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Activists seek probe into Ukraine’s use of child soldiers in Donbass

Published time: August 04, 2014 13:10
Woman holds poster "Volyn Mothers Oppose War" during protest "Mothers and Wives for Rotation of Soldiers in War Zone" near the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada whose members discuss Presidential Executive Order On Partial Mobilization. (RIA Novosti)

Woman holds poster "Volyn Mothers Oppose War" during protest "Mothers and Wives for Rotation of Soldiers in War Zone" near the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada whose members discuss Presidential Executive Order On Partial Mobilization. (RIA Novosti)

Russia’s Public Chamber has asked Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to launch an international probe into allegations Ukrainian National Guard units used child soldiers in the restive regions in the East and southeast of the country.

We are writing to Sergey Lavrov because we are convinced international law mandates Ukrainian conscripts aged under-19 must be given the right to leave the war zone. These servicemen and their parents must know about this fact,” the deputy head of the Russian Peace Foundation Yelena Sutormina said in an interview with the Izvestia daily.

One years’ difference might seem a purely bureaucratic detail, but not today, when life and death depend on it.In reality Ukrainian mothers have a carte blanche for saving their sons,” Sutormina said.

The move was prompted by Kiev authorities confirming on July 28 the death of an 18-year old army conscript who fought against federalist forces in the Donetsk Region.

Russian activists said in their letter they had about 17 and even 16-year old boys taking part in military operations in Ukraine. “It is unthinkable that cynical politicians and instigators are literally hiding behind the backs of young lads,” the Public Chamber’s letter reads.

The First Optional Protocol of the UN Convention the Rights of the Child forbids any military command to use such persons in direct hostilities.

The head of the Soldiers’ Mothers of St Petersburg NGO, Ella Polyakova, supported the Public Chamber’s motion noting that the use of child soldiers in combat was a blatant violation of UN conventions.

Aleksey Kochetkov of the Public Diplomacy foundation said the Russian Foreign Ministry must draw the international community’s attention to all the facts of a forced military draft that are reportedly taking place in Ukraine.

The conscripts and their relatives must receive explanations on that matter. This would help the relatives of the children who are being drafted into the National Guard to address the European Court of Human Rights,” the activist said.

He added that under current conditions any investigation into the Kiev authorities’ crimes would benefit the Ukrainian nation.

In early May this year Ukraine's acting President Aleksandr Turchinov ordered a military draft for all males between 18 and 25 years of age who are not eligible for an exemption. Turchinov’s move came at a time the Kiev regime stepped up military operations against the federalist forces in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions who were refusing to comply with the official nationalist policies of Kiev.

The initiative has caused several mass anti-draft rallies in various Ukrainian cities.