UK calls out Russia’s systematic effort to eradicate Ukrainian identity: UK statement to the OSCE


Thank you, Chair. Good morning, colleagues.

The Russian Federation is doing everything in its power to eradicate Ukrainian identity in areas under its temporary control. Violence, economic coercion, and the replacement of local populations all form part of this systematic effort of repression.

Since the start of its illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has rapidly expanded its passportisation enforcement mechanisms from Crimea to the rest of the territories it temporarily controls. Civilians, particularly those without a Russian passport, are subjected to threats, intimidation, targeted surveillance, invasive searches, and an increased likelihood of being detained.

In spring 2023, a Russian law was published which stipulates that anyone in the temporarily Russian-controlled territories who does not possess a Russian passport is considered a “foreign citizen”. This has increased the likelihood of detentions and deportations, and in turn violations of international humanitarian law. 

Russia’s policies are designed to force people in the temporarily controlled territories to accept Russian citizenship in order to access basic means of living, including property ownership and access to healthcare, education, and pensions. For many, obtaining a Russian passport is the only way to survive.

Moreover, Ukrainian men who have taken up Russian passports are at risk of being drafted into the Russian army and forced to fight against the very army that is trying to free them.

Mr Chair, Ukraine’s younger generation is a major target in Russia’s attempts to erase Ukrainian identity. Ukrainian children who are born in these Russian-held territories automatically receive Russian citizenship. It’s estimated that nearly 20,000 Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported or transferred into Russia or Russian-held territories, where without permission from their parents or legal guardians they can be given passports and be adopted as and by Russian citizens.

At our last meeting, Russia asked where the evidence was of these deportations. I suggest that they read the independent OSCE Moscow Mechanism report on the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. It concludes that Russia’s actions constitute violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and, in some cases, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and war crimes. These findings underscore the severity of the issue and the need for continued attention and action. These children will not be forgotten. And Russia will be held to account.

Two children I wish to remember today are Tihran Ohannisian and Mykyta Khanhanov, who both were killed by the illegitimate Russian authorities in Berdiansk just over one year ago. In the lead up to their deaths, Tihran and Mykyta had been persecuted for being openly pro-Ukrainian. Russian authorities forcibly took the teenagers from their homes, detaining and interrogating them for several days. Tihran was severely tortured, including being beaten and electrocuted. Their families were left unaware of their conditions or whereabouts. The killing of these two teenagers has been described by Ukraine’s Ombudsman, Dmytro Lubinets, as an “extrajudicial execution”. We call on the Russian authorities to return their bodies to relatives to ensure a proper burial. 

The international community is watching, and one day justice will be delivered for these terrible atrocities. In the meantime, the United Kingdom will continue to call out the Russian Federation’s attempts to erase Ukrainian identity. And we will continue to support the brave people of Ukraine as they stand up for all our freedoms. I thank you, Chair.

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