President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has authorized sanctions against 37 Russian organizations and 108 individuals, including a former prime minister and a former education minister. He stated his intention to combat the abduction of children from Ukraine during wartime and other forms of Russian terrorism.
“We are increasing the pressure of our state onto them and each of them must be held responsible for what they have done,” he said Saturday in his nightly video address after his office issued corresponding decrees with his signature.
Zelenskyy did not name or assign blame to any specific individuals or groups for specific misconduct. The decrees outlined punishments of 10 years for individuals and 5 years for non-profit organizations, including one referred to as the “Russian Children’s Foundation” in English.
According to Zelenskyy’s statement, the list contains individuals who were involved in the kidnapping and forced displacement of Ukrainian children from the occupied area, as well as those who have aided in Russian acts of terror against Ukraine.
Several individuals who were recently sanctioned, including several Russian citizens, had previously faced punishment through different or similar penalties.
Some individuals mentioned were Dmytro Tabachnyk, a previous education and science minister who had his Ukrainian citizenship revoked in February, and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
Azarov, along with former President Viktor Yanukovich, previously saw some of his assets and property frozen, among other penalties. The two men fled Ukraine for Russia in 2014 after a crackdown on street protests that killed more than 100 demonstrators in Kyiv.
On Saturday, additional people who were punished include Sergei Aksyonov, the leader of Crimea installed by Russia, and Leonid Pasechnik, who was appointed by Putin as the head of Luhansk, the region in eastern Ukraine that was annexed by Russia in 2022.
The approved Russian organizations comprised of some with titles or online platforms that suggest they focus on aiding children.
A group called Kvartal Lui was officially recognized, and it aligns with an entity whose website claims that its founder is Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. Lvova-Belova herself was sanctioned by Kyiv in October 2022.
The Hague’s International Criminal Court recently released a warrant for the arrest of Lvova-Belova and President Vladimir Putin. They are being accused of committing the war crime of forcibly removing children from Ukraine.
Zelenskyy has added the executive director of Kvartal Lui, Sofia Lvova-Belova, to the new list of sanctioned individuals. Maria Lvova-Belova, her older sister, claimed that the children were taken in for protection from violence and denied any involvement in war crimes.
According to Kyiv, approximately 20,000 minors have been taken to Russia or areas held by Russia without the permission of their family or legal guardians. This action is considered a war crime and falls under the definition of genocide in the United Nations treaty.
A recent study conducted by Yale University revealed that over 2,400 children between the ages of 6 and 17 were transported to 13 facilities in Belarus, which has strong ties with Russia.
According to a report by an organization funded by the U.S. State Department, it was revealed that the transportation between Russia and its western neighbor was ultimately arranged by Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
The decrees issued by Zelenskyy confirmed the National Security and Defense Council’s choice to impose sanctions, which encompass a variety of consequences such as asset freezing, trade restrictions, transit bans, lease termination, withdrawal of capital, land acquisition restrictions, and other financial and economic limitations.