Russian forces in occupied Ukraine abducted several thousand children and transported them to Russia. German Foreign Minister, Annalina Berbock (Green Party) and her Dutch counterpart, Wubke Hoekstra (CDA), want to raise international awareness of this injustice. The aim is to repatriate all the children and bring those responsible to justice. But the ministers do not yet know exactly how they want to arrange this.
Minister Berbock visited The Hague on Monday, January 16, to talk about human rights violations in Iran, and especially about the war in Ukraine. Barbock and Hoekstra showed great agreement on the need to prosecute Russian war crimes. The Netherlands wants a special court of war. Burbock also spoke in favor of this during a guest lecture at The Hague Academy of International Law.
Kidnapping of Ukrainian Children by Russians: A Horrific Injustice
The two ministers consider the mass abduction of children by Russian forces in Ukraine to be one of the worst forms of injustice. At the same time, this matter has not received much attention so far. According to the Ukrainian government, approximately 13,000 children have been removed from children’s homes and roadblocks. Minister Hoekstra puts the number of victims at “tens of thousands”. He spoke of a “criminal practice” that must be stopped as soon as possible.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it possible to force so-called “unaccompanied children” into Russian citizenship without further obligations. It can then be adopted by Russian couples. Stories abound that children are forced to choose: stay in an orphanage or be adopted by Russian adoptive parents.
Forcible removal of children ‘genocide’
According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1948), the forcible removal of children is “an act of genocide.” It should at least be investigated whether mass abductions of children should really be classified as genocide, Burbuck said at the news conference. It said Russia’s deliberate bombing and missile fire on energy and water supplies likely amounted to a form of genocide.
In German politics, Berbock and her Green Party are strong advocates of the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine. But Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party is reluctant to send Leopard main battle tanks. Even Leopard tanks of the Polish and Finnish armed forces are not allowed to be transferred to Ukraine, because Germany – where the tanks are produced by arms manufacturer Rheinmetal – does not grant an export license.
German newspaper Die Felt I reported last week that Rheinmetal has nearly ninety used tanks in a parking lot and could make them combat-ready for the front in Ukraine for the foreseeable future.
NATO countries are scheduled to discuss arms aid to Ukraine on Friday at a meeting at the US base in Ramstein, Germany. Germany is then expected to announce that Leopard tanks may be transferred to Ukraine. The British government has decided to send 14 Challenger main battle tanks and 30 AS90 self-propelled guns to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
“Not so intense that I can speak for the German government”
Holland sold its Leopard tanks for next to nothing twelve years ago in order to cut costs. The Royal Netherlands Army has no more tanks. Subsequently, it was arranged through the lease that the Dutch soldiers went on to train in eighteen German Army Leopard tanks.
When asked by reporters about Leopard tanks, Minister Wopke Hoekstra said that “Germany and the Netherlands cooperate intensively, but not so intensely that I can speak for the German government.”
Burbock said that “everything has to be well prepared”. She claimed that Germany had already decided to supply “tanks” to Ukraine, but that was about the promise of Marders (tracked armored vehicles that transport soldiers to the battlefield), Gephard anti-aircraft guns and Pzh-2000 armored howitzers. Barbock in The Hague clearly did not dare to expect a German promise to supply Leopard tanks to the Ukrainian army.