EC, Poland and Ukraine step up hunt for Ukrainian children taken to Russia

The European Commission (EC), in collaboration with Poland and Ukraine, has been increasing efforts to look for Ukrainian children abducted by Russia.

The EC said in a tweet on Monday that "16,200 Ukrainian children are known to have been deported by Russia. Only 300 have returned so far.

"Their abduction and change of status – including nationality – are war crimes," the EC added.

The EU's executive arm went on to say that, together with Ukraine and Poland, it was "stepping up efforts to help find them."

The EC also said it was organising a conference to discuss ways to establish their whereabouts and vowed to "assist UN bodies and international organisations in gathering information on deported children."

In mid-March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on war crime charges related to the illegal deportation of children from Russian-held parts of Ukraine. A similar warrant was issued for Russia's children's ombudsman, Marya Lvova-Byelova.

Last week, Ursula von der Leyen, the EC president, said the warrants were fully justified. She said the deportations of children were a horrible reminder of the darkest periods in European history. "This is a war crime," she added.