Ukrainian parents invited to ‘collect their children’ from Russia

Refugees with their children from the city of Kherson and its area, seized by Russia, are pictured staying at Odesa Way Home Charity Foundation in the city of Odesa, Ukraine, in April 2022, where they wait for volunteers' help with finding a new home on the safe territory. File Photo by Stepan Franko/EPA-EFE

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov invited Ukrainian parents to "collect their children" taken from Ukraine amid the ongoing war.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in remarks during the Security Council Open Debate on Wednesday that evidence of "shocking and widespread" human rights violations during the Ukraine war had been documented by U.N. agencies.

Those human rights violations include "conflict-related sexual violence" as well as "arbitrary detentions" and "summary executions" being carried out mostly by Russian troops.

Guterres also lambasted the forcible transfer of Ukrainian civilians, including children, to territory under Russian control or to the Russian Federation.

Lavrov responded to the remarks by Guterres during a lengthy question-and-answer session with reporters, which was broadcast by Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter. In those remarks, Lavrov also said the United States is "directly at war" with Russia.

"It was surprising to hear this, especially about children," Lavrov said.

He said Russia had engaged in "detailed discussions" with Virginia Gamba, the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General of Children in Armed Conflict -- who recently visited Russia.

"In a meeting the following day, I asked on what basis and facts he makes such allegations and the response has not yet been forthcoming," Lavrov said.

He then tried to pivot the conversation to larger issues Russia has with Guterres.

Lavrov brought up the accusations of mass executions in the Ukrainian city Bucha, largely considered to have been the result of war crimes by Russian forces, and said Russia had asked to receive a list of the last names of those shown in pictures throughout the world in an attempt to discredit the accusations.

He called it "something quite simple" to be provided with, adding that there has been no proof provided that Russia has been involved in the poisoning of Alexey Navalny, a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin and a major opposition leader who has been imprisoned in Russia.

"We are waiting for the secretary general to substantiate the statements which he makes because he needs to speak on behalf of the United Nations secretariat, outlined in the charter."

He accused Guterres of not being impartially or acting in a neutral way as described by the U.N. charter, "without receiving instruction from any government whatsoever."

When asked more directly by a reporter with CBS News about when Russia will return the stolen kids shown in video interviews, Lavrov retorted that "we all know how those videos are made."

"All the children that ended up in Russia unaccompanied by guardians, that list is openly available, unlike the names of the bodies in Bucha," Lavrov said, adding, "If those families are found, we will assist in reunification."

Lavrov claimed that "the vast majority" of children taken to Russia were living in orphanages, failing to address how that makes a difference in their being taken.

The forcible transfer of children of one group of people to another is a violation of Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

"When the special military operation began, of course we took them to safety. But we never tried to conceal the names of these children, which we took out of the country," Lavrov claimed.

"We continue to invite these parents, if they are out there, to come and collect their children. You can come and travel to these children yourselves."