EP Plenary: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on the forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to Russia

Delivered by Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, on behalf of the High Representative/Vice President, Josep Borrell

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President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, 

The European Union’s position on Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine is clear: the EU stands by Ukraine as long as it takes.  

And the European Union takes action against Russia - the aggressor and the perpetrator of atrocities and crimes against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.  

First, the European Union has adopted the largest sanctions package ever and nothing is off the table. Russia is heading for the worst recession since 1990.  

Second, just last week the European Union fully suspended the Visa Facilitation Agreement.  

Thirdthe European Union is working with partners around the world to counter Russian disinformation, raising awareness that it is Russia’s aggression - not Western sanctions - which is aggravating the food and energy crises.  

Fourth, the European Union seeks to isolate Russia in international fora and calling it out for its breaches of international law and international humanitarian law.  

And finally, the European Union is supporting all efforts on accountability, seeking to document the evidence needed to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable. 

We have, like the Honourable Members [of the European Parliament], heard the allegations of forced removal to territories under Russian military control, or to the Russian Federation itself. We are particularly concerned that the United Nations Human Rights Office has found credible allegations of forced transfers of unaccompanied minors.  

We encourage United Nations entities and non-governmental human rights organisations to pursue their work in documenting these allegations in order to have a solid picture of their scope and their scale.  

While awaiting further reports on the situation on the ground, we demand that all persons reported disappeared or missing in Ukraine must be searched for, located, and released or returned. Therefore, we call for unimpeded access by UN entities, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and civil society to all areas where civilians are detained.   

We also demand that any checks and filtrations, and any detention that may follow such checks, takes place in a legal framework respecting the principles of necessity and proportionality. 

We remind that forcible transfers of civilians is prohibited under International Humanitarian Law, notably the Geneva Convention. All cases of enforced disappearances must be duly investigated and those responsible therefore held accountable for war crimes.  

Let me finally underline the fate of persons in the most vulnerable situations in this context - namely women and children. They face risks which include sexual exploitation, trafficking, sexual violence, far from public eye. It is our common duty to focus on accountability and on widespread condemnation. 

Thank you very much.

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53
Paloma Hall Caballero
Press Officer for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)2 296 85 60
+32 (0)460 76 85 60