In a decisive move, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine has implemented sanctions against 108 individuals and 37 Russian groups. The sanctions were imposed with the intention of combatting wartime abductions of Ukrainian children and countering “Russian terror.” The president, in his nighttime video address, emphasized the need for accountability and stated that those responsible for their actions must face consequences.
While the specific wrongdoings were not explicitly linked to any particular individuals or groups, the decrees presented a range of penalties, including 10-year penalties for individuals and five-year penalties for non-profit groups. Notably, one of the sanctioned groups is the “Russian Children’s Foundation,” which has been named in English.
President Zelenskiy explained that the list targets those involved in the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children from occupied territories, as well as individuals who aid Russian aggression against Ukraine in various ways. It is crucial to address these grave transgressions against innocent children and counter the ongoing menace of Russian terror.
Among the individuals now facing penalties, several already had prior convictions or similar punishments. Former Minister of Education and Science, Dmytro Tabachnyk, had his Ukrainian citizenship revoked earlier this year, and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, along with former President Viktor Yanukovich, were previously subjected to asset freezes and other penalties. Azarov and Yanukovich fled Ukraine for Russia in 2014 following a crackdown on protests in Kyiv.
Other individuals targeted in the sanctions include Sergei Aksyonov, the head of Crimea appointed by Russia, and Leonid Pasechnik, appointed by Putin as the head of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine after its annexation in 2022.
Several sanctioned Russian groups are involved in activities related to children, as indicated by their names or websites. One such group is called Kvartal Lui, with a website mentioning its founder, Maria Lvova-Belova, who herself was sanctioned by Kyiv in October 2022. The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently issued an arrest warrant against Lvova-Belova and President Vladimir Putin, accusing them of war crimes related to deporting children from Ukraine. Sofia Lvova-Belova, the executive director of Kvartal Lui, was also included in Zelenskiy’s list of sanctioned individuals.
Kyiv claims that approximately 20,000 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-controlled territories without the consent of their families or guardians. The Ukrainian government considers this act to be a war crime and genocide according to the United Nations treaty definition. Additionally, research conducted by Yale University reveals that over 2,400 children between the ages of six and 17 were transported to 13 facilities in Belarus, an ally of Russia. The report suggests that these transfers across Russian territory were coordinated between President Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
President Zelenskiy’s decrees have upheld the National Security and Defence Council’s decision to impose sanctions. These measures encompass various forms of penalties, such as asset freezes, trade restrictions, transit limitations, leasing bans, and the prohibition of capital removal, land purchases, as well as other financial and economic activities.
President Zelenskiy’s firm actions demonstrate his commitment to safeguarding Ukrainian children from harm and holding those responsible for their suffering accountable. By imposing these sanctions, Ukraine sends a clear message that it will not tolerate acts of aggression and will take necessary measures to protect its citizens.