The United States has imposed sanctions on 13 people and organisations allegedly connected to the forced deportation of children from Ukraine.
It is also imposing visa restrictions on three Russia-installed authorities over their claimed involvement in human rights abuses of Ukrainian minors, the State Department said.
Kyiv estimates that Russian authorities have deported and/or forcibly displaced more than 19,500 children from their homes since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Among the organisations sanctioned is Artek – described by the State Department as a Russian government-owned “summer camp located in Russia-occupied Crimea”.
Artek has received Ukrainian children who are then placed in “patriotic re-education programmes” and prevented from returning to their families, Washington said.
The organisation’s director is among those sanctioned too.
Also affected are an adviser to the governor of Belgorod – an area in southern Russia close to the border with Ukraine – and the commissioners for children’s rights in the Kaluga and Rostov regions.
The chairman of the government of the Chechen Republic is on the list, too, among others.
Russia uses a variety of methods to transfer children from Ukraine, the State Department said.
These include taking them from state institutions, deporting youngsters during “filtration” operations, in which Ukrainian civilians are evaluated for their perceived threat to Russia’s occupation, and by taking them to “recreation camps” in Crimea and Russia.
Russia has admitted moving thousands of children out of Ukraine, claiming it was done to protect orphans and children abandoned in war zones.
In an announcement timed to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, told a meeting of the UN Security Council that her country would “not stand by as Russia carries out these war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
In contrast, Russia’s ambassador to the UN said Western countries were lying about alleged abductions of Ukrainian children.
Moscow is actually saving them, Vassily Nebenzia added.
In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and his children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova.
They are accused of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine – a war crime, if proven.