Ukraine has condemned a decree signed by President Putin making it possible to confer Russian citizenship on Ukrainian children moved to Russia.
Last March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin over Russia’s policy of forced child deportations.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry called the decree illegal.
However, Russia insists it is moving the children out of harm’s way.
On 4 January Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a citizenship decree expediting Russian citizenship to foreigners and stateless people.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry singled out the passage saying that orphaned Ukrainian children or those deprived of parental guardianship can be fast-tracked to Russian citizenship by way of a presidential decision, or after a request by the institution holding them.
The decree states that a citizenship application for such a child can be submitted by their legal guardian or the head of a Russian organisation responsible for the child.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry sees this as Russia’s attempt to solve its own demographic crisis, describing it as a violation of Ukrainian and international laws and children’s rights.
The decree is yet more evidence of Russia’s policy of forced assimilation of Ukrainian children, and crimes against Ukraine in general, the ministry added.
Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, says Moscow is granting citizenship to the children so that they are not regarded as Ukrainians who have been transferred to Russia.
The Ukrainian authorities have identified over 19,000 Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Only 387 children have been brought back so far, according to the Ukrainian national database Children of war.
In November 2023, the BBC’s Panorama TV programme revealed that a political ally of Mr Putin adopted a child seized from a Ukrainian children’s home.
Sergey Mironov, the 70-year-old leader of a Russian political party, is named on the adoption record of a two-year-old girl who was taken in 2022 by a woman he is now married to, according to documents seen by Panorama.
In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The ICC said he was responsible for for unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, was hit with the same charges. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said children could not be “treated as spoils of war” and that it was possible Putin could stand trial.