcibly deported to Russia" and "to bring to justice all those responsible for deportation."
Maria Kostenko and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.